Five Fun Facts About The Maasai Tribe Way Of Life

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Maasai Tribe Traditions in Tanzania

The Maasai tribe of Tanzania is an extraordinary group with an even more extraordinary culture. They have lived in Tanzania and Kenya for hundreds of years, grazing cattle and living a semi-nomadic way of life – even today! The Maasai tribe way of life is unique, and visitors to Tanzania often visit Maasai villages to immerse themselves in Maasai tribe traditions on a cultural exchange.

Who Are The Maasai?

The Maasai tribe is an indigenous ethnic group in Africa of semi-nomadic people. Over the past several centuries, Maasai settled in Kenya and northern Tanzania. The Maasai tribe traditions, customs, and dress and dress are distinct. Their residence near the many national game parks of East Africa makes them well-known to tourists, so the group is known internationally for their connection to the regions surrounding these national parks and preserves. Unlike many other indigenous groups, the Maasai tribe way of life is still similar to that of their ancestors.

Maasai Tribe Facts To Know Before You Visit Tanzania

Unlike many modern-day African tribes, the Maasai who live in Tanzania (and Kenya!) maintain a distinct way of life that mirrors the life of their ancestors. Maasai tribe traditions have not changed too much over the years, even as the world has advanced. Visitors to Tanzania can enjoy spending a day at a Maasai village, as part of a cultural exchange. Here are five fun Maasai tribe facts to know before your trip.

  • More than 1 million Maasai live in East Africa – the Maasai are a large tribe! The most recent census records report that approximately 841,622 Maasai live in Kenya, and 430,000 live in Tanzania. Even though the Maasai live a simple life, they are thriving. Their population has been increasing since 1989!
  • The Maasai language is called Maa – Maasai speak a language known as “Maa.” They are named after this language! “Maasai” means “people who speak Maa.” The tribe has a strong oral tradition that has preserved its origin stories as well as other important traditions. Interestingly enough, Maa is related to the Latuko language spoken in Southern Sudan. The similarities between the two languages support the idea that the Maasai people originated from that region of Africa before migrating to the areas they now inhabit.
  • A Maasai man’s cows are currency – cows come before everything else for the Maasai. They are the  most important aspect of their lives, providing food and currency for this tribe. Maasai men take great pride in their herds and are measured against other men based on the number of cattle they own. Cattle are used to barter with other tribes and are considered a sign of wealth.
  • Maasai remain semi-nomadic – Maasai tribes are still semi-nomadic, like their ancestors. They move themselves and their livestock based on seasonal rotation and a communal land management system that the tribal elders administer. While often considered primitive, the Maasai’s focus on sustainable systems has been recently recognized by developed countries as very forward-thinking.
  • They hunt lions – this Maasai tribe tradition has changed over time, but it is still a very serious undertaking for Maasai men. Lions are never hunted for fun, and the Maasai now hunt these magnificent creatures in groups to allow the lion population to recover between outings. This practice has deep traditional roots that show off a Maasai warrior’s fearlessness and strength.

Celebrating With Music And Dance

The Maasai tribe way of life places great emphasis on music and dance. During a celebration or ceremony, a leader sings the melody to the ritual song, while other members of the tribe sing harmony on call-and-response vocals. They also make guttural throat-singing sounds to provide a rhythmic background. One of the most important dance rituals for the Maasai tribe is the warriors’ coming-of-age ceremony, which is known as eunoto. This ceremony can last for more than 10 days, during which the warriors-to-be participate in ritual singing, dancing, and competitive jumping.

Maasai Beadwork And Cultural Identity

While Maasai men traditionally are in charge of the tribe’s great herds of cattle, Maasai women stay closer to home. Women tend to domestic duties, but they also produce the exquisite beadwork for which the Maasai are known. Maasai tribe traditions include articulating their identity and position within the tribe through body ornaments, like beadwork. Before contact with Europeans, the beads were produced from natural materials like clays, shells, bone, iron, copper, brass, charcoal, seeds, horn, woods, gourds, and even ivory. Now, however, Maasai women prefer to work with opaque glass beads.

Where Do The Maasai Live?

Even nomadic people need shelter! Maasai tribe traditions rely on local, readily available materials and indigenous technology to construct their housing. The traditional Maasai house, which is still in use today, was designed for people on the move and is very impermanent. Maasai houses are formed of timber poles woven together with smaller branches and plastered with a mixture to make it waterproof. This small home gives the family shelter for cooking, eating, sleeping, and storage – and even houses small livestock. Maasai women traditionally build these homes.

Villages are protected by a circular fence built by Maasai men, usually from the thorned acacia tree At night, Maasai cows, goats, and sheep are placed within the fence to keep them safe from wild animals. Maasai tribes stay within these villages until it is time to move their livestock to a new seasonal grazing area.

Visite The Maasai To Learn More About Their Culture

If you are fascinated by the Maasai tribe facts mentioned above, you can visit a Maasai village during your trip to Tanzania! Many tour operators include a day at a Maasai Village as part of a safari itinerary. The Maasai are a truly welcoming people, who enjoy visiting with guests and showcasing the Maasai tribe traditions that have been handed down through the generations. For a truly unforgettable Tanzania experience, consider making a side trip to a Maasai Village during your safari!

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