There are few who can survive in the wild and call it their home too – members of the Maasai tribe are amongst these few. The Maasais are the native inhabitants of Kenya and Tanzania. Their culture is different from that of us city-dwellers and they remain loyal to it. There is so much to know and learn about them… each little detail being more interesting than the other.
I was lucky that our tour guide, who was with us for four days as we navigated the wild, was a half-Maasai. He had stories to tell us… about how he grew up, learnt about the jungle, met his first wife and then his second one and how much he loves his kids. His name, literally translated to English meant ‘Animal’ and that’s what his friends called him. He loved to talk! And we listened to all his Maasai stories with eagerness.
I am listing out a few interesting facts about the Maasais that I learnt while I was in Kenya. I am intrigued by their culture and have a deep sense of respect for the harmony that they maintain with the wild. If you are as intrigued as I was, go on Google and read more – there is plenty of information on the internet. However, if you want to hear stories, head to Africa and make friends with a Maasai!
The Maasais are semi-nomadic, with cattle being the main source of food and livelihood. Cattle, sometimes, can be used as currency! A man’s wealth is judged by the cattle he has.
Lion hunting is traditionally viewed as a rite of passage. While lions used to be hunted by individuals in the past, they are done by groups of Maasai men now (to let the population of the lions grow). The Maasai code of conduct does not allow hunting of a sick or infirm lion or any lioness (unless provoked) as females are considered to be the bearer of life.
The Maasai men practise polygamy. In fact, the first wife gains a higher status in society when then man marries again.
The Maasai men pay dowry to the girl’s family. This ‘dowry’ is given for the wedding and the outflow in cash and kind continues until the marriage lasts.
Jump higher if you want the best girl! The ‘Jumping Dance’ is used by the Maasai young men to find themselves a mate. Higher the jump, better the belle and lower the dowry!
The Maasais typically drape themselves in a red cloth. Years ago, when fabric was a luxury for the Maasais, they would treat animal skin with ochre, giving it the characteristic red colour. As times have changed, leather has given way to fabric, but the bright red colour has stayed.
Food and Drink
The Maasai eat meat and drink milk from the cattle – it is not an agrarian economy. Cow’s blood, mixed with milk is given to celebrate special occasions and to the sick. It is considered as a source of protein and minerals.
The Maasais are monotheist and believe in one called Enkai, who is omnipresent. He has a dual nature; one called Narok (Black God) who is benevolent, and the other Nanyokie (Red God) who is vengeful.
Burial or cremation is not a practise. The dead are left outside for the scavengers.
The Maasais are interesting people. I am trying to coax Ankur to plan a trip to Tanzania. Hopefully,in that trip, I will be able to understand their culture a little better.
The world sure is a lovely place… full of lovely people!