The Maasai are a Nilotic group, migrating to eastern Africa by way of southern Sudan in the lower Nile valley around the 15th century. They settled in the Great Rift Valley stretching from what is today northern Kenya to central Tanzania between the 17th and late 18th century. They raided cattle using spears and shields, but were most feared for throwing clubs which could be accurately thrown from up to 70 paces.
The Maasai (Masai) could be the most known Kenyan tribe outside Kenya especially for tourists The Maasai (Masai) are more commonly associated with Kenya, but they've been a presence around the Ngorongoro Crater of Tanzania for over a 150 years and are the area's main residents. They are predominantly a warrior tribe whose lives revolve around herding cattle. They believe the rain God Ngai entrusted the cattle to the Maasai (Masai) people when the earth and sky split, and wealth is measured in number of cattle. Since cattle was given to the Maasai (Masai), they believe its okay to steal from other tribes
A stereotypical image most people have of the Maasai (Masai) warrior is that of a tall and slender man clutching a spear in one hand with his red cloth wrapped around his waist or over his shoulders. The Maasai (Masai) men are also seen in a trance like state jumping in a uniform motion in one spot, this brings them to a trace like state and can go one for hours.
The Maasai (Masai) drink cows blood that they believe makes the body stronger and warmer and is good for children and the elderly to build up their strength. It is often drunk mixed with the milk of the cow. An arrow is shot at close range to puncture the jugular vein of the cow. The blood is drawn into a skin gourd and later mixed with milk to be drunk by the gathering. The animal is not left to bleed but is carefully tended to, till it fully heals. Their rites and traditional ceremonies are taken very seriously, and it is not common to allow outsiders to attend. Elders play a very important role in the community and society at large.
People of the Maasai (Masai) tribe live in small settlements of 8-15 huts per village; the kraal (a traditional house or hut) is surrounded by a thorn bush fence, which acts like barbed wire, protecting the tribe and animals against enemies. The huts are built using branches, twigs and grass with a cement of cow dung and urine, and inside animal skins and cushions of dry grasses are used for comfort. The mixture is as strong as cement after it dried in the sun and does not smell. They cannot stand up straight inside the hut and the only openings are that of the doorway and a small opening in the roof or wall which allows smoke from a continually blazing fire inside to escape. Dried cow dung is used to fuel the fire. The family sleeps on beds of woven branches cushioned with dry grasses and animal skins.
Maasai (Masai) women and girls have numerous chores besides building the dung hut, which take about 7 months. It is their responsibility to milk the cows and fetch water, whatever the distance may be. The Maasai (Masai) women are also expected to pick calabashes or gourds from vines and clean the insides of the gourds as well as decorate them with leather and beads. A woman is by birth a member's of her father's family line and cannot own land or cattle. They are minors in society, always represented by their father, and later their husband. If a woman has no sons in her marriage she will be scorned and forced to beg in her old age, as she will have no possessions or money and no one to care for her.
For the boys, fifteen is the coming of age ritual, when they become circumcised and become Morani (young warriors), formally they would hunt a lion with a spear during the rites of passage ceremony but lion hunting is now illegal.
Children of the tribe have importance in rituals like rainmaking during a drought when the children sing for the rain. Playing "sheep's and goats" is a common game for children, an equivalent of "cowboys and Indians". Teenage boys make trouble playing with the cattle and playing "knock down ginger" with a cow replacing the door! They are known for their tradition of hair plaits, heavy iron necklaces, and fierce warriormanship, often depicted carrying a spear. The Maasai (Masai)'s unique hair is a clear living symbol of their tradition and culture. By wearing the plaits, it proves the individual is a true Morani sticking to their own traditions.
Nowadays, Maasai (Masai) boost their income by selling beads, masks, and carvings to tourists. In a curious way, tourism helps the Maasai (Masai) to retain and develop the Maasai (Masai) culture by transforming their believes into a business. The ceremonies you will see being performed as a visitor are traditional but they are staged for the tourist audience. It doesn't destroy the Maasai (Masai) culture because the tourists don't change the fundamentals of Maasai (Masai) living, only observe, whilst helping to rejuvenate centuries old customs.