Masai Customs and Traditions



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Masai Customs and Traditions

When people speak of Kenya, they also talk about one tribe in particular, the Masai (or Maasai if you are in Tanzania). The Masai tribe lives on the border of Kenya and Tanzania. If you are a tourist, there are tours that take you to Masai Mara National Reserve and Amboseli National Park (or Serengeti National Park if you are in Tanzania) to visit the Masai tribe.

What makes this tribe famous is the fact that they had retained many of their traditional ways even though Kenya is becoming more modern and industrialized. Yes, some members of the Masai tribe have moved out of their homeland and into urban areas, but a good portion have remained and kept their customs.

Here are some interesting facts and traditions of the Masai tribe:



  • The Masai tribe is traditionally a semi-nomadic tribe. They live off of their cattle almost exclusively.

  • The Masai have a reputation of being a fierce warring tribe.

  • Masai men can have more than one wife.

  • Masai women build their houses out of sticks and grass, and then they cover it with a mixture of cow dung and mud.

  • A Masai village is called an enkang.

  • Then men put a thick wall of dried thorn-tree branches around the circle of houses to prevent wild animals from coming into the village.

  • The women do a lot of beading in their spare time. They bead necklaces, headdresses, gourds, and dresses.

  • The young Masai children sometimes play a game where they place a rock on a sleeping rhinoceros. The last one to place the rock on it before it wakes up is the winner. This, of course, is a dangerous game.

  • When a Masai boy leaves boyhood, he enters the morani or “warrior class.” He is expected to be brave enough to spear a lion. If a warrior holds the tail of a lion and it dies, he is awarded with that lion’s mane and gains great honor in his tribe. The ceremony for boys entering the morani is held every seven years.

  • Women and children keep their heads shaved while the morani wear their long hair in braids dyed with red clay.

  • The Masai eat custard made from the blood of their cattle. The blood is mixed with milk and curdled to make the custard.

  • The Masai pierce and stretch their earlobes and wear large metal hoops at the tops of their ears. This is true for both male and female members of the tribe.

  • It is a sign of beauty for women to have long, stretched earlobes. Decorative cuts are also made on women’s faces for beauty.

  • Their sun god is named Ruwu and lives on Mount Kilimanjaro.

  • When a moran has proven himself, he may become an elder. Women can also become elders once they have given birth to four healthy children.

  • The language of the Masai is called ‘Maa.’


Directions: After reading about the Masai, answer the following questions using complete sentences.

  1. How many wives can a Masai man have? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



  1. Who is responsible for building the home of the Masai? What is it made of? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



  1. Why do the men like to make a thick wall of thorn bushes around their home? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



  1. How do both the men and women of the Masai tribe wear their hair? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



  1. Name two things that the Masai eat.

1)__________________________________ 2)__________________________

  1. What is a sign of beauty for women? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



  1. What does a boy become when he leaves manhood? How does this happen? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



  1. What do the women do in their spare time (besides build their home)? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



  1. What is the dangerous game that the Masai children like to play? Explain. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



  1. How can the men and women of the Masai tribe become elders? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Directions: Draw, color, and label a picture of one of the following: a Masai home, children playing the rhino game, a boy becoming a moran, something the Masai would eat, or something the women of the tribe would make.




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