Meet the Maasai of Tanzania

Meet the Maasai of Tanzania  : The Maasai people are probably the most famous of the tribes in Tanzania and East Africa as well, these people are strongly recognized by their beautiful and bright colored costumes (mostly red in color) and shoes made out of motorbike tires.

The Maasai people are indigenous ethnic group inhabiting in the northern, central and Southern regions of Kenya and Northern Tanzania, the Maasai people originally reside near the many game parks of the African Great Lakes. Today they live together with many other Tanzania tribes.

Apart from the striking looks and beautiful brightly colored ornaments, the Masai people are known for their highly – skilled warriors locally known as Morans and their cattle – herding abilities. In the Maasai culture, a man’s wealth is measured in terms of cattle and children, a respectable number of cattle one should have is 50 heads of cattle and the more children, the better. Cattle are treated as treasures by the Maasai people and they provide them with milk, fresh and blood which is part of their diet.

The Maasai speak Maa language which is derived from Nilo – Saharan, related to Dinka and Nuer. These days the Maasai also speak Swahili and English which are the official languages of Tanzania and Kenya.

The Maasai people have incredible traditional beliefs, they believe in the Maasai god locally known as Enkai or Engai, the Maasai’s god is manifested in two forms, the black god who was benebolent and the red god who was vengeful. Today most of the Maasai people are Christians and a minority are Muslims.

Maasai Village

The Maasai people live in traditional villages which are called a “Manyatta”, a typical Maasai village consists of a number of small houses made out cow dung with thatched roofs. These houses are known as The Inkajijik and they are usually circular or loaf – shaped, it is a resposiblity of women to construct these houses and they are made using mud, sticks, grass, cow dung and cow’s urine. Women are also responsible for the supplying of water, collecting firewood, milking cattle and cooking for the family.  The Inkajijikstand quite close to each other and are all surrounded by a circular fence locally known as “Enkang” which means to protect their cattle and themselves at night from wild animals and intruders. Unlike the houses which are responsibility of women, the village men are responsibility to constructing the fence.

The Maasai live a nomadic was of life, they move their herds of cattle from one place to another in search for grass. This gives the grass the place they were at a chance to grow again. Traditionally this is made possible by a communal land tenure system in which everyone in the area shares access to water and pasture. Due to increasing population of people and modernity, the Maasai people have been forced to settle and take jobs in towns thus adopting to a more settled lifestyle as opposed to their nomadic way of life.

Originally the primary source of income for the Maasai people was keeping of livestock such as cows, goats and sheep. To the Maasai livestock serves as a social utility and plays an important roles in the Maasai economy, livestock is traded for other livestock, cash or livestock products such as milk ad siege.

Maasai Jumping, Dancing and Music

The Maasai people are famous for their incredible jumping skills which are incorporated in their dances and music, the higher one jumps, the more status the male gains, also for the woman. The jumping comes forth from the Maasai adamu or jumping dance. Under the sound of a traditional beat, the jumping is a celebration to mark the ride of passage and acts as a ritual through which young men are welcomed to the next stage of their lives.

Meet the Maasai of Tanzania
Meet the Maasai of Tanzania

Maasai Clothing

Most the Maasai usually wear the color red as it symbolizes their culture and they believe it scares way the lions, even though red is their favorite color, black and stripes are worn too. The dress worn by the men is called a Shuka, which is a red robe.

The Maasai women wear clothes that are colorful and decorated with beads. The warriors wear their hair in the red-dyed braids, Meet the Maasai of Tanzania

The Maasai Warriors

According the Maasai culture, the passage from boyhood to manhood which is treasured by the Maasai people. This passage is circumcision is and is the only way a boy becomes a man, the boy wear a black Shuka – a robe, their faces are painted white and brass coils of metal hanging on the boy’s chest, these brass coils belong to their mothers. The boys’ head dress has the carcasses of birds which he, according to the tradition has shot with a bow and arrow. This costume is worn during the initiation and healing period, the process takes 3-4 months and the boys remain in black clothes for a period of 4-8 months. After they are healed, they have become a new person and received the status of a new warrior.

The Maasai Market

There are two Maasai Markets in Tanzania, one for buying all your souvenirs and gifts – this market is basically the tourist version of the Maasai Market and the real Market. This is the local market where local Maasai come to trade their livestock and good, these markets are less common for tourists’ visit, the real local markets are usually found outside of the town. Unlike the touristic Maasai Markets, it is best to go together with a guide or a local friend who can help you with haggling for prices for your Maasai trinkets or a got that you may want to buy as your new pet. You can also practice your bargainng skill if you think you can handle it.

The Maasai Market is usually open between 8 am and 6 pm and can be found at several locations around town.

Note: if you do not have a strong stomach, do not buy local market food, as you might probably end up with diarrhea.

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