Although the 300,000 Maasai are only about 2% of the Kenyan population they are, by far, the best-known tribe. Beautiful, proud and colourfully dressed they are still very close to their traditional way of life. Always witty and genial the Maasai are a Nilotic tribe of pastoralists who until very recently led a semi-nomadic life, which is exactly the opposite of the main Kenyan tribe, the Kikuyu.
The Maasai arrived, in what is today central Kenya, from the Sudan between 500-1,000 years ago. A fascinating hypothesis suggests that the Maasai - warriors and soldiers by instinct - are the descendants of a lost Roman legion that either deserted or became lost in the southern fringes of the Roman Empire. A few details of their dress and habits support this theory. For example, the sword that every Maasai man keeps to hand is identical to the daga of the Roman legionnaires as well as their shields and sandals. In addition, the red colour of the traditional Maasai 'shuka' is similar to what is believed to have been the uniform of the soldiers who were fighting for the Roman Empire. Traditionally the Maasai lived on a diet of blood and milk and no household is without cattle as they are the 'money' and 'bank accounts' of the Maasai. For this reason cattle are rarely killed and eaten as they represent the owner's wealth. Goats and sheep are also important in the Maasai life and economy.
The Maasai house is a 'boma' which is often a circular group of small huts built of mud and cows' dung. Around the entire compound there is always an enclosure to protect the cows and goats from the unwanted attentions of predators during the night. The Maasai have been deliberately slow in catching up with the modern world. Their attitude is one of respectful lack of interest towards many of the 'necessities' that we regard as essential to modern life; from formal education to technology, from transport to access to the media. Of course, things are changing, but the Maasai are not too keen to join in the rush for globalisation. However, it would be wrong to think of the Maasai as simple and noble 'savages'. Politics are a passion and also a duty for every Maasai man, who is not afraid to spend long hours in sophisticated debates and meetings. The intricacies of Maasai hierarchy, rivalries and internal disputes are as fascinating and as complex as the equivalent debates in Moscow, Washington or London. Tough negotiators and fearless fighters in real or metaphorical battle, the slim and elegant Maasai are much more than a walking picture. While on safari with us, you will be able to meet the Maasai warriors and their families. Most of our employees are from the surrounding areas and are very keen to introduce you to their fascinating traditions. They will become your friends.