Top 50 interesting facts about Kenya and Kenyans
Kenya is a country in the equatorial part of East Africa that shares many similarities with its neighbours. But at the same time, it is a unique country with its own customs, history and culture. In our article, we have collected 50 fascinating facts about this country and its people, which will help to form a first impression and interestingly plan your holiday in Kenya.
50 most interesting facts about Kenyans and Kenya
So, let’s begin our journey through the history, traditions and sights of this amazing country.
1. Kenya is considered one of the ancient ancestral homelands of mankind. Traces of hominids living millions of years ago are constantly found here. The oldest traces of Kenyanthropus sites are found near Lake Rudolph.
2. The first modern people on the territory of the country were representatives of the Ethiopian race. It happened 10 thousand years ago. And 3–4 millennia ago, Bantu tribes came here.
3. In VII-VIII centuries A.D. the state of Swahili peoples began to form here, trade and crafts developed. The first settlements appeared on the place of the future cities of Mombasa, Lamu, Malindi.
4. The meeting with Europeans took place in 1498, when the Portuguese traveller and merchant Vasco da Gama landed in Kenya. The Portuguese soon began building forts to protect their trade routes.
5. In the 17th century, Kenya was invaded by the Arabs and became part of the Sultanate of Zanzibar for a long time. In the XIX century the country is under the protectorate of Germany, which in 1890 gives the country to Great Britain
6. The first capital of Kenya was Mombasa, but in 1905 the British moved the administrative centre to Nairobi. This city has remained the capital of the state ever since.
7. After a long and bloody war, Kenya gained independence from Britain in 1963.
8. The country has experienced several military coups and interethnic conflict in 2008, the effects of which are still being felt today.
9. Kenya today is one of the most highly developed countries in Africa, ranking 8th among nations across the continent in terms of economic performance.
10. The country got its name from a distorted word, Kere-Nyaga, which means «White Mountain» in the language of the Kikuyu tribe. This is how Mount Kenya is called here.
11. Kenya is currently home to about 50 million people of more than ten different nationalities. These are mostly Bantu and Nilotic ethnic groups. There are only 200,000 Europeans and Asians.
12. The country has two official languages – English and Swahili. Swahili is spoken by almost 90 per cent of the population. In addition, there are about 40 dialects spoken by different tribes in the country.
13. Kenya’s economy is traditionally based on agriculture. Local varieties of tea and coffee are especially famous.
14. A great role in the formation of the country was played by the development of tourism. Now almost 60% of GDP is given to the country by the service sector, where only 8% of the able-bodied population works.
15. Modern Kenyans in the majority are Christians, which is no small merit of missionaries who actively promoted their faith in the XIX century.
16. Kenya has one of the most advanced education systems in Africa. It provides for compulsory secondary schooling for all children. Thanks to this, almost 80 per cent of the population is literate.
17. But the state of medicine in the country is extremely low, even for Africa. There is a huge shortage of medical workers. On average, there is only one doctor or nurse per 10,000 people.
18. The capital of Kenya is the city of Nairobi. It is home to more than 5 million people and is considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. The beautiful and well-appointed city centre is surrounded by slums, where millions of poor people live.
19 The Portuguese Fort Jesus in Mombasa is one of the country’s major architectural landmarks. This huge stone fortress over the sea has long served as a reliable defence against both African tribes and Arabs. It now has a museum.
20. Not far from the city of Malindi in a dense forest are the ruins of the ancient Swahili city of Gedi. It had palaces, mosques and many houses. In the period of prosperity in the city lived several thousand inhabitants.
21. Another ancient city, Mnarani, is located in the Kilifi district. The remains of two mosques and many walls have been preserved there, and a snake park has been added nearby for tourists.
22. In the city of Malindi there is also a famous pillar, established according to legend by Vasco da Gama himself. This huge column over the sea has recently been restored. There is a chapel and a museum next to it.
23. The main natural attractions of the country include, firstly, national parks. Ambroseli Park remains the most popular among them.
Character and customs of Kenyans
24. The multi-ethnic composition of Kenyans is the reason why the customs and traditions of different places in the country differ significantly. There is no single culture that can characterise a Kenyan here.
25. It is difficult for the Kenyan people to identify a single national dress. Each tribe has its own notions of beauty and comfort. But the local outfits have one thing in common – they are all very bright and usually multicoloured.
26. But in the Masai tribe, men prefer to wear clothes of one, bright red colour. It symbolises blood and courage, as well as love for the land.
27. The customs of the Maasai are so original that they are worth mentioning separately. The Maasai are a semi-nomadic tribe that still adheres to their ancestral ways.
28. The Maasai live in small communities, each of which is headed by a chief. The chief is not only an experienced and skilful warrior, but also the owner of the largest herd of cows – the main wealth of the Maasai.
29. Polygamy is widespread among this tribe. A man can have several wives, and usually all of them are much younger than him. Women are engaged in housekeeping, and the man is the main prey.
30. This tribe has special ideas about female beauty. Their women specially pull out their earlobes to reach their shoulders and knock out their front teeth.
31. The cow is a sacred animal for the Maasai. They depend on cows for their survival. The Maasai even use cow’s blood to gain strength and wash themselves with cow’s urine.
32. Water is also of the greatest value to the Maasai. That is why they treat human body fluids with care. When greeting people, the Maasai may spit on their hand as a sign of special respect.
33. The most spectacular for tourists, Maasai customs are their dances. They necessarily include jumping on the spot. The higher the Maasai warriors jump, the more respect they have in the tribe and the more popular they are with women.
34. Among the Maasai, barbaric initiation rites, which consist in circumcising not only boys but also girls, are still widespread. Although the latter is legally prohibited within Kenya.
35. Another interesting Kenyan tribe is the Samburu. This is also a pastoralist tribe, but unlike the Maasai, the Samburu live in the north of the country and still build houses out of twigs and clay.
36. The Samburu are very fond of beaded jewellery, which they use to cover their whole body. And their men grow long braids of red colour, which they shave off only in old age.
37. Samburu also use jumping in their dances, but they also have a kind of round dance, when young men literally stomp around the girls, thus expressing their sympathy.
38. Patriarchy is also common among the Samburu, but they have special, purely female tribes. In such tribes, men are rare guests, and all power belongs to the council of the oldest women.
39. In most Kenyan tribes, the belief in pagan gods is still strong, and witchcraft and shamanism are considered common things that help to survive and defeat enemies.
40. Kenyan cuisine is not characterised by originality. Inexpensive dishes made of potatoes and rice with a lot of hot spices are favoured here. Spices help to avoid many infections common in the hot climate.
41. One of the most popular dishes among Kenyans is sukuma wiki, a mixture of various greens, potatoes, and pumpkin. The name of this dish translates to «stretch for a week» and it is cooked in large quantities and actually eaten for several days in a row.
Nature of Kenya
42. Kenya is a country on the equator. This imaginary line crosses the country almost in the middle. However, Kenya’s climate varies from sub-equatorial to tropical.
43. The country’s climate is divided into dry and rainy seasons. In the dry season, monsoons from the Indian Ocean blow, while in the rainy season, floods are common.
44. Along the coast of the Indian Ocean stretches the plains covered with savannah or mangroves. The central part of the country is occupied by plateaus.
45. An important relief element is the East African Rift, a fault in the Earth’s crust that divides Kenya’s plateaus in half. The rift forms a vast valley flanked by many dormant volcanoes.
46. The country’s highest point, Mount Kenya, is also an ancient volcano that erupted millions of years ago. It is 5199 metres high, and it often snows on its summit.
47. Kenya has many rivers and lakes, and on its western border is Lake Victoria, one of the largest lakes in the world. Its area is 68,000 square kilometres, but its average depth is only 40 metres.
48. The country has many picturesque waterfalls. The largest of them is Thompson Falls, near the town of Nyahururu. It is a whole cascade of waterfalls with a total height of more than 70 metres.
49. The nature of the country is amazing and diverse. Almost every animal in Africa can be found here. There are lions, hippos, elephants, giraffes, monkeys, crocodiles and others.
50. In order to preserve nature and biodiversity, 59 national parks have been established and operate in the country, more than in any other country in the world compared to the area.
Friends, if you know any more interesting facts about Kenyans, Maasai and Kenya, please share them in the comments. This country is full of amazing stories, culture and traditions and many people would love to learn something new. We will be very grateful to you!