Teach Through Educational Travel: The Maasai

The Maasai are a traditionally nomadic ethnic group that is located in Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania. Numbering less than a million in population, the Maasai are still instantly recognizable around the world, due to their lifestyle, customs, music and dancing, and long distance running. Many people now think that not only are the Maasai a great example of ways to live sustainably on the land, but also want to visit them, to see people living in harmony with both the land and each other.

The Maasai are pastoralists, concerned with tending their cows. As such, their lifestyle is mobile, so as to move the herds to better pasture, water, and safety. However, with land usage restrictions and governmental policies to remove the Maasai from their traditional lands, the Maasai have had to find additional ways to earn a living. Some Maasai cultivate crops (which goes against traditional Maasai beliefs, as it doesn’t allow free movement). Some Maasai sell cattle, goods, and handicrafts, work at regular jobs, and work in tourism.
Teach Through Educational Travel
  • Read this article about the Maasai, written by Maasai. Discuss how an ancient ethnic group has been able to maintain so much of its cultural mores in changing times – and what has been lost.
  • The Maasai traditionally sing with a chorus, and one person leads the melody. Sometimes, singing is accompanied by dancing. Watch this video on the Maasai traditional jumping dance, called adumu. Look how high these guys can jump! While this dance may look unique to us, I am sure that some of the dances we do look unique to others around the world. Think about cultural ways of expressing oneself to music, and how music can touch people, anywhere in the world.
  • Traditionally, the Maasai have hunted lions for parts and as a warrior’s proof of bravery. Recently, however, the Maasai have turned from hunting lions to helping lions, to work on creating a more sustainable environment and to creating new paths for Maasai to work with tourism (safaris, etc.). The Lion Guardians seek a sustainable coexistence between lions and people. Watch thisfascinating documentary about the Lion Guardians, and how the Maasai are using traditional techniques along with more modern technological ones. There are many unexpected benefits arising from the Lion Guardians. What are some of the benefits you saw in this documentary? What further benefits can you see for the Maasai, the lions and other wildlife, and tourists?