15
Jul
2015
0

Maasai Warriors: Interesting Facts

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.

Maasai 'Witch Doctor' Souvenir

Maasai ‘Witch Doctor’ Souvenir

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.

Animal, our tour guide

Animal, our tour guide

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!

Cattle

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.

Young Maasai warrior with his cattle in the background

Young Maasai warrior with his cattle in the background

Lion Hunting

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.

Maasai Warrior with headgear made using the mane of the lion that he hunted

Maasai Warrior with headgear made using the mane of the lion that he hunted

Polygamy

The Maasai men practise polygamy. In fact, the first wife gains a higher status in society when then man marries again.

Granny with her grandson in her house

Granny with her grandson in her house

Dowry

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.

Maasai lady adorned with handmade bead jewellery

Maasai lady adorned with handmade bead jewellery

Jumping Dance

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!

Maasais doing the 'Jumping Dance'

Maasais doing the ‘Jumping Dance’

Red Dress

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.

Apparatus used to collect cow's blood

Apparatus used to collect cow’s blood

Religion

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.

Death

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!

You may also like

What not to do on a Safari?
Lake Nakuru Lodge: Review
Masai Mara: Photo Blog Part II
Masai Mara: Photo Blog Part I

15 Responses

  1. While I was aware of the Maasai , I was unaware of their cultural identity. The facts that you presented really give an in-depth look into their lives and it’s always pleasant to see that they continue to live as they have always.

    The importance of cattle is something we can relate to somewhat in India but it’s the process of leaving the dead outside that I find the most interesting. A way to give back to the animal kingdom I suppose.

    Thanka for such well explained facts and information.

  2. How interesting! I got to visit a Maasai tribe’s village when I was traveling through Tanzania, but I definitely did not learn these interesting facts. I had NO idea that they were monotheists …and they practice polygamy? Again, no idea! It’s also good to know they’re barriers when it comes to hunting lions. This was awesome, I loved learning more about the Maasai.

  3. The Maasai culture is so intriguing. I encountered them when I went to the Maasai Mara about 6 years ago, although I didn’t speak to them much. At that time, I was taking photos of them and our tour guide said they might spear me for that – so I stopped.

  4. Fascinating! Just trying to imagine how tribes like the Massai are living is inspiring but to be there and to see it with your own eyes must be an experience for a lifetime.
    Imagine – a lion hunt! For me it was always fascinating to see such huge cats in the zoo but tying to imagine to hunt them… respect!
    The jumping dance looks also interesting, I heard already that they are able due to their traditions to jump really high.

  5. Well you really did get a glimpse at local life! It is great that you learnt so much on your trip, I had briefly heard of Maasai Warriors before but didn’t really know what they were! Thank you for sharing and educating 🙂

  6. Is love to go to Kenya one day! The Maasai culture sounds intriguing and you were so lucky to have Animal as your guide. I’m not sure about the polygamy though but if it works for them who am I to judge!

  7. The Maassai are probably the only famous tribe of the lands in Africa, but I didn’t know many facts about that. The hunting of lions is new to me, but it seems they found a more modern way to cope with that.

  8. What an interesting read, I wasn’t familiar with Maasai culture at all. I had no idea that other cultures didn’t do burial and cremation. This makes me want to know more about African tribes and culture and maybe experience it myself!

    1. Meeting the Maasais was amongst the highlights of my trip. In fact, because our guide was a Maasai himself, we learnt so much more than we would otherwise learn!

Leave a Reply