Where can I meet the Maasai?
One of Africa’s most iconic tribes, the Maasai live a semi-nomadic lifestyle in Northern Tanzania and Southern Kenya. The tribe has modernized in some ways (at times by government force, at times by convenience), but still practice many aspects of their traditional culture. The Maasai have held onto their identity as warriors and livestock herders, while their cultural dance, clothing, and handiwork is known worldwide. If you’re wondering “Where can I meet the Maasai?” one of the best ways to visit them is on safari, where you can see and learn about their lifestyle directly.
The Maasai have inhabited Northern Tanzania and Southern Kenya since the mid 17th century, but being a semi-nomadic tribe, they haven’t always lived there. The Maasai came out of Northwest Kenya in the 15th century, and began a nomadic journey south, presumably to find better grazing land for their livestock. As they moved across Africa, many established ethnic groups were displaced by or assimilated to the Maasai society, solidifying their reputation as warriors. Since they settled in an area renowned for its stunning natural wonders and diverse wildlife, the governments in Tanzania and Kenya have repeatedly pushed the Maasai out of national park areas as they develop, and urged them to assimilate to modern society.
Instead, the Maasai demanded grazing rights to the land and continue to live near the parks.
Because the Maasai are traditionally livestock herders, they move their animals along with the seasons to find fresh grazing land. Historically, cattle is the main source of sustenance, but the Maasai have branched out into farming due to necessity. Also known as fierce warriors, they protect livestock from predators and defend the “kraals,” a circular structure where tribe members live. For women, life in this patriarchal society requires that they build the houses, look after children, and take care of the home. Though some of the Maasai have left their traditional lifestyle to join modern civilization, those who remain keep many of their cultural occupations and roles intact.
Not only have they maintained their occupations for centuries, they also have continued their cultural traditions as well. The Maasai are known worldwide for their unique style of dress, body adornment, and beadwork. Each tribe has a unique style of beadwork, and this coveted craft has been featured in art galleries across the United States. Another highlight of going to meet the Maasai is seeing (and participating in) the traditional Adumu, or “jumping dance,” performed by the warriors. Seeing the beauty in this unique culture is certainly a feast for the senses.