The Maasai Tribe of Kenya : The Maasai originated from the lower Nile valley north of Lake Turkana (Northwest Kenya) and began migrating south around the 15th century. They arrived to a long land mass, stretching from what is now northern Kenya to central Tanzania between the 17th and the 18th century.
The Maasai are the Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting northern, central and southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. They are among the best known local populations internationally due to their residence near the many game parks of the African Great lakes, and their distinctive customs and their dressing code.
The Maasai speak Maa language, a member of the Nilotic language family that is related to the Dinka, Kalenjin and Nuer languages. Except for some elders living in the rural areas, most Maasai people speak the official languages of Kenya and Tanzania that is the Swahili and English. The Maasai population has been reported as numbering 1,189,522 in Kenya in the 2019 census, compared to 377,089 in the 1989 census. Many Maasai tribes throughout Tanzania and Kenya welcome to their villages to experience their culture, traditions, and their lifestyle, in return for a fee.
Cows come before everything else for the Maasai. They are the single most important aspect of their lives. The Maasai men take great pride in herding as their cows are their most prized possessions. Because the Maasai are spread across such vast expanses of land, they have the opportunity to meet fellow tribe people from far away. This presents the Maasai with a great opportunity to use their cattle to barter with, a good herd of cattle is a great sign of wealth in the same way an expensive sports car might be to us.
The Maasai heavily depend on cattle for nutrition. The traditional Maasai diet consists of the six basic foods that is the milk, meat, fat, blood and the tree bark. Both fresh and the curdled milk are drunk. Fresh milk is drunk in a calabash (gourd) and is sometimes mixed with fresh cattle blood. Blood is also boiled and used in cooking or drinks, accompanied with Ugali (monono). Most of the meat dishes are fried or roasted then mixed with blood and Ugali. Honey is obtained from the Torrobo tribe and is a prime ingredient in mead, a fermented beverage that only elders may drink.
The Maasai of Kenya wears traditional, attractive, admirable dress code. This varies depending on age, gender, place, significance and occasion. Maasai wears mostly red sheet called ‘shukas’ which they wrap around their bodies and a lot of colourful beaded jewelries placed around their necks and arms, accompanied by sandals that are soled with tire strips or plastic. Young Maasai man who has been circumcised wears black ‘shuaks’. A warrior has his hair braided in a very complex pattern. They also wear earings, bracelets and beaded necklases.
A mother of a warrior wears’surutia’ a coiled metal medallion. Their women shave their heads, piece ears and the earlobes are stretched and metal hoops worn. Maasai worrior wears symbols to show off his achievements such as ‘errap’ made of the leather with coils of the metal wire in the front and the back is worn around the top of the arm to show that this man has fought with a lion and killed another man. The ‘olowaru’ is a lion’s mane head dress meant to show that the man has killed a lion. The ‘enkuwaru’ is a head dress made of ostrich plumes, meant to show that the man has fought with a lion survived. This warrior’s body is also decorated with limestone chalk in complex patterns and the hair is coloured with ochre and animal fat.
The Maasai are the semi-nomadic. They move themselves and their livestock to the tune of a communal land management system based on seasonal rotation. Recently there has been whispers that consumerist nations should pay attention to this sort of the seasonal rotation. The reason being that it’s seen as much more sustainable than the ‘take, take, take’ attitude of many development countries.
The nomadic way of life goes back to the roots of all human history which makes the Maasai extra special. They and a handful other peoples across the world are our last living link to our distant past.
The Maasai take lion hunting very seriously indeed. Lions are never hunted for fun and it’s not uncommon for its extremely dangerous practice to result in hunters being injured or killed. Going on a solo hunt for amale lion (they don’t hunt females) is seen by the tribe as a display of great courage and strength. But in recent years the lion population has dwindled due to disease. The Maasai created a new rule that means they can now hunt in groups, allowing the lion population to recover.
The practice has a deep traditional root that cultivates a fearlessness among the tribe’s warriors. While these hunts may seem very different to Western practices, they are of great importance to the Maasai people, these people have lived here in this way for centuries and seeing them firsthand will make the rest of the world seem a million miles away.