10 Interesting Facts About the Maasai Tribe That You Should Know

10 Interesting Facts About the Maasai Tribe That You Should Know : When someone thinks of tribal communities, we tend to think of small groups of people completely cut off from the real world. Whether it is about housing, clothing or how they spend their day, most of what we know about tribal lifestyles are often impressions rather than first-hand information or facts.

So, one example of a tribal community with ongoing interaction with the outside world is the semi-nomadic tribe of the Maasai. The Maasai peacefully coexist with animals and other tribes, tending to their livestock and moving through East Africa as they have for several hundred years. And while the Maasai are among the few tribes with Kenya and Tanzania with name recognition, they actually make up less than 20% of the tribal population in Tanzania.

Little more about the daily lives of the Maasai beyond mention of colorful clothing and warm, friendly hospitality. This article points out the enough information that you will read on and broaden your understanding of the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania.

Maasai Tribe – Origin

While there is a debate on the exact origns of the Maasai, most histories mention the lower Nile, probably in today’s Sudan. Over the last 300 – 400 years, the Maasai emigrated south into Kenya and Tanzania’s Great Rift Valley region, raising cattle and other livestock with their population peaking in the mid-19th century. Today, the Masai people live across the Maasai Mara region in southwestern Kenya and northern Tanzania including but not limited to the Arysha, Kilimanjaro, Manyara regions.

The People Who Speak Maa

The Maasai tribe gets its name from their language Maa so Maasai which can be translated to “the people who speak Maa”. Interesting, of the over 3000 languages the Bible has been translated into, Maa is one of them.

Here are a few Maa words to know:

“Thank you (very much) – Ashe (naleng)”

“Greetings (to men)- Supai” – Answer: “epaa”

“Greetings (to women)- Takwenya” – Answer: ”iko”

“Sere” – goodbye

The Lifestyle

The Maasai Tribe is semi-nomadic and migrates with the season and the rainfall, searching for fresh grass and water for their cattle and other livestock. As pastoralists, their well-being, quality and experience of daily life are intrinsically linked with the care and robustness of their herds.

Wealth in the Maasai Tribe

To the Maasai people, whoever has the most cattle is the richest in the tribe. As already mentioned above, the life of the Maasai circles around the cattle. From the status to food and clothing, the cattle’s needs take precedence over everyone else, as the Maasai depend upon them to survive. And while other livestock might run a distant second in important, they all play a role in the daily life of the Maasai. The Tribe will raise cows, goats, sheep and even donkeys (the latter as a means of transportation).

From Cow Dung to House

Maasai people use cow dung mixed with mud to build the walls for their homes, with grassand wooden sticks for the roof. The Maasai women are in charge of building the houses which will be circular and on the small side, with no more than two or three rooms. So the number of days to build the structure will depend on the number of helpers and available resources.

Maasai Tribe’s Fashion Sense

 Just as dung, a cow “by product” makes up a home, cattle also used to provide hides for the tribe’s clothing. Nowadays, cowhides are used for clothing at special occasions. The Maasai differentiate for age, gender and region. Their main clothing is the cherished Shuka.

A shuka is a thick blanket interwoven with red and black or red and blue checkered patterns. Often we think of the Maasai in red, a favorite color of the tribe, along with blue and black, these colors are also seen in the multi – colored beaded jewelry worn by both men and women.

Celebrating a New Family Member

As soon as a baby is born, the new family member will be celebrated among the community. Usually, for these first four months, the mother and the child stay at home and do not leave the house and the mother cannot cut her hair (nor can the baby receive a haircut) during that time. After the four-month isolation, the women in the tribe often celebrate the end of this period known as Enkipukonoto Eaji, which means “crossing the isolated period.”

During this celebration, both the mother and the child shed all their hair to denote their new start together.

The Maasai’s Diet

Since cows and other livestock are their primary food sources, the Maasai drink a lot of milk and eat a lot of meat as well as blood from their cattle. They make a small incision into a cow’s jugular artery from which they can draw a fair amount of blood without injuring the cow. The Maasai believe drinking

The Maasai people believe drinking cow’s blood is a tonic for strengthening the mind and body, they drink blood when they fall ill or just after giving birth.

But nowadays, Maasai add rice, Maize, beans and potatoes to their diet. Many Maasai have started to cultivate crops which results in a more balanced diet.

Belief in “Beyond”

In the Maasai tribe, there is one God with two faces, the benevolently – faced Engai Narok and the vengeful – looking Engai Nanyokie. For the Maasai, red and black are the colors that correlate with God’s nature

These days, many of the Maasai have converted to Christianity. However, the Maasai used to have their own ways of handling death. In the past, a body did not get buried. Instead, the Maasai used to leave a deceased’s body in their house and move on to find another place, due to their belief that the place of death was cursed. The Maasai will always seek to protect the soil for their livestock and avoid burning of any kind including ceremonial rituals.

Days in the Life of the Maasai Tribe

The Maasai have their own “calender” with only three seasons in the year, surprisingly for a pastoral community these seasons are all about the rain, long rains, short rains and drought. When it comes to months, there are no names for the 12 months in a year. An average month consists of 30 days (like in western calendars), these 30 days consists of 15 days of brightness and 15 days of darkness. This is in relation to the moon’s brightness.


What is the Maasai tribe well-known for?

The Maasai tribe is well-known for its wardrobe and jewelery, the wardrobe is known as Shuka, the Shuka is a thick blanket woven with a combination of red and black or red and blue checkered patterns and is mainly used by the tribal people to protect them from harsh weather. Their jewelry consists of intricate beadwork.

What language do the Massai people speak?

Maa is the official language spoken by the Maasai Tribe, the meaning of the Maasai is roughly known as “the people who speak Maa”. There are dictionaries and even the bible has been translated into Maa Language.

Why do Maasai people jump so high?

The Maasai People do the dance known as Osingolio, young men in the tribe perform this dance to show off their strength and ability. The main purpose of this dance is to celebrate a specific occasion happening within the community.

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