One of the famous tribes of Africa, the people of Maasai are easily recognizable with their slim/tall physique and colourful beadings. These are people of a well-preserved culture on the brink of extinction.
The Maasai people are located in Eastern Africa and are famous the world over for their unique culture and are a popular ‘tourist attraction’ for travellers visiting the area.
The Maasai have plenty of unique characteristics in their culture.
The Maasai Tribe inhabit more than one country:
The Maasai tribe inhabits northern, central and southern Kenya as well as northern Tanzania. As far as records go, there are over 840,000 Maasai people living in Kenya, and the almost same number in Tanzania. Please note that these records are estimates.
Blood is part of the Maasai diet:
For the most part, the Maasai people live on the milk and meat of their cattle. This is how they get most of their protein and calories. Other types of food included in their diet are maize meal, potatoes, rice, and cabbage although this is traditionally frowned upon because the Maasai see using the land for crop farming as a crime against nature, as it makes the ground no longer suitable for grazing.
Maasai people drink blood on various occasions: when they are sick, have just been circumcised, or have just given birth. Some ilamerak (the Maasai word for ‘elders’) also drink blood to prevent or alleviate hangovers after they’ve been drinking. Not only is blood very rich in protein, but it’s also great for the immune system. However, as livestock numbers drop, blood is becoming less of a delicacy for them.
The Maasai have their own traditional wardrobe:
Members of the Maasai typically dress in red sheets known as ‘shuka’. These are wrapped around the body, and multiple pieces of jewellery are worn over them. Depending on the occasion, these sheets may be a different colour – though, for the most part, they are red. Before the introduction of ‘shuka’, Maasai people dressed in animal skins which is typical of early tribes in Africa.
It is also common for members of the Maasai to have stretched ear lobe piercings. However, with the Maasai, it is slightly different. Whereas a lot of tribes keep wooden plugs in their stretched lobe piercings, the Maasai adorn the enlarged lobe with rows of beads as well as a single earring to weight it.
The Maasai are named after their own language:
The name Maasai literally means ‘one who speaks the Maa language. The language itself is part of the East Neolithic branch of the Nilo-Saharan language family. It is mostly a spoken language, as the tribe place such importance on vocalisation. However, there is a Maasai dictionary, and the Bible has been translated into the language too.
The Maasai Tribe are mostly polygamous:
In the Maasai culture, when a woman gets married, she is marrying her husband’s entire age group. Often, these marriages are arranged by the tribe’s elders. The wife is often much younger than her husband and is not expected to remarry, either. This is why the Maasai Tribe has a lot of widows. The role of women in marriage is to have and raise children.
Although this practice is less common, men are expected to give up their beds for a visiting male guest. The woman of the household can join the visiting guest in that bed if she so chooses.
Children in the Maasai Tribe are not named until three months of age:
Due to a high mortality rate among infants and babies within the Maasai communities, they don’t name their children until they have passed the three-month mark. There is also an official naming ceremony for Maasai children. This is known as Enkipukonoto Eaji which roughly translates as ‘coming out of the seclusion period. Before the ceremony, mothers and children are isolated and allow their hair to grow long. It is shaved off at the ceremony, symbolising a fresh start for the child.
The Maasai have their own calendar:
There are three main seasons for the Maasai – the long rains, the season of drizzles, and the short rains. These have an impact on the seasonal rotation mentioned earlier. There are no particular names for each month, and no rule as to which month comes after which. It is considered that: everyone knows there are 12 months, and thirty days within each month; 15 days of brightness and 15 days of darkness, with the 8th day known as the Day of Changing.
In recent times, this world-renowned tribe is facing extinction, especially in Tanzania as the Maasai, are being violently evicted from the area for conservation zones and trophy hunting.
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