The Maasai are made up of about a dozen ethnic groups who live in the Rift Valley of east Africa, primarily in KENYA and TANZANIA.These groups speak a language called Maa and share many cultural characteristics,such as the way they dress. Their social systems are based on clans and age-sets, groups of people of the same age. The society has no centralized political leadership. In the past, the Maasai had an effective military organization for raiding and warfare, and their warriors were known for great courage and strength.
The Maasai have traditionally been cattle herders with a pastoralist lifestyle. However, many have also practiced agriculture and engaged intrade. Some have close ties through marriage with various Bantu-speakinggroups, including the GIKUYU. Photographers and travel writers oftenportray the Maasai as a “pure” and “untouched” society of cattle herdersand warriors. However, some Maasai now live in towns. Perhaps morethan other groups in Africa, the Maasai have shown an unwillingness toaccept many aspects of Western culture because of a fierce pride in theirtraditional ways of life. (See also Ethnic Groups and Identity, Livestock Grazing.)