During our drive from the Serengeti to Ngorongoro Crater, the steering wheel of our car became detached from the axle. This obviously posed as a problem since there aren't replacement parts or cars just lying around in the plains of Tanzania. Fortunately, this gave us the opportunity to stop at a Maasai village on our way to the Crater (hello silver lining!). Our time with the Maasai was brief, but spending time with a members of a civilization that is so far removed from what we are accustomed to was incredibly enlightening. Check out some of the unexpected things I learned while visiting with some members of this tribe.
Two of us were each assigned to a member of the tribe and were encouraged to ask as many questions and take as many photos as we liked while they gave us a tour of their village. We learned that the women of the village were responsible for creating the huts and that they used the what limited resources they had to build these homes in less than a week! While smaller than what we're used to (although some of the huts were probably larger than my studio apartment in downtown Chicago) they provided the Maasai with just what they needed: shelter.
During our visit we learned about the different dynamic between men and women in the tribe. The women were largely responsible for the household. In fact, since some Maasai tribes still practice polygamy, the women build and live in their owns huts with their children, while their husbands may spend their nights at different huts with one of their many wives from the village. Despite men having the ability to practice polygamy, women are strictly forbidden from having more than one husband.
Men could have a number of roles within the Maasai tribe. Some men are herd the cattle, while the elders are in charge of delegating daily roles to the members of the tribe. The Warriors are responsible for protecting the village and the cattle from lion attacks. For this reason, many Maasai wear red clothing because they believe it will scare away lions.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CATTLE
Cattle are extremely valuable to the Maasai. In fact, they are actually used to demonstrate one's status within his community. Cattle are accumulated and are not consumed; however, the Maasai utilize the cattle for other resources. The Maasai rely heavily upon the cattle for both their milk and their blood. This was because water was not a frequently available resource; however, now that these Maasai villages are becoming more modernized, blood is becoming less and less of a staple in their diet.
LION HUNTING: A RITE OF PASSAGE
Our guide also explained the Maasai tradition of lion hunting. Lion hunting was used both as a rite of passage when a young boy turned into a Maasai warrior and as retaliation for the suspected killing of livestock. The tradition originally began with one boy facing the lion by himself; however, as lion populations began to deteriorate, tribes began to hunt the lions as a group of 10 warriors to allow populations to replenish. Since the Maasai believe that women are the bearers of life, they only hunt male lions and the first person to spear the lion will be given the honor to wear the mane of the lion. The most prized items from the lion hunt are the mane, the claws, and the tail. All of these items are used in a ceremony to celebrate the transition from boyhood to being a warrior.
While the Maasai are becoming more and more modernized from government involvement in affairs; however, it was refreshing to see the different ways in which this particular tribe held onto their heritage.