The semi-nomadic Maasai Tribe travel the countryside with their cattle between southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. It is estimated that there are nearly 1.5 million people who identify as Maasai. During our time in Africa we were fortunate to visit a Maasai compound and speak with the family.
Facts about the Maasai:
- A typical Maasai compound is home for more than 120 family members.
- A compound contains several circular thatch huts made of branches, grass and cow dung surrounded by tall grasses.
- One man may have up to 25 wives.
- Each wife has a hut within the compound where she and her children sleep and cook.
- The husband rotates sleeping in each hunt.
- The primary diet of the Maasai is cow and cow by-products. The standard meal is cooked beef and a mixture of blood and milk.
- It's common practice to puncture the neck of a cow to draw blood without killing the animal.
- The Maasai Tribe is permitted to live in Kenya's and Tanzania's national parks alongside the wildlife because they do not endanger the animals.
- The tribe wears various colors to project the illusion that there are more people in the group than in reality as a way to intimidate and confuse any potential predators.
- The Maasai believe that colors have meaning: blue - good luck, red - protection, black - ceremonial decoration.
- Beginning at age 5, Maasai boys have responsibility for the family's cattle and shepherding.
- During adolescence, it is traditional practice for boys to wear black fabric, paint their faces white and not bathe for four to eight months to prepare for circumcision. After the procedure, the boy officially becomes a warrior.
- Maasai men engage in ritualistic group jumping to maintain and display their physical strength.
- Girls marry at age 22 and boys at age 25. Both must select a spouse outside of their compound and leave upon marriage.
- Men choose their wives; women have no input.
- Maasai women tend to prefer their husbands to have many wives so that there are more workers on the compound.
- In addition to building the huts, Maasai women are responsible for gathering all of the wood and water needed for cooking and warmth.
- Nowadays, some Maasai have cell phones but it is challenging because the compounds are not outfitted with electricity.