Maasai Customs and Traditions

Maasai Customs and Traditions
When people speak of Kenya, they also talk about one tribe in particular, the Masai (or Maasai if in Tanzania). The Masai tribe lives on the border on Kenya and Tanzania. There are tours that take you to Masai Mara National Reserve and Amboseli National Park (or Serengeti National Park if you are in Tanzania) to visit the Masai tribe.

What makes this tribe famous is the fact they had retained many of their traditional ways even though Kenya is becoming more modern and industrialized. Yes, some members of the Masai tribe have moved out of their homeland and into urban areas. A good portion have remained and kept their customs.

Here are some interesting facts and traditions of the Masai tribe:

  • The Masai tribe is traditionally a seminomadic tribe. They live off their cattle almost exclusively.

  • The Masai have a reputation of being a fierce warring tribe.

  • Masai men may have more than one wife.

  • Masai women build their houses out of sticks and grass, then cover it with a mixture of cow dung and mud.

  • A Masai village is called an enkang.

  • The men put a thick wall of dried thorn-tree branches around the circle of houses to prevent wild animals from coming into the village.

  • The women do a lot of beading in their spare time. They bead necklaces, headdresses, gourds, and dresses.

  • The young Masai children sometimes play a game where they place rocks on a sleeping rhinoceros. The last one to place a rock on it before it wakes up is the winner. This, of course, is a dangerous game.

  • When a Masai boy leaves boyhood, he enters the morani or warrior class. He is expected to be brave enough to spear a lion. If a warrior holds the tail of a lion as it dies he is awarded with that lion's mane and gains great honor in his tribe. The ceremony for boys entering the morani is held every seven years.

  • Women and children keep their heads shaved while the morani wear their hair in long braids dyed with red clay.

  • The Masai eat custard made from the blood of their cattle. The blood is mixed with milk and curdled to make the custard.

  • The Masai pierce and stretch their earlobes and wear large metal hoops at the tops of their ears. This goes for both male and female members.

  • It is a sign of beauty for women to have long stretched earlobes. Decorative cuts are also made on womens' faces for beauty.

  • The Maasai believe in one god named Enkai.

  • When a moran has proven himself he can become an elder. Women can also become elders once their have given birth to four healthy children.

  • The language of the Masai is called 'Maa'.

Sources for this article:

Olbalbal A Day in Maasailand by Barbara A Margolies published in 1994 by Four Winds Press New York.

Growing Up Masai by Tom Shachtman published in 1981 by Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. New York.

Boy of the Masai by Natalie Donna published in 1964 by Dodd, Mead & Company New York.

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Tribes of Africa from Djibouti through Ivory Coast

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