21st century Maasai by Rubén Salgado Escudero
The Maasai Tribe in East Africa is known as one of the continent’s most traditional and symbolically important groups. Living in Kenya and northern Tanzania, this semi-nomadic tribe prides itself on its customs and way of life. Besides being known as skilled hunters and warriors, they were also one of the only groups to stand against slavery and human trafficking. The Maasai’s lifestyle centers on their cattle, which constitute their primary source of food and economic survival. They have an almost sacred relationship to their cattle, and firmly believe that they are a gift from God to them.
In recent years, the Maasai have faced numerous threats to their culture and way of life. Because of global warming-induced changes in their habitat and the loss of land due to the growth of Safari and Game Parks and other government projects, some Maasai have chosen to change their lifestyle and adopt some of today’s technology, which helps them to adjust to the modern world while still allowing them to maintain their age-old traditions. For example, mobile phones are now commonly used by modern Maasais, and herders use them to find the best deals when selling and trading cattle. During the long drought seasons, mobile phones are also used to find out where there is water and pasture for the herds, which saves the Massais countless days of travel. In addition, using mobile phones for money transfers allows them to send money to family members and make business transactions without having to travel.
Many Maasai have also have taken up new occupations, such as urban businesses. For such a traditional society so deeply rooted in their culture and values, it is fascinating to see many Maasais today working all over Kenya as waiters, security guards (‘askari’ as they are called, also meaning warrior), drivers and even tourist guides. Although it may have been difficult, the Maasais have gone through great lengths to adapt to modern life, allowing them to continue to be one of the most respected peoples in East Africa.