1. Masai and Cattle
The Masai believe that they were placed on earth by their God, known as Enkai or Engai, along with all of the world’s cattle, ergo, they believe that all cows belong to them. The Masai’s job or calling in life is to care for and be responsible for all cattle. The Masai’s individual wealth is measured in cattle and cows are traded as currency.
2. Where are they from?
The Masai originated in South Sudan and migrated south due to drought and the disease Rinderpest (or cattle plague) which was threatening their cows in the second half of the 19th century.
3. Masai Place Names
A lot of places in Kenya were given names by the Masai:
- Nairobi (the Maa meaning is ‘cool place’ – because of the cooler, high altitude climage)
- Masai Mara (‘spotted plain’ due to the distinctive shape of the Acacia trees that punctuate the landscape)
- Serengeti (‘endless plain’ – its vast!)
- Nanyuki (‘place of red soil’ – it’s very red and it’s hard to get out of your clothes!)
- Kijabe – (‘windy place’, Kijabe is located on the edge of the Rift Valley)
4. Masai Groups and Languages
6. What Did they Wear?
When the first foreign settlers arrived in Kenya in the 19th century, The Masai resisted converting to Christianity or Islam. The Masai originally clothed themselves in cowskin (later sheep and goat hides after they were introduced to caring for these animals a alongside cows by colonial arrivals).
7. Where are Today’s Red Shuka’s from?
8. Why Red?
*With special thanks to the Masai nature expert and wildlife guide ‘Daniel’ who I met at Ngerende Island Lodge in the Masai Mara. (He chose this Biblical name because of the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, learned at school. Very apt I thought!).