Experiencing Tanzania and the Maasai tribe genuinely is not very easy, especially if you stay along the traditional tourist safari routes in the North of the Country.
You have to travel into the heart of Tanzania and literally reach the middle of nowhere, Kiberashi, about 9 hours from Arusha and 8 from Dar Es Salam, and what many mistakenly believe to be a purely tourist attraction turns into a real experience, not only of travel but of life.
The village in Tanzania’s savannah takes about 9 hours by car from Arusha to be reached.
Here you will have the chance, and privilege, to live a few days completely disconnected from the outside world in connection with nature, culture, and tribal habits.
The Maasai family will welcome and host you into the little and sweet guesthouse that Cristina, an Italian lady, and her husband Willy, a Maasai, have built in the past few years.
The initial idea was just having a house there and move for good.
Till when friends and family traveling to Tanzania gave them the idea to let even others live this incredible experience.
The house in which you will sleep, built with care and love in the middle of the savannah, is the fruit of an ethical and sustainable project in which the Italo-Maasai couple, Cristina and Willy, have chosen to invest, to the point of deciding to move there permanently, firmly believing in intercultural encounters and offering their support to the responsible enhancement of tribal traction.
Thanks to our partnership with them we are happy to organize a trip to the Maasai village and propose you a complete package to get the best of Tanzania’s nature and culture. Get in touch for having more information about our travel ideas.
Is it spelled Maasai or Masai?
Maasai is the correct spelling, the word in fact means people who speak Maa. Masai was the wrong spelling of the British colonists and it is still in current use.
Something about the Maasai
Living with the Maasai and being guided by Cristina and Willy, who explain well how traditional life works, is certainly what I recommend to do so as to deepen directly in the field the complex dynamics.
But to get to the heart of the matter and, perhaps, inspire you a bit to start actually considering this detour during a safari in Tanzania, let’s find out a little more about perhaps the most famous ethnic group in Africa.
The Maasai – literally, the people who speak Maa – have lived in what is now Kenya and Tanzania since at least the 17th century.
Easily recognizable by their colorful clothing, wide checkered cloths, and embellishments made with beads, thanks to their welcoming and generous manner as well as their resistance to changing traditions, the Maasai have become true East African icons.
Despite the current challenges they are dealing with, from climate change to the arrival of technology, the Maasai, who appear to number around 2 million, continue to embrace and embody the semi-nomadic lifestyle that has been passed down for generations.
They have a reputation as fierce warriors but in truth, their lives revolve around livestock.
In fact, one of their spiritual beliefs is that their god, Enkai, created livestock for the Maasai and therefore all livestock on earth belongs to them.
This very close bond with their animals has led them to a nomadic lifestyle that, even today, follows the rainy seasons. They constantly move in search of fresh grass for their beasts that have priority and require care and attention.
The Maasai have managed to keep their traditions alive despite the fact that as the years go by it becomes more and more complicated.
The grazing areas have decreased a lot, due to urbanization and the constant decrease of land once theirs. What is now the Maasai Mara Reserve and Serengeti National Park, for example, were once Maasai grazing areas.
They then adopted a progressively more sedentary lifestyle, beginning to engage in farming as well, while continuing to deeply love their animals.
Events and Celebrations Maasai
UNESCO has decided to include in the list of World Heritage several Maasai rites of passage because “intangible cultural heritage in urgent need of protection”.
The rituals that UNESCO intends to protect are three: Enkipaata, Eunoto and Enkang oo-nikiri or Olng’esherr (in Maa language in Kenya) or Elatim, Eunoto, Emanyata (in Maa language in Tanzania). Same events just different names.
These three male rites of passage represent the three main events of Maasai life and sanction the three phases of life: Children, Warriors and Elders.
The Enkipaata (Elatim in Tanzania) is the ritual that precedes the rite of circumcision and marks the entrance of children into the phase of young warriors.
After the circumcision ceremony, boys are ready to become Morani, warriors. The mini-warriors are ready to become grown men and build a family, and to do so they must pass a test.
They live isolated from the rest of the village, while being instructed by the elders on everything they must face in life as grown men, thus proving that they are ready to take the next step.
This moment is celebrated with the ritual of the Eunoto. During this ritual, the warriors, who wear their hair long, shave it off to symbolize a new beginning.
The last ritual, the Enkang oo-nikiri or Olng’esherr (Emanyata in Tanzania), known as the ceremony of the meat, is celebrated by sacrificing a bull, whose meat is prepared by the women of the village and offered to the men and celebrates the last step, that of the entrance into the group of elders.
These events, which mark the life of every Maasai man, are aimed at teaching respect and responsibility, but they are also formative since the objective is the transmission of tribal knowledge according to a disciplined process and with precise timing.
Another very important event is the Loorbak, which in the Maa language refers to the past wars between tribes. Today this term is used to indicate peace and serenity.
A Maasai, after having celebrated with the Emanyata, chooses the Maasai to whom he is most attached, who cannot refuse the invitation and who must pay half the expenses of the feast, with whom he will celebrate friendship and harmony for two days.
The best months to have the opportunity to attend these events, which are never planned well in advance, are June and July.
When to visit the Maasai village in Tanzania
At the village of Kiberashi you can live a unique experience 12 months per year.
However, the least suitable months are those of the great rains, from March to the end of April, as it becomes dangerous to move with vehicles on the dirt roads of the savannah that may not be practicable.
The remaining months of the year are always excellent, with less hot days from June to the end of August.
If you are traveling in August, I suggest you book well in advance because the places in a homestay are few and the requests for this month are always many.
Why you should spend a few days with the Maasai?
This is more of a real-life experience than a trip, and it is definitely a less classic and more original extension of the Safari + Zanzibar combination.
Certainly, reaching the village goes far beyond the classic tourist circuits.
A unique opportunity that allows you to know and discover the true Maasai culture and see it directly in their homes, ideal for those who want to get involved and confront themselves with this magical reality.
For who is this trip suitable and for whom not?
This trip is suitable for everyone as long as you have a minimum of flexibility and do not have high expectations.
The homestay has two nice bedrooms, with comfortable mattresses, an external shared bathroom, and a shower where you can use water (with moderation since there is no running water in those parts).
Electricity comes from a solar panel, there is no wi-fi (but with a SIM card, which if you don’t have one is given for the days of your stay by Cristina), there are no sunbeds or laundry service. This is not a trip for those who are afraid of getting dirty with dust, nor for those who are not patient.
In Africa, life is lived at the “pole-pole” (slowly-slowly), and here more than anywhere else, you will understand what that means.
If you are ready to experience the real Maasai Life, contact us, and let’s start to plan your unique and unforgettable Tanzania trip!