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Facts about Maasai

It is estimated that 1 million Maasai people live in Kenya and Tanzania. There have been difficulties arriving at correct number because Tanzania does not conduct census based on ethnicity. The Maasai's distinctive culture, dress and strategic territory along the game parks of Kenya and Tanzania have made them one of East Africa's most internationally famous tourist attractions. In addition, the Maasai have a right to be revered and respected for their adherence to cultural values and nomadic occupation more than other folks all across Africa.

Maasai People

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Maasai People

The Maasai Territories & Eco-Tourism

The Maasai community have for generations coexisted with the wildlife of the plains on which they herd their livestock, and although renowned for their fearless confrontations with predatory lion which raid their cattle herds do not otherwise hunt game animals. They indeed are the best guides to most wilderness and bush walking safaris.

Popular tourists destinations in East Africa such as the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Maasai Mara, Amboseli, and Tarangire game reserves are located inside the Maasai region. The reserves are now considered protected areas set aside for conservation, wildlife viewing, and tourism. Maasai people are prohibited from accessing water sources and pasture land in game reserves.

The Maasai tribe now occupy a much smaller area in the Kajiado and Narok districts as their vast territory has been taken over by these. The Maasai's territory now overlaps with the Serengeti plains in Tanzania and Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya - an area famous for the huge wildebeest migration that take place every year, when up to a million animals move from the north end of the plains to the south. However, the Maasai's authentic and intriguing culture is a tourist attraction on its own. You can experience Maasai culture while on a Kenya Cultural Safari.

The Maasai Culture

The warrior is of great importance as a source of pride in the Maasai culture. To be a Maasai is to be born into one of the world's last great warrior cultures. From boyhood to adulthood, young Maasai boys begin to learn the responsibilities of being a man (helder) and a warrior. The role of a warrior is to protect their animals from human and animal predators, to build kraals (Maasai homes) and to provide security to their families.

Through rituals and ceremonies, including circumcision, Maasai boys are guided and mentored by their fathers and other elders on how to become a warrior. Although they still live their carefree lives as boys - raiding cattle, chasing young girls, and game hunting - a Maasai boy must also learn all of the cultural practices, customary laws and responsibilities he'll require as an elder.

An elaborate ceremony - Eunoto - is usually performed to "graduate" the young man from their moran and carefree lifestyle to that of a warrior. Beginning life as a warrior means a young man can now settle down and start a family, acquire cattle and become a responsible elder. In his late years, the middle-aged warrior will be elevated to a senior and more responsible elder during the Olng'eshere ceremony.

With the arrival of formal schooling in the wider Maasai region, herding of livestock is becoming a parents' responsibility. Young boys resume the responsibility of livestock herding only on weekends when schools are out. Indeed, the Maasai have become more educated than ever with most departing from hard nomadic life to work in tourism sectors showcasing their unique culture.

As a result of global warming, droughts are becoming severe in East Africa, forcing the Maasai people to seek out alternative livelihoods. Herds are smaller than ever before, and most people are relying on relief food.

The Maasai Art, Clothing & Beauty

Maasai are best known for their beautiful and highly ingenuous artistic beadwork- (download pdf on Maasai Beauty) which plays an essential element in the ornamentation of the body. Beading patterns are determined by each age-set and identify grades. Young men, who often cover their bodies in ochre to enhance their appearance, may spend hours and days working on ornate hairstyles, which are ritually shaved as they pass into the next age-grade.

Though they traditionally dressed in animal skins, today, typical Maasai dress consists of red sheets (shuka), wrapped around the body and loads of beaded jewelry placed around the neck and arms. These are worn by both men and women and may vary in color depending on the occasion. But truly speaking, the true Maasai color is red!

In addition, a typical Maasai walks around and about 'armed' with a club with a thick funny looking head. The short 'rungu' (swahili for club) is an accepted regalia and no security personnel will arrest a Maasai man for being armed. Indeed, it is a part of their natural beauty and 'uniform'. Maasai being wilderness people have always carried an assortment of tools including a sword for slicing meat.

Ear piercing and the stretching of earlobes are also part of Maasai beauty, and both men and women wear metal hoops on their stretched earlobes.

Women shave their heads and remove two middle teeth on the lower jaw (for oral delivery of traditional medicine). The Maasai often walk barefooted or wear simple sandals made of cow hide.

The typical Maasai will wear sandals made from car tyres known to endure wilderness treks, are resilient and cheap.

The Maasai Homes

The Maasai house (enk-aji pl. ink-ajijik) is erected by the women and girls of the family, and can be fabricated if all materials have been collected and placed ready to hand in a very few hours and occupied almost immediately. It is oblong in shape with rounded corners. The roof is arched and somewhat tunnel-like in construction. .

The framework is a lattice of poles, the uprights perhaps 1.5 metres to 2..0 metres in length cut from the thickets and implanted deep in the soil and interwoven with withies and branches, twigs and dried grass to seal all the gaps.

This is first plastered with wet mud on the outer face, although occasionally mud may be daubed onto the inside wall as well, and then plastered again with fresh cow dung which when dry is impervious to rain.

The Maasai Today

The effects of modern civilization, education and western influence have not completely spared this unique and interesting tribe. Some of the Maasai tribe's deep-rooted culture is slowly fading away. Customs, activities and rituals such as female circumcision and cattle raiding have been outlawed by modern legislation. Maasai children now have access to education and some Maasai have moved from their homeland to urban areas where they have secured jobs.

People from across the divides usually ask, how many Maasai people have mobile phones? You can expect a Maasai herder in the middle of nowhere loudly and casually speaking on the mobile. Maasai people are naturally gifted, and most of them are skilled traders and businessmen, real estate developers, tour operators, artistic craftsmen, name it.

Although the Maasai have for centuries endeavored to preserve their traditional way of life, Maasai tribal leadership, the council of elders, is loosing its power year after year as a result of emerging western forms of leadership and governance.

Maasai Tribe Holidays, Maasai Cultural Tours, Wildlife Tours, Eco-Tours

To enjoy the lifestyle of this gifted Maasai people, Mustard Travel arranges authentic Maasai Cultural Safaris / Tours.  In this tour, your are guided exclusively by a Maasai, you walk through the bush for close game viewing in the company of Maasai Warriors, you spend the night in a Maasai village, eat with roasted goat with them, sing and dance with them and more so learn about their rich culture. There are exclusive Maasai Moran boot camps, where you, dressed like a typical Maasai learn in a week or two course to graduate into an accomplished Moran.

Please note that eco-tours need not be conducted at Masai Mara! Our journeys will take to remote Samburu villages in the Northern Kenya frontier, those in the Laikipia plains (good for trek lovers), the Maasai villages of Northern Tanzania and many more!

Use the general enquiries form to request further information on a a typical Maasai Culture Safari. In addition our Masai Mara Safaris have opportunities to for visits to a Masai Cultural Village including living and spending full time or any time that you desire living like a Masai e.g.  typical Maasai Cultural Safari Masai Mara Safari