Maasai are nomadic herders that immigrated from northern Africa to East Africa in the middle of the 16th century. This most well known ethnic group in East Africa is now located in the Kilimanjaro region, in both south Kenya and north Tanzania. Currently, there are about 1 million, equally divided between the two countries. Originally, they were known as a warriors and shepherds; their culture is mainly based on their cattle. Maasai Tanzania
Maasai believe in one God, whom they call Ngai. Ngai is neither male nor female, but seems to have several different aspects. For instance, there is the saying Naamoni Aiyai, which means “The She to whom I pray”. There are two main manifestations of Ngai: Ngai Narok which is good and benevolent and is black; and Ngai Nanyokie, which is angry and red, like the British.
Ngai is the creator of everything. In the beginning Ngai (which also means sky) was one with the earth, and owned all the cattle that lived on it. But one day the earth and sky separated, so that Ngai was no longer among men. The cattle needed grass from the earth though, so to prevent them dying Ngai sent down the cattle and told the Maasai to look after them.
This they do to this day, quite literally taking the story as an excuse to relieve neighbouring tribes of their own livestock. Any pursuit other than a pastoral one was considered insulting to Ngai and demeaning to them. Nobody was willing to break the ground, even to bury the dead within it, for soil was sacred on account of its producing grass which fed the cattle that belonged to God. Equally, grass has acquired a semi-sacred aura, and is held in the fist as a sign of peace, and similarly held is used for blessings during rituals, a sheaf of grass being shaken at the people or animals being blessed. Maasai Tanzania
The cattle play an important role in ritual occasions, such as initiation, marriage, and the passage of one age-set to the next, where their sacrifice bridges the gap between man and God.
Agriculture and food
Even today, the cattle is the most important part of their diet. They feed primarily on the meat, milk and blood from cattle, for their protein and caloric needs. The milk/blood mixture is a traditional specialty. Vegetable dishes are typically not eaten. However, there are also who live outside the protected areas, resort to agriculture for their income, growing wheat, corn, beans, tea and potatoes. The traditional however do not cultivate these but buy them from other tribes.
There are no chiefs or leaders; they are organised by the age group of males. The transitions from one age group to the next are crucial moments in the life of a man and his reputation is very dependent on the number of cattle and women. It is not uncommon for a man to have 50 cattle and five wives. Numerous ceremonies, including the much criticized female circumcision and child marriage, mark their life. Maasai Tanzania
The traditional houses are round or rectangular depending on the region, but definitely built from a clay-manure mixture. A fire is used for cooking and heating since there is no fireplace inside the houses. They speak among themselves their own language Maa, which belongs to the group of Nilotic languages. However, most can also speak Swahili. Like no other tribe in Tanzania, they are faithful to their traditional way of life and benefit from tourism.
When the project is finished, we will build some houses for our visitors and volunteers so that they can experience the special life of the Maasai in Tanzania themselves. Karibu sana! Welcome!
Maasai Tanzania and other tribes
Come and experience a cultural safari in the land famous for the Maasai tribe. Tanzania has over 120 different ethnic groups, making it one of the most culturally diverse countries in the World. Perhaps the best known of the tribes in Tanzania is the iconic Maasai tribe with their distinctive red tunics. The Makonde tribe are also well known for their intricate carvings, and the Mbugwe are famous for their beautiful basket work. Visitors can also learn about the fascinating traditional culture of the Hadza Bushmen.
One of the most famous tribes in Africa have to be the Maasai, known for their bright red tunics, jumping feats and intricate jewelry.
These people still lead a nomadic existence and move from place to place with their herds of cattle. The tribes became famous due to the fact that they live in proximity to some of Africa’s most famous reserves. This is the tribe visitors are most likely to encounter on a cultural safari in Tanzania.
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