Facts About Kenya

The Republic of Kenya is an African country which stretches over an area of 581,309 square kilometers. It is located on the eastern part of the continent at the equator. To the southeast of the country lies the Indian Ocean while its neighbor at the south is Tanzania. On the other hand, the neighbors at the west, northwest, north and northeast are Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, respectively. The country’s capital is Nairobi which is also its largest city. Kenya is the founding member of the East African Community which consists of five member countries.

Discover more information about the Kenya’s history, culture, landmarks and other features through the following discussion.

Kenya’s History

According to fossil records, primates inhabited the region covered by modern-day Kenya around twenty million years ago. Hominids – the ancestors of homo sapiens – lived in the region during the Pleistocene epoch. The first humans to inhabit the region were hunter gathers. As the country’s climate altered from dry to wet, agricultural practices began. Bantu farmers, who emerged from West Africa, entered into this region in 1 AD.

Due to the region’s proximity to the Arabian Peninsula, Arab traders began visiting Kenya. Over a period of time, Arab and Persian colonies were formed in the region. In the fifteenth century, the Arab hold began weakening as the Portuguese arrived in 1498. In the seventeenth century, under the influence of the Imam of Oman, Islam’s control was revived. However, the Europeans visited again in the nineteenth century, this time from the UK. Kenya, therefore, officially became a British colony in 1920.

Freedom movements began in 1942 to resist colonialism. After years of struggle, the country finally gained independence in 1963. The first president of the independent Republic of Kenya was Kenyatta.

Kenyan Culture

The modern Kenyan culture has been formed through the customs and practices of several tribes which have been living in the region for a long time. Different aspects of this culture are discussed below.

Language

Since it is a multilingual country, sixty-languages are spoken in Kenya. A minority group formed by the descendants of the foreign Arabic and Eastern settlers speaks Middle Eastern and Asian languages, such as Arabic and Hindi. The major languages have evolved from those of tribal Africans. Three main language families dominated the region. People in the central and southeastern Kenya speak the Bantu language while the Nilotic languages are common among the population of the west. The third language groups is Cushitic which is common in the northeast. The country’s official languages are English and Swahili. The latter developed through a combination of Bantu and Arabic languages as a means of communication between the two parties for trade.

Ethnic Groups

Kenya consists of various ethnic groups. Dominating the country are thirteen major groups while twenty-seven minor groups are also found. The most dominant groups are the Bantu tribes, Nilotic tribes and the Hamitic people to which majority of the Kenyans belong. On the other hand, thirteen percent of the country’s population is descendant of the Europeans, the Arabs and the Asians.

Harambee Culture

The Harambee culture defines the approach of the Kenyans towards life. The word Harambee is Bantu in origin and means “to pull together”. It implies living and working as groups instead of individuals. Therefore, the people of Kenya believe in mutual responsibility, assistance and effort.

Common Customs

The Kenyans are warm-hearted people with customs which promote goodwill. Some of these customs include shaking hands upon greeting one another and giving gifts on special occasions. The gifts need not be expensive. They are tokens of love.

Kenyan Food

The country’s food has been influenced by its early settlers. The Kenyans enjoy the flavors of Asia, Europe and the Middle East in their cuisine. The following ten popular dishes are the specialty of the country.

Ugali

Ugali is a cake made from millet or maze flour. It is semi-hard in consistency and is usually accompanied by meat or vegetables.

Nayama Choma

One of the most popular dishes of Kenya is Nayama Choma. It is prepared by roasting beef or mutton over fire. It is served with vegetables of Ugali for a perfect meal.

Sukuma Wiki

It is a stew prepared from leafy green vegetables. Sukuma Wiki is served with a variety of other Kenyan dishes.

Kachumbari

It is a kind of salad made from chopped vegetables including tomatoes, onions, coriander and pepper. The dish is seasoned with lemon juice. It is common to serve Kachumbari with Ugali and Nayama Choma.

Pilau

This savory rice dish has originated from the Asian Subcontinent. It is prepared using Indian spices and is served on special Kenyan occasions.

Wali

A popular dish of the tribe of Siwahili, Wali is prepared from boiled rice and coconut milk.

Samosa

Samosa is a popular snack prepared from filling dough with meat or vegetables and deep frying it. This snack is also a popular savory delight of the Asian subcontinent from where it has originated.

Ingho

It is a popular dish prepared by the Luhya tribe of Kenya. Ingho consists of chicken and is a very special meal which is served in honor of guests.

Karanga

The Kenyans enjoy Karanga with rice or Ugali. It is a stew prepared from meat and potatoes.

Githeri

Githeri is a popular meal enjoyed by the tribes of Kamba and Kikuyu. To prepare the dish, maize and beans are mixed together and fried with onions.

Kenyan Festivals

Different religious and cultural festivals are celebrated in Kenya at different times of the year. Some of the most popular festivals of the country are described below.

Lamu Festival

Lamu is a cultural festival celebrated every year on the island of Lamu. It is mostly held in November to celebrate customs, beliefs, traditions, the past and the future which define Kenya. The festival includes several fun activities including henna painting for women, dhow sailing, Swahili poetry and donkey racing. Traditional Swahili dishes are also prepared. Foreigners visiting the country during this festival should definitely observe the activities in order to get an understanding of Kenya’s traditions and way of living.

Mombasa Carnival

Kenya’s most popular festival, the Mombasa carnival is held every year in the month of November. The activities are held in Mombasa which is deemed as East Africa’s cultural hub. Both Arabian and African cultures are depicted during the carnival through floats, dance performances, parades and music. Stalls are set up to sell souvenirs and special Kenyan dishes to foreign tourists and other visitors attending the carnival.

Lake Turkana Festival

The festival is held every year in May. It depicts a positive picture of the multicultural country, exhibiting the unity and peaceful co-existing of different tribes despite the variation in their customs and way of living. The festival represents ten tribes of the Lake Turkana region. The activities carried out during the festival include performances as well as demonstrations of the various ethnic tribes. Visitors can take a look at the huts, see the way of living of the locals, taste their food and enjoy their music, dances and arts and crafts.

Camel Derby Festival

This exciting festival is an international event which includes participants and audiences from different parts of the world. It is held annually in Samburu. The event involves camel racing, adventure and excitement. Participants or viewers visiting from other countries during the Camel Derby get the chance to experience the country’s cultural colors.

East African Arts Festival

The East African Arts Festival is held annually during spring in the month of March. It is hosted by the country’s capital, Nairobi. The festival continues for three days and involves art in various forms, such as theater, literature, fashion, music and traditional crafts. Participants as well as spectators gather from all around the world to be a part of this colorful festival.

Famous Landmarks

The country contains several famous landmarks which serve as tourist attractions. Discussed below are some of the most popular of these important places.

Nairobi National Park

Situated at the distance of only seven kilometers from the city of Nairobi, the Nairobi National Park was established in 1946. It consists of savannah sanctuary for a variety of interesting wildlife, including the black rhino, giraffes, lions, buffalos, hippos and leopards. Tourists can take a safari ride and enjoy the natural wildlife of the continent.

Malindi

Malindi introduces tourists to beautiful coral reefs and enthralling beaches of Kenya. The Malindi Marine National Park is a popular tourist attraction with fine beaches and colorful fish swimming around in clear waters. Visitors can indulge in several types of fun-yielding water sports, such as surfing, deep sea fishing and snorkeling.

Lamu Island

The Lamu Island in Kenya is pristine and beautiful. It is a part of the Lamu Archipelago. The century-old original beauty and charm of the island has been well-maintained by the Lamu Town.

Lake Nakuru

Located in central Kenya, Nakuru is a shallow lake. It houses the world’s greatest bird spectacle as millions of flamingos gather to feed on the abundant algae found on the lake.

Mount Kenya

The country’s namesake, Mt Kenya is the tallest mountain in the country and the second tallest mountain of the African continent. Its snow covered peaks and forest covered slopes offer a beautiful sight to the onlookers. The high summit is difficult to climb.

Kitum and Makingeny Caves

Mount Elgon in Kenya houses intriguing caves which extend up to 200 meters in length. The entrances to the caves have probably been dug out by animals like elephants during their salt digging activity. These entrances are breathtaking as they lie behind beautiful waterfalls.

There are many other beautiful natural landmarks in Kenya worth visiting for an adventurous trip. These include hills, savannahs, caves and waterfalls.

Informative Facts

Here are some random informative facts about the intriguing country.

  • Kenya has been named after the tallest mountain of the country – Mt Kenya. It rises to a height of 5,199 meters.
  • An excavation project carried out in 1984 at Lake Turkana unearthed the skeleton of a Turkana boy which was 1.6 million years old. It was the fossil of a hominid which brought some insight into Kenya’s pre-history.
  • The country’s official Independence Day is celebrated on the 12th of December and is known as the “Jamhuri Day”.
  • Foreign tourists can find it interesting to visit prehistoric sites situated in the interior of the country. One of such locations is Namoratunga which is an archaeoastronomical site situated on the western side of Lake Turkana. Another interesting site in found in Migori County.
  • The country’s capital is its largest city while the second largest city is Mombasa.
  • As of July 2014, Kenya’s approximate population is 45 million.
  • The world’s second largest lake – Lake Victoria – is found in Kenya and extends to Tanzania and Uganda.
  • Many large animals are found in the country. These include elephants, buffalos, lions, rhinoceros, lions and leopards.
  • Many Olympic champions have brought medals to Kenya by winning middle distance and long distance races.
  • The country has a high literacy rate of 85%.
  • Kenya’s industry is comprised of oil refinery, agricultural products and small consumer goods such as plastic and furniture.
  • The main agricultural products of the country are tea, coffee, wheat and corn.
  • Kenya exports tea, coffee, petroleum products, fish and horticulture products to different parts of the world.
  • Since it is located at the equator, the country experiences a hot climate throughout the year.
  • The Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Kenya is East Africa’s largest airport.
  • The first African woman to win a Noble Prize was Kenyan. She was Professor Maathai, an environmentalist who won the prize in 2004.
  • The country’s currency is shilling.
  • The largest amount of revenue generated by the country is from its export of coffee. The second biggest means of earning for Kenya is tourism.
  • Although it is one of the world’s major producers of coffee, most of the produce is exported and it is not a common beverage for the locals who mostly enjoy tea.

Indeed, Kenya is one of the most interesting countries of the world. Its diverse culture, intriguing pre-history and multiple natural landmarks make it one of the greatest tourist spots on the globe.