A Maasai warrior is a fine sight. Those young men have, to the utmost extent, that particular form of intelligence which we call chic; daring and wildly fantastical as they seem, they are still unswervingly true to their own nature, and to an immanent ideal. Their style is not an assumed manner, nor an imitation of a foreign perfection; it has grown from the inside, and is an expression of the race and its history, and their weapons and finery are as much a part of their being as are a stag’s antlers.
– Karen Blixen –
A visit to a Maasai village is almost inevitable when travelling to Kenya and/or Tanzania. Maasai (not Masai) is the correct spelling. Maasai means people that speak ‘maa’. Masai is an incorrect spelling the British settlers used, and remains in current use.
Maasai people are a ‘Neolithic’ tribe, originating from the Nile / South Sudan region. Although they are one of the youngest tribes to move into the East Africa region, they are one of the most well-known tribes because of their bright red clothing and adornments they wear.
The number of Maasai people in Kenya is estimated to be approximately 800,000, with about the same number living in Tanzania. Most Masai people live in the area between Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania; an area that hosts world-famous national parks and game reserves, such as the Serengeti National Park (Tanzania), Ngorongoro Conservation Area (Tanzania) and Masai Mara Game Reserve (Kenya) are located.
The Maasai are nomadic pastoralists, meaning they keep herds of livestock all year round on a system of free-range grazing. Wandering in bands throughout the year, Masai subsist almost entirely on the meat, blood, and milk of their herds.
A Maasai Village (also called a kraal), consists of a large circular thornbush fence around a ring of mud-dung houses, holds four to eight families and their herds. Maasai are usually polygamous. When a woman marries, she does not only just marry her husband, but his entire age group as well. Traditionally, a Maasai husband was expected to give up his bed to a visiting male guest. This custom is now disappearing, but it is not uncommon for the woman of the house to join the guest in bed if she so desires.
Maasai society is strongly patriarchal and almost all major decision involving the tribe are decided by the village elders, a egalitarian style.
The main role of Maasai women is to cook and take care of the children, who are introduced to raising cattle as soon as they’re able to walk. The role of Maasai men is determined on the age and gender of each individual Maasai man are born and raised to be warriors. Early on boys duties are to take care of their livestock and once they are between the ages of twelve and fifteen years they take the rite of passage to become a warrior.