The Maasai are an independent tribe of people who are native to Africa. Their ancient culture and traditions are still hugely relevant in their daily lives and they have shunned most outside influences of societies beyond their own. They live in the Rift Valley region of Tanzania and Kenya and move around with their cattle as they seek new places for their herd to graze. They are a people who truly live off the land and rely heavily on their cattle to provide them with meat and milk.
To a member of the Maasai tribe, the amount of influence a person has is dependent on the number of cattle he owns. With more cattle, he is able to produce more food and therefore is seen as more powerful within his group. The modern day Maasai has a more sedentary lifestyle then their ancestors as they are often forced to settle in one area in order to better cultivate food.
The culture of the men from this tribe is just as strong as it has always been. They are seen as warriors by the rest of their group and their main purpose is to protect the others as well as grazing the cattle. When boys of the Maasai tribe turn 14, they are circumcised and then usually sent away for eight years to look after livestock, far from the village. After these eight years, they return a warrior and will then marry a young woman from the tribe. They are normally powerful in appearance and frequently over six feet tall!
The Maasai women are expected to build homes and take care of their families. They are also given the duty of taking milk from the cows and bringing water to the homes each day. Depending on their distance from the nearest water source, this can be a very physically demanding task. The Maasai women look just as powerful as the men and are often heavily decorated with colourful jewellery.
The future of these people is increasingly under threat as the government refuses to acknowledge some of their cultural practices. For example, within the tribe it is seen as a victory to kill a lion, especially if that lion has attacked their cattle. However the authorities are keen to preserve the lions in the region as they draw many tourists. Therefore, in such an instance, the Maasai warrior may be arrested if caught doing so!
They are are a fascinating people and are often welcoming of tourists taking their photos and observing their way of life, so if you have a trip to Africa planned then make sure to respectfully pay them a visit!
This is an informative article by Natalie Jones. Natalie works as a content writer for London Translation Agency, Quick Lingo and also blogs frequently about her travel experiences on a selection of other websites.