There are over 40 tribes in Kenya, and the Maasai are one of the few tribes that have continued their traditional customs and lifestyle. When embarking on a trip to Kenya, one of the things travelers look forward to the most is visiting a Maasai village. You'll have the opportunity to meet Maasai people and learn about their fascinating history, listen to stories that have been passed down the generations, and take part in activities to gain a deeper understanding of their unique culture.  

Who are the Maasai people?

The Maasai are a semi-nomadic tribe that live in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. Cows are highly sacred in Maasai culture and their life is centered around herding cattle and goats. The Maasai believe that Enkai, or God, created cattle specifically for them to look after, which is why they require a large amount of rural and pastoral land. Cows are the Maasai's main source of income – for trading in exchange for other goods and also to sell cow products like milk – and also food. The warrior is also a key part of the culture and Maasai men are trained from a young age to hunt game and protect their families and herds from animal predators. 

Before European settlers arrived and colonised many countries in Africa, the Maasai occupied the majority of the fertile lands and co-existed with the wildlife here for hundreds of years. Following two treaties which were signed in 1904 and 1911 by a few members of the tribe, the Maasai lost around two-thirds of their land and were relocated to less fertile parts of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. Despite this, the Maasai have retained most of their traditions and unique way of life and have not adapted to more modern lifestyles. One of the biggest threats to the Maasai people today is the continual development of Kenya and the transformation of rural areas to accommodate a growing population. As more land is developed, the Maasai –and their livestock and neighboring wildlife – are being pushed out. 

What is the Maasai culture like?

Music and dance 

Singing and dancing ceremonies are a central part of Maasai culture, but the best-known dance is the adamu, more commonly known as the jumping dance. This dance is traditionally performed by a group of Maasai men who take turns jumping as high as they can to demonstrate their strength and potentially attract a wife. When you visit a Maasai tribe you'll most likely be invited to join in an adamu dance, but you'll soon find yourself amazing by how much higher they can jump than you! 

Beadwork

In addition to the red clothing which symbolzses Maasai culture and is believed to ward off wild animals, the Maasai are also known for their colorful beaded necklaces, bracelets and other jewelry. The beaded jewelry worn by men and women is so much more than a fashion piece. Every color and design carries meaning and wearing the jewelry is a way to represent social status, age, resilience and more. Traditionally, people with higher social status will wear more colorful and elaborately designed pieces. The jewelry is made from a range of natural materials like wood, bone and metals and glass. Since European settlement, beads have also become an important source of income for the Maasai.

Food

The Maasai's diet revolves around their beloved cattle. They eat cow meat and drink milk, and sometimes also the blood which is mixed with milk for ritual or celebratory drink, or given to sick people to help them heal. They also eat lamb, bulls and oxen on special occasions. Honey, bark, herbs and a small number of root vegetables are also part of the Maasai diet, as well as ugali which is a traditional Kenyan dish made from ground white corn. The Maasai use the animal skins and hides for textiles and the dung for building purposes, so nothing goes to waste.

What language do the Maasai speak?

The Maasai speak Maa, a language similar to Samburu, the language of the Samburu people of central Kenya. Maa is also closely related to Camus which is spoken south and southeast of Lake Baringo in west-central Kenya. There isn't much written documentation of Maa as it's a mostly spoken language. Stories, songs and folklore are passed down verbally through the generations. Maasai also speak English and Swahili, the lingua franca of East Africa. 

Click to return to Kenya FAQs

Our Kenya tours

7 Days From 3555

Embark on a seven-day Premium journey through Kenya’s wild grasslands and vast plains...

16 Days From 3569

Encounter the wildlife of Kenya and Uganda on this 16-day adventure including a gorilla...

8 Days From 2048

Roam the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, camp beside Lake Victoria and spot Africa's...

15 Days From 10530

Discover the best of Kenya and Tanzania on a Premium adventure through the Masai Mara,...

15 Days From 10075

Embark on a 15-day Premium Adventure through Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana...

31 Days From 19970

Set off on the adventure of a lifetime through Africa on a 31-day Premium journey,...

12 Days From 1860

Experience the beauty of the Ngorongoro and Serengeti, Usambara Mountains and Zanzibar...

Tailor-Made trips

Take two or more on an exclusive trip and tailor your itinerary

27 Days From 6470

Go deep in East Africa on this 27-day trip including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zanzibar.

8 Days From 1407

Experience Kenyan wildlife on an eight day trip travelling from Nairobi to Lake...

13 Days From 8751

Search for Gorillas in Uganda, uncover the history of Rwanda, and explore the wild...

17 Days From 7195

East Africa’s wildlife is waiting on a 17-day adventure through Uganda, Kenya and...

15 Days From 2801

Uncover Kenya and Tanzania on a 15-day trip with Serengeti safaris, Ngorongoro, Nakuru,...

10 Days From 3635

Travel through East Africa from Kenya to Tanzania, stopping at the Masai Mara, the...

15 Days From 5590

Explore the wonders of Tanzania and Kenya including a trek to the summit of Mt...

63 Days From 11360

Set out on a mighty African adventure through Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe...

10 Days From 1895

Hit the (dirt) road through Kenya and Tanzania. Safari in the Serengeti and the Masai...

20 Days From 3426

Step out onto the Serengeti and keep your eyes out for rhinos, lions, leopards and a...

13 Days From 2705

Explore the wildlife-rich plains of Kenya and Tanzania and then unwind in Zanzibar....

64 Days From 11190

This 64-day journey with explores Southern Africa in detail including Botswana, Kenya,...

12 Days From 2112

Get a true taste of eastern Africa on a 12-day trip to Zanzibar, the Serengeti,...

42 Days From 8445

Explore Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe on a 42-day trip including a...

28 Days From 4059

Discover East African wilderness and the animals that call it home on an adventure...

43 Days From 7094

Take a 43-day trip through eastern Africa, via Victoria Falls, the Serengeti and...

48 Days From 6476

Tour Africa's best from Kenya to Cape Town through Tanzania, Zanzibar, Malawi, Zimbabwe...

9 Days From 1836

Explore Tanzania on this nine-day trip travelling to Nairobi via the Serengeti and the...

27 Days From 3940

Explore the wilds of East Africa on this 27-day trip from Nairobi to the Serengeti,...

18 Days From 9920

This 18-day tour hits Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania for tracking gorillas in...

27 Days From 6470

Spend 27 days exploring the wonders, wildlife and tribal cultures of East Africa to...

49 Days From 5888

Experience the ultimate African adventure on this 49-day tour including Kenya, Botswana...

17 Days From 7015

Explore the wonders of Tanzania and Kenya including a trek to the summit of Mt...

52 Days From 8379

The waterways of Botswana, the beaches of Zanzibar, the savannahs of the Serengeti and...

15 Days From 4487

Explore the wonders of Tanzania and Kenya including a trek to the summit of Mt...

31 Days From 5056

Take a 32-day tour through Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and...

8 Days From 2365

Track your way across the plains of Kenya on this thrilling safari, covering Nairobi,...

13 Days From 4335

Travel through East Africa from Kenya to Tanzania, stopping at the Masai Mara, the...

8 Days From 2355

Experience the people, culture and wildlife of Kenya and Tanzania on a small group...

37 Days From 4528

Travel the waterways of Botswana, the beaches of Zanzibar and the savannahs of the...

3 Days From 1230

Travel to Kenya and visit Nairobi. Embark on a journey across the Great Rift Valley to...

Read more about Kenya