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Who are the Massai?


Probably the best-known ethnic group in East Africa are the Maasai. The tribal language is Maa, the national language Swahili. They live in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. The semi-nomadic people are known for their striking clothing. To this day, they proudly live their traditions.

The distribution of tasks is clearly regulated:
Young boys take care of the animals. They often wander around with them for days in search of food. They are completely on their own. They feed on the milk of the cows and on what they find.

After their circumcision at around 14 years of age, they become “warriors” and defend their families.
A young man is only allowed to marry and start his own family when he gets permission from his father.
Often the men have 2-3 wives with whom they live together in a boma. A boma consists of a large mud hut for the man, where he lives and sleeps alone. Here he has his peace and quiet.


Women and girls

Women are subordinate to men. They have no rights and are not allowed to have their own property. As a wife, they are now responsible for all the work: Household, water supply, cooking, child rearing, field work, hard physical labour – everything!

Each wife cooks for her husband and takes care of his well-being. The women each have a small round mud hut that they build themselves. The size of the hut depends on the size of the woman. Here she lives together with all her own children. Usually they sleep together on an animal skin.

Girls help their mothers with all the work. They are usually promised to older men at a very early age. The parents receive a bride price, which often ensures their own survival. Child marriages and forced marriages are the norm.
Although prohibited by law, circumcisions are still performed secretly by the oldest women. From the age of 13, girls marry and have children of their own, with a number of 5 – 10 children being common.