Maasai society is patriarchical in nature with the elders deciding most matters for each Maasai group. The laibon or spiritual leader acts as the liaison between the Maasai and God, named Enkai or Engai, as well as the source of Maasai herblore. The Maasai are mostly monotheistic in outlook, but many have become Christian under the influence of missionaries.
Traditional Maasai lifestyle centers around their cattle which constitutes the primary source of food. They also believe that God gave them his cattle to watch over. The Tanzanian and Kenyan governments have instituted programs to encourage the Maasai to abandon their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle and adopt an agrarian lifestyle instead.
The Maasai measure a man's wealth in terms of cattle and children rather than money - a d of 50 cattle is respectable, and the more children the better. A man who has plenty of one but not the other is considered to be poor. The Maasai believe that they own all the cattle in the world.
As a historically nomadic and then semi-nomadic people, the Maasai have traditionally relied on local, readily available materials and indigenous technology to construct their housing. The traditional Maasai house was in the first instance designed for people on the move and was thus very impermanent in nature. The Inkajijik (Maasai word for a house) are either loaf-shaped or circular, and are constructed by women.
The structural framework is formed of timber poles fixed directly into the ground and interwoven with a lattice of smaller branches, which is then plastered with a mix of mud, sticks, grass, cow dung and urine, and ash. The enkaji is small, measuring about 3m x 5m and standing only 1.5m high. Within this space the family cooks, eats, sleeps, socializes and stores food, fuel and other household possessions. Small livestock are also often accommodated within the enkaji. Villages are enclosed in a circular fence (Enkang) built by the men, usually of...
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