The Maasai People of Kenya
February 13 - 25, 2009

proper spelling is either Maasai or Massai

Massai Flag
The Maasai Flag


Kenya Trip Home Page
1. The First Days of our visit - Nairobi
2. Mount Kenya, Serena Mountain Lodge
3. Lake Nakuru National Park and More
4. The Great Rift Valley and Kigio Wildlife Camp
5. Maasi Mara and Siana Springs Intrepids page 1
6. Maasi Mara and Siana Springs Intrepids page 2
7. People of the Great Rift Valley
8. Back to Nairobi Again
9. Amboseli National Park - Page 1
10 Amboseli National Park - Page 2
11 A Maasai Village in Kenya
12. Amboseli National Park - Last Drive to Nairobi
13. List and Many Pictures of the Birds we Saw
14. List of Birds, Animals and Plants

man and cattle
The Maasai people are traditionally associated with their cattle.

The Maa speaking peoples of East Africa believe that at the beginning sky and earth were one, and the Maasai did not have any cattle. God (Enkai) then let cattle descend from the sky along a bark rope (or leather strap or firestick), and the Maasai received all cattle that currently exists in the world. The Dorobo (Ildorobo people), a group of hunters and gatherers, did not receive any cattle, and therefore proceeded to cut the rope, producing a separation between heaven and earth, and stopping the flow of cattle from God. From that belief, it follows that there is a direct link between God and cattle, and that all cattle in the world belong to the Maasai.

man walking . . .Road to Maasai village
A Maasai man was walking along the rocky and dusty road we drove to the Maasai village.

 

While many Massai people live in stationary shelters or even in cities, work as farmers, crafts or the tourist business, some still live the semi-nomadic life in Kenya and northern Tanzania. Because the lifestyle of the tall red-robed Masai people is often at odds with many western practices, one learns to question certain western values.

Due to their distinctive customs and dress and residence near the many game parks of East Africa, they are among the most well-known African ethnic groups internationally. They speak Maa and are also educated in the official languages of Swahili and English. The Maasai population has been estimated as "approaching 900,000 in Kenya and Tanzania. Estimates of the respective Maasai populations in both countries are complicated by the remote locations of many villages, and their semi-nomadic nature.

. . .
We were greeted by the people of the little village.

 

Enter villageAlthough the Tanzanian and Kenyan governments have instituted programs to encourage the Maasai to abandon their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle, the people have continued their age-old customs. Recently, Oxfam has claimed that the lifestyle of the Maasai should be embraced as a response to climate change because of their ability to farm in deserts and scrublands

Here, we go into a Maasai village. The homes take about a month to build and last around ten years.

 

 

 

Rachel in villageAs semi-nomadic people, the Maasai have traditionally relied on local, readily available materials and indigenous technology to construct their housing. The traditional Maasai house was in the first instance designed for people on the move and was thus very impermanent in nature. The Inkajijik (houses) we saw were circular, and are constructed by able-bodied women. The structural framework is formed of timber poles fixed directly into the ground and interwoven with a lattice of smaller branches, which is then plastered with a mix of mud, sticks, grass, cow dung and human urine, and ash. The enkaji is small and each home is for a wife. Within this space the family cooks, eats, sleeps, socializes and stores food, fuel and other household possessions. The village was enclosed in a circular fence (Enkang) built by the men, usually of thorned acacia, a native tree. At night all cows, goats and sheep are placed in an enclosure in the center, safe from wild animals

 

man and calves . . women and goats
A Maasi man standing near some calves and a mother holding a child and watching goats inside the compound.

 

 

cape buffalo bowl . . . chief explains the bowl
We were asked what was made into the bowl. . The chief of the compound told Rachel she was right, it was a cape buffalo horn.

 

children under tree , , ,making fire
Children got out of school to see us. . . .. .Some of the men demonstrated how they made fire without matches.

 

school children

Over the years, many projects have begun to help Maasai tribal leaders find ways to preserve their traditions while also balancing the education needs of their children for the modern world. Here, a child does a math problem using the dry ground as we would a blackboard.

Many Maasai have moved away from the nomadic life to responsible positions in commerce and government. Yet despite the sophisticated urban lifestyle they may lead, many will happily head homewards dressed in designer clothes, only to emerge from the traditional family homestead wearing a shuka (colourful piece of cloth), cow hide sandals and carrying a wooden club (o-rinka) - at ease with themselves and the world.

woman and childThe emerging forms of employment among the Maasai people include farming, business (selling of traditional medicine,running of restaurants/shops, buying and selling of minerals, selling milk and milk products by women, embroideries), and wage employment (as security guards/ watchmen, waiters, tourist guides), and others who are engaged in the public and private sectors.

 

man and childrenThe Maasai women regularly weave and bead jewellery. This bead work plays an essential part in the ornamentation of their body. Although there are variations in the meaning of the color of the beads, some general meanings for a few colors are: white, peace; blue, water; red, warrior / blood / bravery.

 

Inside the windowless home it is dark. There are only a few holes to let out smoke from the cooking fire. The light in this photo came from the flash of the camera.

 

goats entering . . . passageway
Goats come into the village area from the outside fence area. The dark, low passage way that is used to enter a home.

 

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The little children of the village sing songs. . . . . . . . . . . A member of our group joins the Maasai men in a traditional dance.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . This video was seen on the Uncle Ducky Show in May, 2009.

 

Selling goods . . . Leaving compound
Near the end of our visit the people showed us hand made crafts for sale. . Soon we had to leave for our next adventure.

 


 

boy and cattle . . . . . . massai walking
The boy leads cattle to & from rare pastures each day. . . Maasai men always carry a walking stick.

Meat-eating & milk-drinking rituals are sacramental meals, because they symbolize the unity of God, and man, through cattle.


 

newer Massasi village
A newer Maasai compound built on the same principles as the traditional one we visited.

 

now

Go back to Ambosela for the last night and then Nairobi and home.