Maasai dancers entertaining guests at Mara Sopa Lodge

What Makes the Maasai so Popular?

The Maasai Endeavour to Preserve their Culture, Come Rain come Shine

If there is a tribe that knows how to preserve its age-old cultures and customs, it must be the Maasai.  Some people, when asked which community lives in Kenya, may answer that the 40 million people in Kenya are all Maasai because this tribe’s identity stands out.

On the contrary, the Maasai make up about part of the population since there are 43 tribes in Kenya. According to the national population statistics 2009, Kenya has 841,622 people affiliated to this ethnic community.

This tribe also lives in Tanzania. The most striking identity is their dressing. They adorn a red fabric known as a shuka. Traditional beaded jewellery is part of their dressing for both men and women.  After the rite of passage, Eunoto, young boys become morans or warriors and their task is to protect the community.  Eunoto confirms them into adults who are responsible for raising families and leading the tribe.

This community is nomadic by nature and the main source of livelihood is herding cattle. They live in traditional huts known as manyattas concentrated in small clusters to form villages.  Thy construct manyattas using local materials such as sticks collected in the forest, mud and cow dung. It is no wonder that this community is one of the most eco-friendly people in the world. Women build manyattas, and men herd cattle and protect the village.

This community lives in remote locations that do not have electricity and tap water among other human needs. Their food includes milk, meat, wild fruits and herbs.  Nonetheless, some families live close to urban centres, or within towns, which gives them access to basic necessities even though their do not corrupt their strong cultural heritage. It is possible to see a Maasai walking in the streets of Nairobi flaunting red ochre on the head, a traditional club and dagger tucked around the waist, a pair of traditional sandals and the signature red shuka.

Where to find the Maasai

A large number of people from this community live in Narok County, home to the Maasai Mara National Reserve.   Revenue from this reserve helps the community through projects in schools, hospitals and infrastructure.

The Maasai are friendly and social people. They get along with other tribes and foreigners as well. During your visit to the Mara national reserve, take a tour of the local villages. Interact with members of this community and learn about their culture and lifestyle.  Buy some artefacts, jewellery and shukas to remind you of your trip. In the evening, sit back for a fun-filled encounter with moran dances.  A group of morans sing around a campfire, and you can join in if you can match their energy and vigour.

About the Author

Profile photo of Betsy Muriithi
on Apr 04, 2014

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