The Maasai people of East Africa live in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania along the Great Rift Valley on semi-arid and arid lands. It is estimated that there are approximately 1 million Maasia people in Kenya and Tanzania. However, the real number is unknown, as many Maasai see the national census as government intrusion and often miscount their numbers to census takers. Some want to be counted as many as ten times, while many refuse to be counted at all.
The Maasai live in “kraals,” or villages, arranged in a circular fashion. The fence around the kraal is made of acacia thorns, which prevent lions from attacking the cattle. It is a man’s responsibility to fence the kraal, while women construct the houses. Traditionally, kraals are shared by extended family.
Livestock, such as cattle, goats and sheep are the primary source of income for most Maasai. Livestock serves as a social utility in the culture and plays a vital role in the Maasai economy. Besides livestock, children are highly valued and add significance and worth to the Maasia. “Meishoo iyiook enkai inkishu o-nkera” is a Maasai prayer which translated means, “May Creator give us cattle and children.”
Maasai society is highly patriarchal in nature, with elder men deciding most major matters for each Maasai community. A full body of oral law covers many aspects of behavior. Normally, payment in cattle will settle disputed matters.
The Maasai are a monotheistic people group, traditionally worshipping a single deity called Enkai or Engai. The “Mountain of God”, Ol Doinya Lengai, is located in northernmost Tanzania. The central human figure in the Maasai religious system is the laibon, whose role includes shamanistic healing, divination and prophecy, and ensuring success in war and adequate rainfall. Many Maasia have also adopted Christianity and Islam.
With Open Eyes is thrilled to partner with a number of pastors among the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania. May the Lord continue to draw these beautiful people to a saving knowledge of Jesus through our Mobile Messengers.