Easily recognised by their bright red robes (known as shuka), elaborately beaded jewellery, and slender build, the Masai tribe of Kenya and northern Tanzania are a symbol of African culture and tradition. Meet the Masai in this week’s blog!
Along with Africa‘s other attractions – such as amazingly diverse and untouched landscapes, wildlife and brilliant year-round weather, the Masai offer insight into a way of life that has endured in the area for many hundreds of years. Thought to have originated in northern Africa and migrated south along the Nile valley, the Masai (or Maasai) arrived in the area where they presently reside sometime in the 15th century, taking over almost all the land in the African Rift Valley and a large portion of the surrounding grassland where they settled to graze their cattle. Although only representing a tiny percentage of the Kenyan population, the Masai are an enduring symbol of traditional Kenyan and Tanzanian culture.
The Masai are considered one of the world’s last great warrior cultures, and young men in the Masai tribe today still learn about the importance of protecting their families and animals from predators. Cattle are hugely important to the Masai; they believe strongly that cattle were created especially for them, and also that they are the sole custodians of all cattle on earth. This attachment to their herds dictates their semi-nomadic lifestyle, following rainfall patterns in search of food and water.
The Masai Mara National Park is named for the Masai people, who are the traditional inhabitants of the region. But they aren’t the only natural inhabitants – they share the region with a host of wild animals, including cheetah, zebra, impala, hartebeest, warthog,
ostrich, giraffe, and of course The Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino). Of course, the region is also famous for The Great Migration, an ongoing movement of millions of wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle as they follow the rains.