Masai tribe people in Africa, photo and description

Masai tribe in Africa, Kenya. Photo, customs, religion

African Maasai are considered the only distinctive tribe that has preserved the national rituals and traditions to this day. This is the most mysterious people, the number of which is not precisely known, because the natives have no documents.

Who are the Maasai?

The Maasai (a tribe in Africa) are described as a semi-nomadic African indigenous people. Of the 200 peoples of East Africa, which are divided into 4 language groups, the Maasai are the best known tribe.

The Masai, unlike the other tribes of Africa, have peculiar character traits. They are characterized by arrogance, straightforwardness and insolence, which they may show towards other people. At the same time they are very decent and faithful to their word. They endure all inconveniences firmly, they appreciate kindness, but sometimes they are vindictive.

Masai tribe in Africa, Kenya. Photo, customs, and religion

The Maasai are a very warlike tribe, so weapons are part of their lives.

They are very tall, slender and thin people, who are distinguished by facial features characteristic of manly people:

  • high cheekbones;
  • a well-defined jaw;
  • a muscular neck.

The Masai are a very freedom-loving people, who do not tolerate slavery. Any member of the tribe excludes their existence in captivity and would prefer slavery to death.

Where do they live?

The Masai inhabit the savannah on the southern side of Kenya (about half of the indigenous population lives in the Republic of Kenya, a former British colony) and almost all of northern Tanzania. According to some accounts, the Maasai tribe migrated from the Nile River valley in Sudan into central and southwestern Kenya.

In the nineteenth century, the Maasai occupied part of the Great Rift Valley, which crossed Kenya from north to south and the East African Rift, located from south to north. Also, the tribe’s territory of promise lay from the foot of Mount Marsabit on the north side, to Mount Dodoma on the south side.

Masai tribe in Africa, Kenya. Photo, customs, and religion

The area occupied by the tribe reached its largest size by the middle of the 19th century, at that time the Maasai were engaged in cattle breeding on the Tanga coast in Tanganyika, in what is now Tanzania. Between 1904 and 1911, the Maasai lost about 60% of their settled lands to British eviction.

History of the African tribe

The Maasai are a tribe in Africa that belongs to the Nilotic group, which are kindred peoples inhabiting the basins of the upper and middle Nile. They live in the area between Lakes Turkana and Victoria in the country of Uganda and Kenya in Tanzania.

The Maasai tribe, which by the beginning of the 19th century conquered vast areas of the Great Valley, subsequently began a rapid decline. The reason for this was the decline of their population due to an epidemic of sleeping sickness, which is called “African trypanosomiasis. The disease is transmitted by the world-famous tsetse flies.

The Maasai tribe, in search of new pastures for their cattle, is forced to constantly migrate, not shy about crossing national borders. Traveling through different territories, the tribe brings African wild colors to different regions.

Masai tribe in Africa, Kenya. Photo, customs, and religion

Because large areas of the modern world are occupied by large cities and national parks, the number of Maasai nomadic camps has greatly diminished, and many tribesmen are trying to establish their settled life.

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Quite often the Maasai become caretakers of protected areas. They form a village in the national park and easily earn money. They show tourists their unique dwellings, demonstrate their skills, weapons and peculiar way of life.

Despite the fact that the Maasai tribe does not recognize any documents that are customary in civilized countries, they are well aware of the meaning and value of banknotes.

Masai, despite their harsh temperament, for an extra fee can arrange for European tourists any entertainment:


According to information for 1983, the Maasai tribe had a population of just over half a million. Today, there are almost 900,000 aboriginal people.

Contrary to the belief that the Maasai speak a language called “Swahili”, the tribe uses “Ol Maa” to communicate with each other. Ol Maa is related to the Kenyan people’s language called Samburu. The uniqueness of the Maasai language lies in the fact that the main aspect in communication is not the word combinations, but the tone of the word pronunciation.

The semantic load of words, depending on the intonation of pronunciation, changes dramatically. There is no written language in Ol Maa. During the study of the spoken Maasai language, philologists had to use the Latin alphabet.

Maasai customs.

The Maasai are a tribe in Africa, which, despite the active communication with the European civilized representatives, still reverently refers to the ancient traditions and customs of their people.


Both the male and female populations of the Maasai adore brightly colored shawls or capes called “shuki”. Approximate cost of the cape at the usual Maasai market from 3 euros. Red predominantly favors men, a color they associate with strength and endurance. The tribe’s female population prefers blue.

The female population adores bright jewelry; the more a woman wears, the more important her status in society. Almost all of the women’s clothes are embroidered with multicolored beads. All the women of the tribe are covered with huge earrings in their ears, bracelets on their arms, legs and neck. Some women, in addition to jewelry, wear around the neck a huge bright disc of thick material.

Masai tribe in Africa, Kenya. Photo, customs, and religion

Large massive ornaments on the head are very popular with both men and women of the tribe. These can be hats, resembling skullcaps, embroidered with beads, with bling sewn on the edge.

The most unique clothing of the Maasai can be called men’s shoes. All the male part of the tribe wears sandals made of old car tires. Various styles of the original shoes are sold at any Maasai market.

Notion of Beauty

The main indicator of a Maasai representative’s beauty is the many brightly colored ornaments on various parts of the body.

Despite their rather bright and expressive appearance, the Maasai in every way try to decorate their appearance in a way that would be incomprehensible to the European inhabitant. The intervention to change and improve the appearance of the Maasai is quite traumatic.

Since early childhood, the tribe has practiced piercing the ears with the sharp edge of a cow’s horn. After that, the hole in the ears is gradually stretched with plates of various diameters. The larger the hole in the ear, the more beautiful the girl is considered. Cymbals in the tribe are constantly given to each other, except for those that were gifts from husbands.

The crown of beauty in the Maasai tribe is considered to be teeth knocked out. According to ancient customs, Maasai girls should have two lower front teeth knocked out, and boys – one tooth on top.

Almost all Maasai, from an early age, begin to decorate their bodies with tattoos and incisions. Original drawings can even decorate the faces of members of the tribe.

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Masai tribe in Africa, Kenya. Photo, customs, and religion

Because of the climatic peculiarities in the territory where the Maasai live, the incisions on the human body do not heal for a long time and rot within a month, so small formations are formed on the body, carved in a certain sequence and form a picture. The more drawings on the girl’s body, the more beautiful she is considered, the more her parents can take for her during the wedding.

The main attribute of a woman’s beauty is considered a shaved head and eyebrows, this ritual is mandatory from childhood. For men, there are no such requirements. They are allowed to grow their hair and even to braid plaits.


A member of the Maasai tribe can be called a vampire. They are very fond of drinking cow’s blood and consider it the main source of vitality. Warriors use an arrow to pierce a hole in the cow’s neck vein and draw the necessary amount of blood, then they cover the hole with clay or dung to stop the animal’s blood loss.

The Maasai practice raw eating, they enjoy eating raw meat and drinking the raw milk of their cattle. In large quantities, in the diet of the natives, there are vegetables and fruits. Also, the tribe’s diet includes a variety of porridges of corn and beans. They make soups from different plants and their stems and roots.


African Maasai families live in a small hut that is only 4 meters in diameter. The hut has 3 rooms, an entrance hall and kitchen area. The huts are set up in a circle and fenced with paling to protect their inhabitants from predatory animals.

There are no windows and small holes in the walls are used for ventilation. There is no lighting in the hut. The Maasai tribe consists mainly of four or five families. Aborigines use animal skins as a bed. Despite the high height of the Masai, the ceiling in the house has a height of only 1.5 m.

Masai tribe in Africa, Kenya. Photo, customs, and religion

The Maasai hut is made of twigs intertwined with each other and molded with dung. The Maasai have portable houses; when the tribe goes to another place to camp, the house is simply dismantled and carried on their shoulders to the new place of residence.

Economic Activities

The main economic activity of the Maasai tribe is raising livestock. All Aborigines believe that cows are sacred animals that were born exclusively for the needs of the tribe. The entire Maasai world revolves around cows, with all their time devoted to feeding, milking, and caring for the cattle.

In addition to cattle ranching, some members of the tribe make products to sell in the local market.

They make:

product material
men’s shoes from car tires
necklaces beads
capes from the material
bracelets cowhide

Duties of community members

The Maasai are a patriarchal tribe. The main concern of the male population is guarding the perimeter of the tribe and the continuation of the tribe. The women of the tribe do everything else. They give birth and raise children, take care of the family’s livestock, cook food, and manage the household.

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Masai tribe in Africa, Kenya. Photo, customs, and religion

If a wife alone cannot cope with all the tasks assigned to her, the man has the right to take several other wives. Polygamy in the tribe is allowed only with the consent and approval of the first wife.


The Maasai ethnic groups are made up of related peoples:

Aboriginal people profess religions:

  • Christianity;
  • Islam;
  • the local religion of the tribe.


The Maasai have a huge number of rituals that are incomprehensible to people from other parts of the world. It is customary for the tribe to circumcise not only men but also women. The procedure is done with a dirty knife and in the absence of anesthesia. Feeling and showing pain in the Maasai tribe is considered the height of weakness.

After the procedure, boys and girls, for a time, are dressed in black robes and removed from hard labor. After the procedure is completed, the boy is considered a young warrior and the girl is considered ready for marriage.

Masai tribe in Africa, Kenya. Photo, customs, and religion

From the moment of adulthood, the young warrior separates from his mother and may never see her again. From that moment on, he is entitled to raise his own cattle for sale and for his own needs.

There is another ancient tradition of killing a lion before warrior initiation ceremonies. Recently, the leadership of the country is struggling with the local tradition, because lions are protected by the state and are considered an endangered species.

According to ancient custom, the male warrior of the tribe must always carry one of the items:

  • stick-staff;
  • a spear;
  • a large cleaver, in a red sheath;
  • a stick resembling a club.

At the time of marriage, the groom is obliged to pay a dowry to the bride’s family. The currency used is the number of cattle. The number of cows directly depends on the color of the girl’s skin. The lighter the skin, the more the ransom will be. On average, the ransom during the wedding is from 5 to 20 cattle.

Before the wedding, the young warrior has the right to have a girlfriend. According to the laws of the tribe, he can leave her and marry another girl only after she marries another member of the tribe.

According to tribal customs, it is not necessary to be faithful to one’s partner at all. If there is no husband’s spear outside a married woman’s hut, any member of the tribe can exercise the right to be a man, with a completely unrelated woman.


Next to the Maasai settlement is equipped with a large hut, which is about 20 meters in diameter. It is a school for young children. The hut has desks and a blackboard hanging in it. Here the young children get a basic knowledge of the culture and customs of their people. At an older age, if parents deem it necessary, children are sent for education to city boarding schools or village schools.

Famous Masai

There were several people among the tribe who were famous and made their tribesmen proud:

First name, last name Achievements
Joseph Oul Lenku. From 2012 to 2014, he was Kenya’s cabinet secretary under the coordination of the national government.
Katu Oul Metito. Served as a member of parliament for the Kajiada South constituency.
David Rudisha. World record holder in the 800-meter run and long-distance runner.
Edward Socoyne. Served as Prime Minister of Tanzania for 2 terms.
Francis Oul Kapara. Served as Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya.
Edward Lovassa. Served as Prime Minister of Tanzania.
William Oul Ntimam He was a politician and leader of the MAA community.
James Oul Kiiapi. Served as assistant professor at the university and was permanent secretary of the Department of Education and Local Government.
Olekina Ledama. Was the founder of the Maasai education program.
Bolaji Badejo. Actor, played one of the main roles in the movie Alien.
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Interesting Facts

Representatives of the Maasai tribe are very different from European people and lead a different way of life.

A few facts about the Maasai:

  • The Maasai dance is a high jump, after which the dancer must stomp his or her foot hard and look around proudly;
  • the Maasai have only two songs, which they smoothly gutturalize in a guttural voice;
  • Under the condition of polygamy, Maasai are obliged to provide each of their wives with a separate hut;
  • The Masai are distinguished by loyalty to their people; a warrior will not hesitate to give his life for the honor of a tribal elder or for his family.

African tribes, living outside modern civilization, selflessly preserve their traditions and customs. Maasai – an amazing people, you can learn the details of their lives by watching the movie titled “White of the Maasai tribe.

Maasai Tribe

The Maasai are a semi-nomadic African indigenous people who live on the savanna in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.

The Maasai are one of the most fascinating and distinctive peoples on earth. A unique combination of primordialism, loyalty to centuries-old traditions and a striking naturalness in the perception of various manifestations of modern civilization – a characteristic feature of this ancient people living in the savannah territories belonging to Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.

The Maasai are a relatively small people. At present their number does not exceed one million. The exact number of the tribe is unknown, since the Masai do not recognize any documents, and therefore do not have passports. At the same time, they move freely across the savannah, moving from place to place, from one country to another, without regard for state borders and customs regulations.

Most of today’s Maasai live in the vicinity of Mount Kilimanjaro. This mysterious semi-nomadic people, who have almost completely preserved the traditional way of life, differs significantly from other African tribes, both in appearance and way of life.

The Masai are very beautiful in their own way: tall, narrow-skinned, broad-shouldered men with a proud posture; slender, stately women with magnificent smooth skin and shaved bald heads. Many of the Maasai are not too black in color, and occasionally there are even pale eyes. Their faces do not possess the features typical of the Negro race.

At the same time, some elements of “Maasai beauty” will seem quite strange to a European: the Maasai find the absence of one of the front teeth and earlobes pulled back to the shoulders with massive jewelry attractive.

Holes in the ears are burned with sharpened smoldering sticks in early childhood and then stretched with pieces of bamboo. The larger the hole in the earlobe, the more respect and honor from the tribesmen.

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The Maasai are convinced polygamists. A man builds a separate hut for each wife. The man is the master of all property and livestock, but all household work, even the heaviest work, is done by women and children in the Maasai settlement. It is believed that men are, first of all, warriors, and therefore it is not appropriate for them to be engaged in household chores. In peacetime, men spend all their days talking or going out to hunt. The only participation in domestic work that men can afford is herding cattle, and this occupation is passed on the shoulders of children as soon as they reach the age of 3-4 years old.

The traditional clothing of the Maasai is a piece of red cloth with purple, blue, or yellow patterns wrapped around the naked body. Many Maasai walk barefoot, some in light sandals, always white. Both men and women wear a variety of shiny jewelry: bracelets, beads, rings, necklaces and earrings. The more such “jewelry”, the higher the status in the tribe.

A common meal of the Masai is a stew of cow’s blood and milk, sometimes with the addition of flour. Meat is eaten very rarely, protecting cows as the main value. Cattle in general play quite an important role in tribal life. Cows are not only a source of food for the Masai, huts are built from dried cow dung, blood of these animals is used in sacred rituals.

By the way, the Masai believe that all cattle existing on the earth are the gift of God Ngai to their tribe. Therefore, stealing cattle from neighboring tribes is not considered something reprehensible and is perceived as a fair return of their “legitimate” property.

The Maasai very rarely receive any education. All their education is limited to passing down military, hunting and household skills and knowledge from generation to generation.

Their character is quite tough, they are a proud and independent people. At the same time Masai are not aggressive and gladly accept tourists in their settlements. The main entertainment, which is shown to guests, is the traditional dance. This is an amazing spectacle, which has no analogues among other nations. Only men dance, the entire dance consists of two movements – high jumping and stomping. To the rhythmic clatter of tantams and singing women men are lined up in a line, holding the sticks in their hands. This is followed by a jump to an impressive height, followed by a stomping landing. This cycle of movements is repeated many times, and the dancers move surprisingly synchronously. Despite the simplicity, even some primitiveness of the “choreography”, the Masai dance looks very effective.

The ancestral home of the Masai is considered the Nile Valley in Sudan. There is a legend that the Maasai are the descendants of a small band of Roman soldiers lost in the upper Nile hundreds of years ago. If one looks closely at the traditional Maasai clothes, which are very reminiscent of Roman togas, weapons similar to Roman spears-pilums and short swords, then this version of the origin of this amazing people does not seem so ridiculous as at first sight.

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