In Tanzania, the Masai are especially prominent in and around Ngorongoro and the Serengeti, while Kenya’s Masai Mara takes its name from these proud people.
The Masai are predominantly cattle breeders, eating meat and milk that they produce themselves. Cattle products are a central part of the Masai diet, with other animals such as sheep being more for special occasions than day to day use.
In fact, traditional Masai culture revolves closely around the tribe’s cattle herds. The measure of a man’s worth is measured in the number of cattle he owns and the number of children he fathers, with the latter depending heavily upon the former.
Traditionally, the Masai people are recognizable by their distinct attire. They wear sandals and wrap their bodies in robes of red, blue, or black. Women spend much of their spare time doing bead work, and they often adorn their bodies with their creations as well as bracelets & earrings of wood or bone.
The Masai society is a patriarchal one in which groups of male elders typically decide on important issues concerning the community.
The warrior caste within the Masai culture is one of the most respected and world renowned. These brave men are afforded many privileges such as being able to wear their hair long and being able to marry.
The Masai believe in one God, “Engai” (or “Enkai”). He is a God of two facets, one kind and the other vengeful. Within tribal groups, a “Laibon” (spiritual leader) oversees matters of spirituality, although he has no position of power when it comes to deciding matters of tribal importance.
Visiting with the Masai
While it is true that many authentic Masai villages do not welcome tourists, it is possible for visitors to Tanzania to interact with these fascinating people in a number of ways.
Those venturing to or from the Serengeti have the opportunity to visit a Masai village between Ngorongoro and the Serengeti National Park. Your visit includes a demonstration of traditional Masai dance, the opportunity to see the day to day workings of a Masai village, and the opportunity to purchase locally made jewellery.