The Maasai
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The Maasai

Hospitable warriors

Hospitable warriors

Wander under wide open skies with semi-nomadic warriors, retuning the beat of your heart to the natural rhythms of the plains.

The Maasai are an egalitarian people, empowered by music, ritual, and family. Their heritage thrives with the strength of the land; the warm earth of North Tanzania.
Snapshot

Snapshot

  • Region is Southern Africa

  • Climate here is Mild

  • The challenge here is Intense

  • This trip has been rated 5 by other travelers

Life

Life

Semi-nomadic, the Maasai prize their livestock, living almost entirely on milk, blood, and meat. Some nomads will roam throughout the year with their herds.
Home

Home

Maasai life is abundantly social, with clans living in rings of round mud-dung houses called kraal. At the center of the settlement the livestock sleep, protected, while each kraal is protected by fences built from thorny acacia bushes.

Culture

Social Structure

Clans are customarily patriarchal, valuing age and experience. Tribesmen progress through ‘warrior’ phases, before becoming ‘elders’ and decision-makers.

Religion

Modern Maasai is a blend of Christian influences and ancestral worship, interwoven across the centuries. Though believing in only one God, tribespeople typically do not adhere to the idea of an afterlife.

Traditions

The Maasai are one of Africa’s largest indigenous ethnic tribes, and widely admired for a culture that prides strength, ritual, and community.

Ancient traditions burn bright among the Maasai. Rousing instrumentals, vibrant clothing and vivid public performances enliven the plains.

The piercing and stretching of earlobes are really common among Maasai people.

The removal of deciduous canine tooth buds, thought of as possible sources of disease, is still practice in early childhood .

Young men, including warriors, are used to decorate themselves in ochre to enhance their appearance and beauty. Traditionally they also scare their bodies with heated spears in order to show courage and power.

Language

The word ‘Maasai’ was born from the language of Maa, an eastern Sudanic language of the Nilo-Saharan family. Maa continues to unite the Maasai, and bears similarities to fellow indigenous languages from Kenya, South Sudan, and Niger.

Art

The deep rhythms of warrior dances forge Maasai communities, and their guests, together in rousing music. Meanwhile the tribe’s intricate beadwork is not only stunning, but plays an important visual role in defining age and status.

Beadwork is consider really important in Maasai body ornamentation. Complex bead patterns cover discs that hang around their necks and are used to determine an age set or hierarchy in the tribe.

Celebrations

Ochre-dusted celebrations bring Maasai days and nights alive—particularly during the rainy season, when initiations, circumcisions, and marriages take place. Maasai men are polygamous, with wife-lending a common practice among older men.

● Morani: The Maasai’s renowned jumping dance is an extraordinary display of strength among young male warriors. It’s very rare for women to take part.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

Traditionally, young Maasai men are sent away to the bush, where they develop their warrior skills in isolation.

Tanzanian and Kenyan governments are encouraging the Maasai to end this practice, and replace it with a formal education.



Photo credit: Masai Warriors
iStock.com/ranplett

Photo credit: Masai
iStock.com/The_Flying_Dutchman

Photo credit: Masai Mother and Child
iStock.com/ranplett

Photo credit: Handmade Masai Jewellery
iStock.com/Africanway

Photo credit: Giraffe Masaai Male
iStock.com/Ainslie Brennan

Photos licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license: Jumping Maasai / Nagarjun