If you ask most tourists who have previously visited either Kenya or Tanzania which local tribe they are most familiar with, they will definitely mention; “The Maasai.” While these groups of people may not be the only ones in this part of Africa that adhere to their traditional beliefs, they are still one of the most visible tribes to do so.
In fact, they are one of Africa’s most popular indigenous people that you’ve either seen in pictures or heard their intriguing traditions. While it may be difficult to highlight every aspect of the Maasai way of life; there are still some insights that have been shared by their elders.
In this article, we’ll take a look at ten facts about these tribesmen that you probably didn’t know about:
1. The Maasai Have a Strong Warrior Culture.
The Maasai people have always been known as very courageous and composed individuals. This lack of fear came from their previous lifestyles where young men were trained to hunt for food as well as defend their families and livestock from predators. Young Maasai youths were also tasked with killing a lion using only a spear in order for them to be crowned a warrior. However, this tradition has long been abandoned with the increase in awareness of wildlife conservation.
2. The Maasai Drink Raw Cow Blood.
Even though this act may seem strange to some people, the Maasai do in fact drink the raw blood of the cows and goats once they slaughter them. This habit was previously deemed as an honorable act that used to take place only on special occasions; such as when their women gave birth or when young men were circumcised. Today, blood-drinking has become a common practice that takes place whenever a cow or goat is slaughtered.
3. The Maasai Believe in Having a Large Number of Livestock & Children as a Sign of Wealth.
For any Maasai man, having a large number of livestock confers status, respect, and honor in the community. They also place a high value on their children and in spite of the fact that most modern Maasai today understand the concept and importance of family planning, having a big family is still popular in rural Masailand. It is also worth noting that a Maasai man with lots of cattle but no children is still considered poor and vice versa.
4. Maasai Women Are Responsible For Building Family Homes.
In Maasai culture, women are the ones who are responsible for building their homes; which are typically built using sticks and cow dung mixed with mud for the walls, followed by dry grasses and additional sticks for the roof. The floors of the huts are usually bare grounds that can be swept at the end of the construction.
5. Both Men & Women Have Separate Define Roles.
In Maasai culture, men are traditionally responsible for hunting, caring for their livestock, and defending their homes and communities from intruders. They are also responsible for building fences around their villages to protect their families and cattle at night from wild animals. Women on the other hand play the role of cooking, child rearing, as well as taking care of their husbands.
6. Maasais Love Singing & Dancing.
If you ever find yourself in a Maasai village, you’ll probably be welcomed by lots of singing and dancing. They will almost always have a melody that is led by the song leader, as everyone else joins in. The men will invite you into a jumping contest as their women on the other hand shake their jewelry back and forth from their neck and shoulders.
7. They Believe in Wealth Inheritance.
In the Maasai Culture, an elderly man will typically call his sons as he approaches death and gift each one of them a share of his wealth; which will primarily consist of livestock. His younger sons will then distribute some of their inherited wealth to their eldest brother, whom they will now regard as the head of the family.
8. The Maasai Used Not Bury Their Dead.
Even though most Maasai tribespeoples bury their dead today, many of them, especially those from the older generation group, used not to do so. They did not hold any traditional or formal funeral service as they thought burning their loved ones would harm their soil. They held that death is the absolute end and that anyone who passed away had “finished his or her journey.” So instead of burying their loved ones, the Maasai people used to take the dead body, cover it with animal fat or blood, and then leave it somewhere in the bushes for predators to eat.
9. The Maasai Have their Own Traditional Wardrobe.
Maasai people typically dress in red sheets that are usually wrapped around their bodies accompanied by several pieces of jewelry worn on top of them. These sheets are usually red and depending on the occasion, they might end up changing in color. Both Men and women dress in a similar manner as well; and prior to the introduction of the sheets, the Maasai people used to dress in animal skins.
10. The Maasai Men are Mostly Polygamous.
In the Maasai culture, the woman usually gets married to her husband’s entire age group. Often, these marriages are arranged by the tribe’s elders where men are expected to give up their matrimonial bed for a visiting male guest who is in the same age group. The woman of the household is also permitted to join the visiting guest in that bed if she so chooses to. Another feature of Maasai marriages is that wives are frequently much younger than their husbands; thus the reason why the Maasai Tribe has a large number of widows.
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