Who Are The Masaai?

June 14, 2016 at 7:01 pm Leave a comment

One of the most culturally intensive safaris in Kenya and Tanzania involves a visit with the African tribe known as the Masaai. Even if you’re not familiar with the name, you probably know the look of a Masaai tribesman when you see one. The image of a tall, jumping nomad that cuts an imposing figure on the African landscape is an iconic one that has appeared numerous times in magazines, film and television.

00005But who are the Masaai? If you’re going to meet with them on one of our special Zara Tours, you should learn a little bit more about them to better prepare for the experience.

The Pastoral Life

The Masaai are a part of a group called “Nilotic people.” This is a reference to both region and language, as Nilotic people are generally found in the area ranging from the Nile Valley to North Tanzania. They share a common root language, though of course there are specific variations in dialect from one region to the next.

The Masaai themselves are semi-nomadic, creating shelters to temporarily live in when they settle down with their livestock to let them graze. When it is time to move on to better pastures, they abandon their dwellings and build new ones at the next site. The Masaai story is one of livestock; their entire way of life, the routes they wander, the calendar they follow, the seasons they deem significant are all based around the welfare of their animals.

Despite—or perhaps because—of caring for farm animals, the Masaai are also warriors, with the men of the tribe trained and ready to defend both themselves and their animals. Because of this, the Masaai, during their original migration from the Nile, fought and won against many other tribes as they made their way down to the Kenya/Tanzania region. Some of those tribes were scattered, while others became part of the Masaai culture.

massailodge233Today, the Massai are a symbol of both Africa’s history and its frailty; the Masaai are determined to maintain their traditions, and successfully do so. But it’s become increasingly difficult in the 21st century to maintain a purely isolationist policy. With a Zara tour, you can spend a day and a night with this distinct African tribe and learn more about their unusual and rare cultural practices.


Entry filed under: African Safari.

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