CULTURE AND TRIBES
MEET THE FAMOUS MAASAI TRIBE
The Masai in Tanzania
The Maasai (or Masai) are semi-nomadic people located primarily in Kenya and northern Tanzania. They are considered to be part of the Nilotic family of African tribal groups, just as the Scilluk from Sudan and the Acholi from Uganda.
In Tanzania, the Masai are especially prominent in and around Ngorongoro and the Serengeti, while Kenya’s Masai Mara takes its name from these proud people.
The Masai are predominantly cattle breeders, eating meat and milk that they produce themselves. Cattle products are a central part of the Masai diet, with other animals such as sheep being more for special occasions than day to day use.
In fact, traditional Masai culture revolves closely around the tribe’s cattle herds. The measure of a man’s worth is measured in the number of cattle he owns and the number of children he fathers, with the latter depending heavily upon the former.
Traditionally, the Masai people are recognizable by their distinct attire. They wear sandals and wrap their bodies in robes of red, blue, or black. Women spend much of their spare time doing bead work, and they often adorn their bodies with their creations as well as bracelets & earrings of wood or bone.
The Masai society is a patriarchal one in which groups of male elders typically decide on important issues concerning the community.
About the Hadzabe
With an estimated population of less than 2,000 individuals, the Hadzabe are one of the last tribes to stay true to their tribal history. Existing far from the crowds and globalization that inevitably follow tourism, they exist much as they always have.
Men typically hunt and bring home honey to feed their families, while women and children gather fruits, berries, and roots with which to supplement their diet.
The men are particularly adept hunters, and their daring and inventive hunting style is a sight to behold. Using parts harvested from other animals, they cunningly lure and put down game. As this is their only source of food, they are the only tribe permitted to hunt in the Serengeti.
The Hadzabe people live in caves near Lake Eyasi, and their isolation and shrinking numbers have allowed them to avoid the HIV epidemic and other diseases that have spread due to intertribal marriages.
An interesting facet of Hadzabe culture is their language. Believed to have some kind of relation to the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, the Hadzabe language is a distinctive tongue of clicks that is similar to that of the famous Bushmen. Despite this and their similar physical appearances, DNA testing has shown no relation between the two groups.