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Plains in many areas are important for agriculture because where the soils were deposited as sediments they may be deep and fertile, and the flatness facilitates mechanization of crop production; or because they support grasslands which provide good grazing for livestock. When the rainy season paints its greenery across the East African landscape, the grasses of the Serengeti are transformed into billowy waves of an emerald sea. The designation of 'Maasai' (speakers of Maa) is generally reserved for the warrior-class, semi-nomadic pastoralists although Maa is also spoken by various agricultural tribes.
Contrary to this early reputation as lazy, ne'er do wells, the Maasai are expert herdsmen and their social structure is organized for the optimal utilization of their cattle. During the past two thousand years, boats from Arabia, India, Persia, China and Indonesia sailed up and down the East African or Zanj coast, as it was known, in search of gold, ivory, ambergris, slaves and spices.
The takeover by Omani Arabs coincided with a great increase in demand for slaves to work on plantations in Zanzibar and other islands off the coast of Africa.
The founding of the African Association in London in 1788 heralded the beginning of European interest in the scientific exploration of Africa.
In the mad 'Scramble for Africa' that ensued, the Anglo-German Agreement that dissevered Maasai territory into British and German Spheres of Influence in November, 1886 was an ominous precursor to events predicted earlier by Mbatiany, the Oloiboni (spiritual leader) and most influential Maasai at that time. The Maasai were a destitute, demoralized and divided people when the first colonists arrived at the end of the 19th century. Africa's Great Rift Valley extends from the Afar depression in Ethiopia to the Zambesi River in Mozambique. Ostensibly, overgrazing is the main reason that the Maasai have been banished from the game reserves and national parks. The underlying purpose of banning pastoralists from the parks is more subtle and is found in the words of Dr.
It is of little consolation to the Maasai, that nomadic pastoralism is now acknowledged to support more people on the savannas than agriculture. General Information: Maasai cultural encounters are relatively new and not as developed in Tanzania as they have been in Kenya. Please be careful in your dealings with the children as the Maasai do not want them to learn to be beggars. The E Unoto Retreat is a five star lodge that nestles against the Great Rift Escarpment with a beautiful view of Lake Miwaleni. The tranquil, natural splendor of the E Unoto Retreat is ideal for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Maasai (1980) by Tepilit Ole Saitoti with photographs by Carol Beckwith offers a superb glimpse into the lives and traditions of the Maasai people.
The Worlds of a Maasai Warrior: An Autobiography (1985) by Tepilit Ole Saitoti details his years as a Maasai warrior around the Ngorongoro Crater area as well as his introduction to the Western world. The Last of the Maasai (1994) has outstanding photographs by Mohamed Amin and Duncan Willetts with an excellent narrative by John Eames.
The Art of the Maasai : 300 Newly Discovered Objects and Works of Art by Gillies Turle, Peter Beard and Mark Greenberg is a brilliant photographic study of Maasi ceremonial artifacts. Enkop Ai: My Life With The Maasai by Catherine Oddie tells of her marriage to a Maasai man and their life together.
Barefoot Over The Serengeti by David Read, an Englishman, describes growing up among his Maasai warrior friends. No Man's Land: An Investigative Journey Through Kenya and Tanzania (1994) by George Monbiot assesses the status of the pastoral tribes of East Africa including the Maasai.
Plains occur as lowlands and at the bottoms of valleys but also on plateaus or uplands at high elevations. A flash of red is easily discerned in the distance as a shuka-clad (a short red robe worn like a toga) morani (Maasai warrior) strides swiftly and purposefully across the unending plain.
Linguistically, their Maa language, a sub-group of the Nilotic languages, suggests that they came from the Nile Valley of Southern Sudan. Like other cattle herders of East Africa, the Maasai asserted a higher social status than those that tilled the soil or worked with their hands.
A boy begins to learn the intricacies of cattle husbandry from about the age of five when he assumes responsibility for taking care of his father's calves. It begins their tenure as warriors, a period of approximately 8 to 12 years, during which they progress from junior to senior warriors.
Around the 8th century AD, Arabian and Persian traders began to settle along the coast and by the 15th century, the main trading centers formed a string of independent city states that Vasco da Gama encountered on his way to India in 1498. He foretold the coming of Europeans on an 'iron rhino with strangers of flamingo pink on its back' as well as the cycle of disaster known as Ol Maitai. They were ill-prepared for the British who coveted their best pastures in the highland areas of the Rift Valley in present day Kenya where the soil was fertile, water sources were reliable and the cooler temperatures were more attractive.

Unable to move their herds in traditional ways, overgrazing led to the degradation of much of their remaining land and impoverishment of the majority of the people. The tremendous increase in the population of East Africa makes it understandable that the authorities might want to restrict permanent settlement but the Maasai are not allowed to graze their animals there. Bernhard Grzimek, a German conservationist who initiated worldwide interest in the Ikoma-Itutwa National Park when he made the film, Serengeti Shall Not Die, in 1958.
Agricultural interests have already intruded on the savannas leaving behind degraded land within three years of initial cultivation. February to March is a particularly beautiful time between the short and the long rains when the land is alive with new growth. Be sure to take a camera with spare batteries and lots of film, binoculars, flashlight, a wide brimmed hat with a drawstring, good walking shoes, insect repellent, suntan lotion and personal toiletries. They are offended by people peering into their homes or taking photographs without permission. This unique establishment is designed to provide world class accommodations for its guests while benefiting the local Maasai. It's proximity to the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara National Park allows easy day trips and a more leisurely safari. Beautiful photographs and an in-depth text recount their legends and describe the stages of Maasai life.
The most recent edition of this book was published by Frank Limited, PO Box 81133, Mombasa, Kenya. Del Vecchio's second grade class at the Alcott Elementary school in Concord, Massachusetts in social studies. In a valley, a plain is enclosed on two sides but in other cases a plain may be delineated by a complete or partial ring of hills, by mountains or cliffs. They probably migrated south by way of southwestern Ethiopia where they would have encountered various Cushite-speaking tribes. Pastoralism, which furnished food, drink, clothing, housing, bedding and ornaments provided a more secure existence than agriculture and was a means of storing wealth. By the time he reaches the age of circumcision, about 15-18 years, he is fully capable of tending and protecting his animals, diagnosing and treating diseases, supplementing their diet for overall health, growth and milk production, assisting in the birthing of calves and attending to related problems of birth and lactation.
The primary responsibilities of warriors are to protect the community from predators and other tribes and to raid cattle to increase their herds. Whereas men are responsible for maintaining the herds and the ritual slaughter of the animals, women collect and utilize the by-products. The Portuguese took advantage of the rivalries between the trading centers to gain control of the coast in 1525 but were ousted as their power waned less than 200 years later. It was, therefore, the missionaries and explorers, who initially documented their impressions of the Maasai. Mbatiany did not live to see the drought and famine that left the Maasai and their herds weakened and susceptible to smallpox and rinderpest, European diseases that caused the loss of about 50% of their people and 80% of their cattle. Sir Charles Eliot wrote in 1903, ' I cannot admit that wandering tribes have a right to keep other and superior races out of large tracts merely because they have acquired the habit of straggling over far more land than they can utilize.' Vast areas of their land were lost and they found themselves either herded into southern reserves near the Tanzania border or as squatters on their own land. The Great Rift was probably formed by the subsidence of the earth's crust between successive parallel faults resulting in a series of step faults along its length. This served to rid the area of disease-carrying ticks, to control the growth of less desirable grasses and to improve the soil with nutrient-rich ash. Nor is there comfort in knowing that the great herds of East Africa flourished best under Maasai stewardship.
Visits to Maasai villages and walks through Maasai lands are now offered by most tour operators in Arusha.
Visitors have the opportunity to associate directly with the Maasai and to observe and share many facets of their lives. Those who prefer a more rigorous safari will enjoy the opportunity to 'recover' before returning home. It is a scene, often repeated throughout Maasailand, that is symbolic of the Maasai as a people. Strong Cushitic influences are reflected in the Maasai culture and it is thought that this interaction took place before the Nilotes entered present day Kenya about 500 to 600 years ago. However, the herds were vulnerable to any upset to the fragile ecology of the savannas and additional security was established by alliances and relationships that allowed for the replenishment of cattle in times of need. Among the first were German missionary, Ludwig Krapf (1848), English missionary, Charles New and later, explorer and naturalist, Joseph Thompson (1883). Nor did Mbatiany anticipate the years of intertribal conflict that resulted when he was tricked into giving his deathbed blessings to his son, Olonana (known to the British as Lenana) rather than to his chosen heir, Senteu. The Maasai in Tanzania fared better from the initial onslaught of colonialism because there were not as many German settlers and except for small areas around Kilimanjaro, their land was not as fertile or as hospitable to Europeans.

The soils of the plains around the Eastern Rift Valley owe their existence to the volcanoes that are associated with the development of the rift system.
After enduring more than a hundred years of displacement and poverty, it is ironic that some experts now conclude that pastoralism, which necessitates the preservation of the environment, is the most productive system for the savannas of East Africa and the indigenous knowledge of the Maasai is gaining credibility.
Tender young shoots of the grasses favored by cattle and wildlife emerged with the first rains.
As they struggle to eke out a living, it must be difficult for them to understand how they could be more damaging to the ecology than the thousands of tourists that converge on these parks each year.
The pressure of burgeoning populations in East Africa now requires that the reserves and parks remain as islands of endemism if the flora and fauna of are to survive.
They have endured a century of Westernization to emerge as one of the most culturally intact of the African tribes.
Some operators also offer homestay opportunities as well as the possibility of observing cultural activities. Nature walks, storytelling and other educational programs are available to forge a better understanding of the Maasai and their role in preserving their environment. Plains may have been formed from flowing lava, deposited by water, ice, wind, or formed by erosion by these agents from hills and mountains.
No one is quite sure where they have come from or how they will preserve their culture in the future. By the time of the European colonization of East Africa in the late 19th century, the Maasai occupied much of the Rift Valley in Kenya and northern Tanzania as well as the surrounding highlands and plains. Thus, non-pastoralist tribes with few, if any, cattle, were regarded as ndorobo (poor people), lacking not only material wealth but essential contacts with the wider society. Even after WWI when German East Africa passed to the British and renamed Tanganyika, there were few British willing to settle there. Most of the volcanoes are now extinct or dormant, except for Ol Doinyo Lengai, the sacred mountain of the Maasai, which is the only remaining active volcano in the Eastern Rift and the only carbonatite volcano in the world. Surely, the construction of roads, lodges and the increased demand for already scant water supplies have had a greater impact than the pastoralists who have coexisted with wildlife for thousands of years before the first tourist set foot upon the savannas.
How could they maintain any animals (1200 head of cattle) when surrounded by so many carnivores…?' The savanna ecology has always been a fragile balancing of man, wildlife and plants and as we strive to create and maintain areas of 'primordial wilderness,' we have disregarded man's role in the natural equilibrium of the savanna. The reality, at the dawn of the twenty first century, is that pastoralism may no longer be an option for the Maasai. They had absorbed other peoples and cultures along the way but were not structured as a single tribe. However, in pre-colonial times, every community knew the extent of their territory even though there were no legal titles or fences. Like the boys, they are initiated into adulthood by means of circumcision at around 13 to 15, after which they are eligible for marriage. Perhaps, with time and new tools, they will be able to restore the vitality of the Maasai as a people and contribute to the healing of the East African savannas.
Rather, they were several different tribes sharing a similar culture and a common language, albeit with differing dialects.
Sustainable cattle herding required vast expanses of land and the role of the moran in maintaining the integrity of a tribe's borders was essential. Maasai women, like traditional women everywhere, find fulfillment in marriage and their children.
Rainwater runoff from the highlands created soda lakes within the depression of the rift itself and millions of Lesser Flamingos feed on the algae and small invertebrates that flourish in these waters. After the rains, the Maasai moved their herds to the more arid areas that were aburst with fresh growth, giving the richer pastures time to recover until the dry season set in. Stanley Saruni, project manager for American Liberty Oil Company (T) Ltd., is developing the E Unoto Retreat, a five star secluded lodge on Maasai land belonging to Mr. In addition, warriors supervise grazing, continually assess the condition of the pastures and seek out new pasturage when indicated.
However, when much of the better pastures that could sustain the herds during the long, dry season, were taken for agriculture and parklands, the Maasai had no recourse except to allow the cattle to overgraze the areas to which they were confined. These grasslands support massive numbers of a wide range of grazing and browsing animals which in turn provide food for a variety of predators and scavengers.
Traditional Maasai pastures teemed with wildlife and international interest in conservation became focused on the richness of the biodiversity of Maasai-maintained lands. Vast tracts were claimed for the game reserves that now constitute the National Park system, resulting in even greater dislocation of the Maasai.

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