Wherever you go on the East African safari circuit of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, the Maasai are a near-constant presence. The number of Maasai in Kenya is estimated to be approximately 800,000, with about the same number living in Tanzania.
You’ll spot the brightly colored reds, blues and purples of their shúka (sheets worn wrapped around the body, with one over each shoulder and a third over the top of them) standing out vividly against the landscape.
You’ll see them standing tall and proud alongside the road in small villages such as the one we visited, modern towns such as Arusha, and walking across the vast open pastures on which they continue to graze their cattle, as they have for more than 500 years now.
While it may be the world-renowned wildlife that draws most travelers to Tanzania, it’s the Maasai people who give the region its distinctive cultural flavor. Meeting the Maasai and getting to know more about their life in the savannah is an integral part of the East African travel experience.
So it’s worth learning more about these semi-nomadic pastoralists before you visit.