With Tribal Travel Safari, you get to visit a Maasai tribe which is a popular stop on nearly every safari you’ll take through Tanzania. You’ve all seen those amazing photos of Maasai warriors jumping high in the air with the arid African savanna as their backdrop.
Tribal Travel Safari experienced guides will ensure that you get stunning photographic opportunities and it is certainly one of the ways you’ll be able to capture the moment on your own.


The name is Maasai and not Masai. They are people who speak Maa language. One of the few

African tribe which retains most their traditions, lifestyle and customs (lore).


Maasai language is known as Maa.


Maasai people originated from South Sudan as Nilotic group.


  • Maasai migrated from Southern Sudan towards the south and inhabited the Southern

Kenya and Northern Tanzania. Mainly Maasai settled around the national parks and game reserves.

  • It is widely believed that Massai people originated in the Nile valley. It is believed these people of Africa left the Nile Valley in the 15th or 16th century reaching their current home in the Great Rift Valley around the 17th or 18th century.


  • Maasai settled along and around the great lakes of Africa, areas favorable for grazing their livestock. They displaced the indigenous people they found there.
  • Their number increased notably, between 1883 and 1902, 60% of Maasai population perished due to diseases such as smallpox, drought, starvation, and death of their animals (rinderpest).
  • In Tanzania Maasai are mainly found in Arusha region, Manyara, Kilimanjaro, Tanga and some parts of Morogoro


The Maasai people of East Africa live in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania along the

Great Rift Valley on semi-arid and arid lands. The Maasai occupy a total land area of about

160,000 square kilometers with a population of approximately one half million people


Social Organization

  • The central unit of Maasai is age-set and Maasai is one of the strong tribe which practices age-set social organization
  • Young boys are sent out with the calves and lambs
  • The childhood of boys is mostly play time with some ritual beatings to test courage and endurance
  • Girls are responsible with home activities (chores) such as cooking and milking.
  • The central human figure is laibon, the elder leader responsible for religious system of life and healing of people. Their role is influenced much by their personality rather than their positions. They are also responsible to pray for success and fortunes such as victory in wars, adequate rainfall, etc.
  • The elder men (obtained after Eunoto initiation ceremony of passage from warriors) joined by the retired elders are responsible with decision making.
  • Eunoto ceremony is done after every 10 to fifteen years whereby a new generation is established
  • A full body of oral laws covers many aspects of behavior.
  • Normally a punishment is done by payment of livestock which is the measure of wealth and prestige.
  • Maasai society is strongly patriarchal in nature.
  • Babies are recognized after 3 months due to high mortality rate of infants as a result of poor health care and service in the past and the settlements which are far away from health services. In the past the Maasai living far interior in the remote areas, they used to abandon the dead body and left it for scavengers with funeral ceremony. A corpse

(body/carcass) rejected by scavengers was seen as having something with it and hence liable to cause social disgrace or misfortune. It was common for bodies to be covered with fat and blood from a slaughtered ox. Burial ceremony was reserved for great chiefs


  • Maasai practice monotheistic worship of a single deity (god) called Enkai or Engai who has two nature, Engai Narok (black god) regarded as benevolent god and Engai Nanyokie (red god), the god of revenge (revengeful god).
  • The mountain of god (Ol Doinyo Lengai) located in the northern part of Tanzania in Arusha region, visible from Lake Natron.
  • Traditional Maasai lifestyle was Centre around their cattle/livestock as source of food and prestige. The measure of man’s wealth was in terms of number of livestock and children.
  • There was a belief that god has given Maasai all the cattle on earth ad it was their right to fight (rustling) and capture from other tribes and bring them back.

Initiation/ritual ceremony

The rite of passage from boyhood to moran (warrior)

  • It involves most boys between 12 and 25 years old who have reached puberty
  • It is a circumcision ceremony performed without anesthetic to endure to become junior moran (warrior)
  • This ritual is performed by elders who use a sharpened knife (emorata = circumcision)
  • The boy must endure the operation/pain in silence. Expressions of pain will bring dishonor.
  • Any exclamations can cause a mistake in the delicate and tedious process which can result in long life scaring, dysfunction and pain
  • The healing process will take 3 to 4 months during which urination is painful and nearly impossible at times
  • Boys must remain in black clothes for a period of 4 to 8 months
  • During this period the newly circumcised boys (young men/junior morans) will live in a “manyatta” (a kind of village) built by their mothers
  • The manyatta has no enclosure for protection in order to emphasize the warrior role of protecting the community
  • No inner kraal (boma/enclosure) is built because warriors (morans) do not own livestock or undertake livestock duties
  • Warriors are not allowed to have sexual relations with circumcised women/adult women but they may have girlfriends who are uncircumcised. At Eunoto the morans who abide by this rule, are recognized in a special way
  • The morans spend most of their time on walk outs around the Maasai lands and beyond the confines boundaries
  • There was a myth that a young man is supposed to kill a lion before he is circumcised. Lions hunting or killing is also done when lions invade the Maasai livestock
  • Killing a lion gives one a great value, celebrity and status in the community

The rite of passage from moran to elder (Eunoto)

  • Eunoto is a large gathering ceremony of passage from warriors to senior elders
  • When a new generation of warriors is initiated, the existing morans (warriors) will graduate to become junior elders who are responsible for political decisions until they become senior elders (Eunoto)
  • The long hair of warriors (morans) is shaved by their mothers a day before to mark the start of new life.
  • Elders must wear short hair

Female circumcision/Emorata

  • Young women also undergo excision of female genital mutilation
  • It is a passage ceremony from young girls into adulthood and early pre-arranged marriages
  • Emorata is regarded as necessary because Maasai men may reject uncircumcised woman and lead to reduced bride price and dishonor (immature not to be involved and listened in decision making)
  • Young women and men who are circumcised will wear dark clothes, paint their faces with markings and cover their faces on completion of the ceremony
  • Married women who become pregnant are excused from all heavy works such as milking, and gathering firewood
  • Sexual relations are also banned and there are specific rules applied to pregnant women
  • Maasai are traditionally polygynous which is thought to be influenced by the high infant and mortality rates. Polyandry was also practiced among the Maasai tribe.
  • A woman married not just her husband but the entire age group.
  • Men were expected to give up their bed to a visiting age-mate guest
  • Today this practice is abandoned. The woman would decide strictly on her own if she will join the visiting male. However, any child which may result is the husband’s child and his descendant in the patrilineal order of Maasai society

Music and dance

  • The Maasai traditional dance is mainly associated with jumping which consists of rhythms from a chorus by a vocalist singing harmonies while a song leader signs the melody
  • Also Maasai sing a vocal music by using a horn from a greater Kudu to summon morans for the Eunoto ceremony.
  • Women/girls will come in front of men and form a line to sing and may come close but without touch
  • The Eunoto ceremony (coming of age) can take 10 or more days of singing and dancing with rituals
  • Warriors are known for competitive jumping dance. Members of the dancing group may raise the pitch of their voices based on the height of the jump
  • A circle is formed by the warriors and 1 or 2 at a time, will enter the center to jump while maintaining a narrow straight posture and trying not to let the heels touch the ground
  • The girlfriends of the moran (intoyie) parade themselves in their most spectacular costumes as part of the eunoto
  • The mothers of the moran sing and dance in tribute to the courage and daring of their sons


  • Traditionally, Maasai food or diet was consisted of raw meat, raw milk and raw blood from cattle plus some vegetables and fruits
  • A growing child and pregnant woman and lactating would receive a daily ration of raw blood
  • Also butter from milk and fermented milk
  • Another important diet was soup plant especially (Acacia nilotica). Root/stem bark boiled in water and drunk alone or added to soup. This drug is believed to make them energetic, aggressive and fearless
  • Maasai eat soup laced with biter bark and roots containing cholesterol -lowering
  • With time and external influence, the Maasai diet has widened to include other types of food such as maize meal (liquid and solid porridge), rice potatoes and even fish which was considered as snake in the past
  • Nowadays Maasai have adapted a variety of modern food


  • Being nomadic and semi-nomadic people, Maasai rely on local and readily available materials to construct their houses by using sticks and poles, mud mixed with grass, cattle dung, and ash
  • Usually Maasai houses were built and repaired by women rather than men.
  • At first their houses were very impermanent in nature
  • Their houses are either rectangular shaped with extensions or circular
  • The structural framework is formed of timber poles fixed directly into the ground and interwoven with a lattice of smaller branches wattle and then plastered with a mix of mud, sticks, grass, cow dung and ash.
  • The cow dung makes the roof waterproof
  • The house is normally small measuring about 3m x 5m and 1.5m high just enough for the family cooks, eats, sleeps, socializes, storing food and other house hold possessions.
  • Small livestock are also kept within the enkaji/engaji (house)
  • Villages are enclosed in a circular fence (an enkang) built by men, usually of thorned acacia
  • At night all cows, goats and sheep are placed in an enclosure in the center, safe from wild animals


  • One of the aspects which make Maasai loyal to their traditions and customs is clothing.
  • Maasai are well known in wearing the popular colorful piece of cloth (shuka/khanga) which is mainly of red, blue, white and black colors with stripes or checkered lines.
  • Also they wear sandals made from tires or cow hides which last for a long time.
  • Apart from clothing, they carry a wooden club (orinka) or sticks for security.
  • Clothing changes with age and location.
  • Young men wear black clothes for several months after circumcision
  • Multicolored designs of red, blue and black stripes or checked are favored
  • White color symbolizes peace, blue water and red warrior/blood/bravery
  • Bead working is done by women for a long time by using local available materials which have come to be replaced by modern products

Body modification

  • Maasai pierce and stretch their earlobes
  • Women wear various forms of beaded ornaments in the ears
  • Also they practice the removal of deciduous canine tooth in early age for the belief to cause a certain swelling disease (nylon tooth)


  • Head shaving is common at many rites of passage indicating the fresh start that will be made
  • Warriors are the only members who wear or keep long hair weaved in thing braided strands. Warriors spend a great deal of time styling their hair
  • At age of 3 months a child is named and the head is shaved clean
  • 2 days before boys are circumcised, their heads are shaved by their mothers
  • The young warriors are
  • When warriors go through eunoto to become elders, their long plaited hair is shaved off
  • As men have their heads shaved at the passage from one stage of life to another, a bride to be will have her head shaved, and 2 rams will be slaughtered in honor of the occasion

Influence from outside

  • Maasai culture has continued to change with time adapting to new environment and new ways of life. Maasai have also started to imitate some lifestyle from the outside influence (modern world).
  • The influence of the modern world has forced Maasai to change their lifestyle and adapt to new ways of life. Also the influence of ecologists has affected Maasai to be put in one area such as the case of Ngorongoro conservation area.
  • The spread of HIV/AIDS has highly reduced the population of Maasai and displaced some Maasai groups like WaArusha started to cultivate crops like maize and beans.
  • Maasai started to sell and exchange livestock for money to food and other needs.
  • Establishment of national park and game reserves boundaries and land privatization also put a limit to the grazing area as the case of Serengeti and some areas of Loliondo.
  • The emergence of some forms of employment as security guards, business, tour guiding, selling of medicine, minerals, Maasai jewelries/embroideries and beads, milk products, etc.
  • Many Maasai have moved from nomadic to semi nomadic life style and others to business and government political positions.
  • Despite such influence, still Maasai are seen in towns dressed in their traditional clothing; loyal to their traditions and customs