Masai

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Masai or Maasai (mäsī´), a largely nomadic pastoral people of E Africa, chiefly in Kenya and Tanzania. Cattle and sheep form the basis of the economy that they have maintained in resistance to cultural change. The Masai live off the milk, blood, and meat of their livestock. Masai society is patrilineal; polygyny is practiced. Boys are initiated into a warrior age-group responsible for herding, killing predators, and other tribal labors; only after serving as a warrior may a man marry. The Masai, who are characteristically tall and slender, live traditionally in the kraal, a compound within which are mud houses.

See A. C. Hollis, The Masai: Their Language and Folklore (1905, repr. 1971); G. Hanley, Warriors and Strangers (1971).

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Masai African people of Kenya and Tanzania, consisting of several subgroups who speak a Nilotic language. They are characteristically tall and slender. Their patrilineal, egalitarian society is based on nomadic pastoralism, cattle being equated with wealth. The traditional Masai kraal is a group of mud houses surrounded by a thorn fence. Today, there are c.250,000 Masai.

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