While visiting the third school, we had an opportunity to visit the homes of a few Maasai families. This experience was pretty surreal for me, as my only real exposure to this type of lifestyle was in textbooks and the Discovery Channel. I won’t pretend to be an expert on the Maasai people, but a few key takeaways for me were:
Maasai are one of the best-known local populations because of their traditional lifestyle, culture, and dress.
They live in bomas, or small enclosed communities, which consist of various huts made from straw, dirt, and cow dung.
A man’s wealth is determined by the number of cattle and children he has.
A Maasai man can have many wives, who may have children with other men. When this happens, they are still considered to be the husband's child.
The cattle provide food and drink for the Maasai people. They eat the meat and mix the cow’s milk with its blood to drink.
The life expectancy of the Maasai people is 60 years old.
We learned a ton from our safari drive, as he was Maasai. He now lives in the city with his wife and children, but still has family in the villages. We asked which he prefers – city life, or village life – and were all completely shocked when he said he prefers living in the village! His reason? He explained there is no stress in the village – no concern about money, Wi-Fi, or material things. Everyone in the village helps one another and their culture is understood and respected by all. What a concept, huh?
Do a quick Google search to learn more. The Maasai are truly fascinating people!
Or head to the bottom of the post for Wikipedia blurbs :)
Special thanks to Stout and Convoy of Hope for making this trip possible and for all they do to help others.
Want to hear more? Here are some blurbs from Wikipedia
Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting northern, central and southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. They are among the best known local populations due to their residence near the many game parks of the African Great Lakes, and their distinctive customs and dress. The Maasai speak the Maa language (ɔl Maa), a member of the Nilo-Saharan family that is related to Dinka, Kalenjin and Nuer languages. Some have become educated in the official languages of Kenya and Tanzania, Swahiliand English. The Maasai population has been reported as numbering 841,622 in Kenya in the 2009 census, compared to 377,089 in the 1989 census.
The Tanzanian and Kenyan governments have instituted programs to encourage the Maasai to abandon their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle, but the people have continued their age-old customs. An Oxfam study has suggested that the Maasai could pass on traditional survival skills such as the ability to produce food in deserts and scrublands that could help populations adapt to climate change. Many Maasai tribes throughout Tanzania and Kenya welcome visits to their villages to experience their culture, traditions, and lifestyle, in return for a fee.
A once high infant mortality rate among the Maasai has led to babies not truly being recognized until they reach an age of 3 months ilapaitin. Educating Maasai women to use clinics and hospitals during pregnancy has enabled more infants to survive. The exception is found in extremely remote areas. For Maasai living a traditional life, the end of life is virtually without ceremony, and the dead are left out for scavengers. A corpse rejected by scavengers is seen as having something wrong with it, and liable to cause social disgrace; therefore, it is not uncommon for bodies to be covered in fat and blood from a slaughtered ox. Burial has in the past been reserved for great chiefs, since it is believed to be harmful to the soil.
Traditional Maasai lifestyle centres around their cattle which constitute their primary source of food. The measure of a man's wealth is in terms of cattle and children. A herd of 50 cattle is respectable, and the more children the better. A man who has plenty of one but not the other is considered to be poor. A Maasai religious belief relates that God gave them all the cattle on earth, leading to the belief that rustling cattle from other tribes is a matter of taking back what is rightfully theirs, a practice that has become much less common.
All of the Maasai’s needs for food are met by their cattle. They eat the meat, drink the milk daily, and drink the blood on occasion. Bulls, oxen and lambs are slaughtered for meat on special occasions and for ceremonies. Though the Maasai’s entire way of life has historically depended on their cattle, more recently with their cattle dwindling, the Maasai have grown dependent on food such as sorghum, rice, potatoes and cabbage (known to the Maasai as goat leaves).