Writing A Paper On A Country You Never Lived In: Kenya

The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group, living in the Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania in East Africa. The Maasai are a pastoral community, although this has now changed because of enlarged population and advanced strategies.   They are described as, the tall, slim, dark, brave, pompous, handsome, hair smeared with ochre, they carry spears; stand on one foot while tending cows and they are freedom loving people who have remained despicable of the modern lifestyle.  During colonial times, the Maasai warriors were recognized for their vigor and resistance to slavery. Consequently, the Maasai have assimilated themselves with modern societies and are adapting western cultures.


The Maasai are said to have originated in the Upper Nile Valley. Their myths articulate climbing up from a wide and deep crater surrounded on all sides by a steep, long cliff. By the 1600s they had begun travelling with their herds into the huge arid, grass land region of East Africa spanning the Kenya-Tanzania border. These days, their homeland is bounded by Lake Victoria to the west and Mount Kilimanjaro to the east (Campbell, Gichohi, Mwangi,  & Chege,2000). Maasai land extends some 310 miles from north to south and about 186 miles at its widest east-west point.

 Family life

The Maasai men and women have different roles. Men took care of the cattle’s and were involved in cattle  raiding, while, women took care of the home, this involved, building manyattas, fetching firewood ,caring for the children, milking and cooking. Both boys and girls grew together and labor was divided equally. Girls helped their mothers at home, while boys looked after the cattle’s (Umberson, 1987).  The elders helped in solving disputes and bringing people together. Given that the Maasai community is patriarchal, women become their husband’s peers. Polygamy is common in the Maasai culture and even men from the same age-sets share their wives.

Maasai customs, values taboos and superstitions

Maasai customs, beliefs and values were taught through legends and folktales. A legend that has always been told is of the magician known as Laibon who killed a giant that raided Maasai cattle’s.  There are also myths and superstitions in the Maasai community, for instance, the Maasai believe that they descended from two equal and corresponding tribes that comprise of females and males.  Moroyok was the women tribe, it raised antelopes and the Maasais believe that, the antelopes are the first species of the cattle’s In regard to the same myth, the Morwak; the men’s tribe, raised cattle, sheep, and goats. The men seldom met women in the forest. The children from these tribes lived with the women. Eventually the women lost their flocks, causing them to start living with the men. Consequently the female tribes lost its freedom, hence submitting to men.  


The Maasai community   speaks the Maa language, this language is also spoken by the Samburu and the Chamus living in central Kenya. The origins of Maa have been traced to the East of present-day Juba in southern Sudan. More than twenty variants of Maa exist. The Maasai refer to their language as Old.


The traditional Maasai diet consists of six type’s foods; blood, milk, meat, fat, tree bark and honey (Campbell, Gichohi, Mwangi, & Chege, 2000). The Maasai drink, both fresh and curdled milk, also animal blood is drunk during special occasions; during initiation and excision, after giving birth, or while recuperating from an accident. It is spouted while warm from the throat of a cow. It is also mixed with fresh or sour milk, also it is drunk with curative bark soups;  The Maasai obtain salt, which is a necessary ingredient in the human diet from animal’s blood The Maasai normally eat, two meals a day, in the morning and at night. They do not mix milk and meat usually they drink milk for ten days, and eat meat also for several days. The main source of nourishment for the Maasai warriors is a mixture of blood, meat, and fat.


The Maasai dressing differ with age, place and sex. Initially, shepherds wore cloaks fashioned from calf hides, while, women wore shawls of sheepskin (Bölske Msami, Gunnarsson, Kapaga, & Loomu, 1995).  The Maasai attires were decorated with glass beads, The Maasai prefers red, although black, blue and striped, cloth is also worn. This multicolored Maasai designs promotes the Kenyan heritage. The Maasai stand out in designing ornaments; they also decorate their bodies with tattoos, shave their hair and style it with ochre and sheep’s fat; they also apply on their bodies.  Diverse colors are used to fashion body art. Women and girls dress in intricate bib-like bead necklaces, as well as headbands and earrings, which are colorful and elaborate. When ivory was copious, warriors wore ivory bands on their upper arms similar to ancient Egyptians.

  Work Ethics

Labor among Maasai was equally divided. The man’s role was to look after the cattle, he must care for  them and(Mathara,   Schillinger, Guigas,  Franz,  Kutima, Mbugua,  & Holzapfel  2008).   Woman role was to raise children, keep the home, build the manyattas, cook, and milk, take care of calves and clean, sanitize, and decorate calabashes. It was the role of a woman to serve milk to the men and guests. Children assist their parents with their tasks. A boy started herding at the age of four by looking after lambs and young calves. Girls helped their mothers with household chores such as fetching water, gathering firewood, and repairing roofs.

Rites of Passage

Life for the Maasai was a sequence of invasions and trials involving the fortitude of pain. For men, there is a development from childhood, to warrior hood, then to elder hood. Boys challenged their will power on their arms and legs with hot coals, as they grow older, their stomachs and arms are tattooed. Ear piercing is done to both boys and girls; the cartilage of the upper ear is pierced with hot iron. This is accompanied with a hole on the ear lobe which is enlarged with inserting rolls of leaves (Mlozi, Kakengi, Minga, Mtambo, & Olsen, 2003).  Circumcision, for boys, and excision, for girls, this is the most significant occasion in a young Maasai’s life  The father ensures that his children undertake this rite, relatives and friends are invited to witness the ceremonies, they are always held in special villages .Great physical pain is experienced during circumcision, and the youth courage is tested.  Circumcision itself involves great physical pain and tests a youth’s courage. Girls endure a longer and more painful ritual; this is considered as preparation for child bearing


The Maasai traditionally situate themselves at the core of their universe as God’s chosen people. Akin to other African religions, the Maasai believe that Enkai created the world, shaping three groups of people. The first were the Torrobo Okiek pygmies, hunting and gathering people of little physique to whom Enkai gave honey and wild animals as a food source. The second group consists of the Kikuyu, farmers to whom God gave seed and grain (Hammes  & Vogel, 1995)The third were the Maasai, to whom God gave cattle, which came to earth descending down with a long rope connecting heaven and Earth. For many Maasai, the core of their world will always remain to be their cattle’s, which supply shelter, food and clothing.


There is a broad breach amid Western education and Maasai traditional education, by which children and young adults were taught to conquer fear, endure pain, and presume adult tasks. For example, regardless of the threats of predators, elephants, and snakes, boys would herd cattle alone.  Over the years, school involvement slowly improved among the Maasai, but there were less motivation toward formal education. Consequently, there were fewer reasons to send a child to school (Campbell,  Gichohi, Mwangi,  & Chege,2000).   Ever since independence, as the traditional living of the Maasai has changed, school involvement rates have climbed spectacularly.

Major Holidays

The traditional Maasai calendar has no selected holidays. It is separated into twelve months that has three main seasons the long rains, the drizzling season and the short rains. Maasai ceremonial feasts offer occasions for community celebrations (Mlozi,  Kakengi,  Minga,  Mtambo,  & Olsen, 2003).  This may be considered similar to holidays. The Maasai are incorporated into the modern Kenyan life; they also partake in the State holidays. In Kenya, these include Labor Day, Madaraka Day and Mashujaa.

Cultural Heritage

The Maasai have a affluent compilation of oral literature that includes myths, fork tales, riddles, proverbs and legends These are passed throughout the generation. The Maasai also compile many songs (Oketch-Rabah, Lemmich, Dossaji, Theander, Olsen, Cornett,  & Christensen,  1997).  Women are composing the songs and give melody and tunes to the song. Valiant deeds by warriors inspired praise

Relation ships

Each child fit in to an age set from birth (Hammes & Vogel, 1995). Children and grownups must obey the rules governing each age sets, this ensures that vices of selfishness, pride, and jealousy are managed. For instance, Maasai warriors must share a lover with at least one of their age groups; Maasai of the same gender is considered the same within their age group. Taboos are used to solve tensions and drifts between different age-sets and age groups.

Living Conditions

Compared with the western standards, the living conditions of Maasai appear primitive.  However, the Maasai community is   by and large proud of its simple lifestyle and do not desire to substitute it with a more contemporary lifestyle (Mathara,   Schillinger, Guigas, Franz, Kutima, Mbugua,  & Holzapfel  2008).  Nonetheless, the old ways are shifting. Previously, cowhides were used to make walls and roofs of impermanent homes during migrations;  lasting and semi-permanent homes similar to igloos were built of sticks and branches plastered with mud, and with cow dung on the roofs.  Today, more modern materials are steadily transforming these simple homes.  Many passable dirt roads make Maasai land reachable, the Maasai travel by bus and bush taxi when they require covering distances.

Social Problems

The most challenge the Maasai community is facing is the adaptation of rapid economic and social changes (Bölske Msami, Gunnarsson, Kapaga, & Loomu, 1995). The increased encroachments on Maasai land threaten its traditions and customs. The Maasai fear losing their children to formal schooling. On the flip side, for the Maasai community to survive, it needs to remain competitive with other communities.  Face concerns adaptation to rapid economic and social change. Increasing encroachment on Maasai lands threatens their traditional way of life. In the next decade, Maasai will need to address integration into the mainstream modern economies and political systems of Kenyan and Tanzanian society. The Maasai may fear losing their children to Western schooling, but a modern education has increasingly become a necessity for the Maasai in order to remain competitive with their neighbors and survive.

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