We Explore The Culture and Traditions of The Maasai Tribe
The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group, one of the many tribes of East Africa inhabiting northern Tanzania, as well as central and southern Kenya. Meeting the Maasai people is one of the things you will treasure most about your visit to East Africa, especially Kenya and Tanzania. The Maasai culture is an integral part of the East African life and adds a vibrant experience for visitors.
The ethnic group migrated from North Africa in the 15th century and settled in East Africa. Along the way they fought and conquered other tribes and took their cattle while at it. They then settled in the vast Rift Valley in Kenya with their livestock loot and went on to graze the livestock. Many of the Maasai have been famed to practice nomadic pastoralism and move with their herds of cattle to wherever the green pasture is. This practice has often caused conflict with the neighbouring tribes.
The Maasai culture and their way of dressing have over the years catapulted them to international recognition, made them a tourist attraction and even put them right in the middle of pop culture. Their geographical location and settlement further aides to this as they mainly settled near the finest and major national parks of Kenya and Tanzania.
Culture and Traditions
One of the reasons for their fame is that they are and have been sticklers of culture for years. They have maintained and continue to practice major aspects of their culture from dressing to initiation ceremonies. They go through the circumcision rite of passage, which marks the transition of Maasai boys into men. The title of Moran is bestowed upon them to mean they are now warriors of the tribe, as they protect the livestock and the tribe. They are mentored through all their customary laws, responsibilities and cultural practices by their fathers and community elders.
An elaborate ceremony follows after the circumcision rite to welcome the Moran’s into the adult space. They can now own cattle and start their own family. In their later stages of life, there is another equally elaborate ceremony to elevate them into village and community elders, thus, often wielding quite some power within the community.
The Maasai also have an interesting dance that involves jumping up and around while chanting songs and wielding spears.
The Maasai are often referred to as nomads; they typically build semi-permanent houses called the Manyatta. The houses are usually circular in style and are made off of wood, mud, grass and cow dung. The women mostly do the housing construction as the men, on the other hand, build animal sheds and fences. The Maasai love for cattle is incomparable to any other. They traditionally believe that cattle were made especially for them, the Massai, to be sole custodians. As such, they measure their wealth by the number of cattle and children they own. They move with the cattle following rain patterns, so they can graze.
Food & Drinks
When it comes to food and diet, the livestock (Cows, goats, and sheep) provide all that, and they don’t waste anything – literally! They eat the meat, drink the milk and other dairy products, the cow dung is smeared on the walls and roof to make it waterproof, and the hides and skin are used for beddings. They eat soup prepared with roots or stem barks that is said to help lower their cholesterol levels and keep them active and energetic. On special occasions, they also mix blood and milk as a ritual drink.
Maasai Food and Drinks
Clothes & Jewellery
The Maasai are well known for their intricate beaded, colourful jewellery that their women thrive in making and regally adorning. The men wear them too to complement their traditional wraps called ‘’shuka’’ they wrap around their bodies. These vary depending on the occasion they are to be worn. They also stretch their earlobes and wear metal or wooden hoops to enhance their beauty beyond the regular ear piercing. They also remove the lower front tooth as it’s believed to breed worms that can cause diseases and it’s also a passage for traditional medicine.
Maasai Women Jewellery
Maasai beaded ornaments, jewellery and sense of dress, prints and patterns have often made it to international fashion walks in big fashion capitals of the world. Designers from around the globe have commoditized this culture, made and profited from fashion items such as clothes, shoes, jewellery, art, photography and sadly they often don’t credit the Maasai people at all. The Maasai culture has often been made reference to in mainstream blockbuster movies, films, and music videos. Perhaps, the only upsideto this is that this kind of exposure has made people curious and interested in visiting Kenya to get to experience the Maasai and their culture. Tourists that throng Kenya often includes village tours in their itinerary to indulge in the rich cultural heritage of the Maasai during cultural shows or in their homes. This also allows them to buy their art and souvenirs directly and break a leg in the Maasai dances.
While they have not been an exception to modernity, a large chunk still embraces all their cultural elements and preserves it for posterity.
Travel Kenya and Learn More About the Masaai
Now that you know all about this unique tribe, why not take it a step further and explore there home country of Kenya!
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