There are an estimated one million Maasai living in Kenya and Tanzania. They are perhaps one of the best known people of Africa due to the facts that they have a very interesting culture and that they live near many of Africa's most popular tourist attractions like the Serengeti, Massai Mara, Ngorongoro, Amboseli, and Tarangire game reserves.
Below is a list of interesting facts about these fascinating people of Africa.
- Cattle play an important role in Maasai life. It is their primary source of food.
- A man's wealth is measured in terms of cattle he owns and children he has.
- The Maasai believe God has given them all the cattle in the world. This makes cattle rustling a matter of taking back what belongs to them.
- The Maasai are semi-nomadic which is a result of their raising cattle and the need to find new grazing land.
- The Maasai have a patriarchal society. The important matters of each group is decided by elder men.
- Maasai families live in an enclosure called a Enkang which typically contains ten to twenty small huts. The enclosure is protected by a fence or bushes with sharp thorns.
- Maasai huts are very small, with usually only one or two rooms and not high enough for these tall people to stand.
- The Maasai believe in one god named Enkai or Engai. He has a duel nature; one called Engai Narok (Black God) who is benevolent, and the other Engai Nanyokie (Red God) who is vengeful.
- Traditionally these people of Africa do not bury their dead. Burials are believed to harm the soil and is reserved only for some chiefs. Most dead bodies are simply left outside for scavengers.
- The Maasai tribe speaks Maa and are also schooled in English and Swahili (the official languages of Tanzania and Kenya).
- The piercing and stretching of earlobes is a common practice of the Maasai .
- In the mid 1800's the Maasai territory reached its greatest size. It covered almost all of the great rift valley and several other adjacent lands.
- Many Maasai have become Christian, and a fewer amount have become Muslim.
- There is an extensive oral law that covers many aspects of Maasai behavior.
- It is widely believed the 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.