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 it is also 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 that will help you get a first impression and plan your holiday in Kenya.
50 of the Most Interesting Facts About the 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 being found here. Near Lake Rudolph are the oldest traces of Kenyan anthropus sites.
2. The first modern people in the country were representatives of the Ethiopian race. This happened 10 thousand years ago. Bantu tribes arrived here 3-4 millennia ago.
3. In VII-VIII centuries A.D. the state of the Swahili peoples began to form here, trade and crafts developed. The first settlements appeared in the place of the future cities of Mombasa, Lamu, Malindi.
4. The encounter 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 19th century, the country was under the protectorate of Germany, which gave the country to Great Britain in 1890.
6. The first capital of Kenya was Mombasa, but in 1905 the British moved the administrative centre to Nairobi. Nairobi has remained the capital ever since.
7. After a long and bloody war, Kenya gained independence from Britain in 1963.
8. In 2008, the country experienced several military coups and inter-ethnic conflicts, the effects of which are still being felt today.
9. Kenya is now one of the most developed countries in Africa, ranking 8th in the continent in terms of economic output.
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 what Mount Kenya is called here.
11. Kenya is currently home to about 50 million people of more than ten different nationalities. These are mainly Bantu and Nilotic ethnic groups. There are only about 200,000 Europeans and Asians.
12. The country has two official languages – English and Swahili. Swahili is spoken by almost 90% of the population. There are also 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 particularly famous.
14. The development of tourism has played a major role in the country’s development. Now, almost 60% of the country’s GDP comes from the service sector, which employs only 8% of the working population.
15. The majority of modern Kenyans are Christians, which is no small merit of the missionaries who actively promoted their faith in the XIX century.
16. Kenya has one of the most advanced educational systems in Africa. It provides for compulsory secondary education for all children. As a result, almost 80 per cent of the population is literate.
17. But the level of medical care in the country is extremely low, even by African standards. There is a huge shortage of health workers. On average, there is only one doctor or nurse for every 10,000 people.
18. The capital of Kenya is the city of Nairobi. It is home to over 5 million people and is considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. The beautiful and well-equipped city centre is surrounded by slums where millions of poor people live.
Things to See in Kenya
19 The Portuguese Fort Jesus in Mombasa is one of the country’s most important architectural landmarks. This huge stone fortress over the sea has long served as a reliable defence against both African tribes and Arabs. It now houses a museum.
20. The ruins of the ancient Swahili city of Gedi lie in a dense forest not far from Malindi town. It had palaces, mosques and many houses. In its heyday, the city was home to several thousand people.
21. In Kilifi County is another ancient city, Mnarani. The remains of two mosques and many walls have been preserved there. A snake park has been added nearby for tourists.
22. In the town of Malindi there is also a famous pillar, which, according to legend, was built by Vasco da Gama himself. This huge column over the sea has recently been restored. Next to it is a chapel and a museum.
23. Among the country’s main natural attractions are the national parks. Ambroseli Park remains the most popular among them.
Character, Traditions and Customs of the Kenyans
24. The multi-ethnic composition of Kenyans is the reason why the customs and traditions of different parts of the country vary greatly. There is no single culture that can characterise a Kenyan.
25. It is difficult for Kenyans to identify a single national dress. Each tribe has its own ideas of beauty and comfort. But the local dresses have one thing in common – they are all very bright and usually multi-coloured.
26. But in the Maasai tribe, men prefer to wear clothes of a single bright red colour. It symbolises blood and courage, as well as love for the land.
27. The Maasai customs are so original that they are worth mentioning separately. The Maasai are a semi-nomadic tribe who still follow their ancestral ways.
28. The Maasai live in small communities, each headed by a chief. The chief is not only an experienced and skilful warrior, but also the owner of the largest herd of cattle – the Maasai’s main source of wealth.
29. Polygamy is common among this tribe. A man can have several wives, usually all much younger than himself. The women do the housework and the man is the main prey.
30. This tribe has special ideas about female beauty. Their women pull out their earlobes to reach their shoulders and knock out their front teeth.
31. The cow is a sacred animal to 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 great value to the Maasai. They are therefore careful with human bodily fluids. When greeting people, the Maasai may spit on their hand as a sign of respect.
33. The most spectacular Maasai customs for tourists are their dances. They necessarily involve 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 are still widespread, including the circumcision of girls as well as boys. The latter is legally prohibited in Kenya.
35. Another interesting Kenyan tribe is the Samburu. They are also pastoralists, but unlike the Maasai, the Samburu live in the north of the country and still build their houses from twigs and mud.
36. The Samburu are very fond of beadwork, which they use to cover their entire bodies. And their men grow long red braids, which they shave off only in old age.
37. The Samburu also use jumping in their dances, but they also have a kind of round dance where the young men literally stomp around the girls to show their sympathy.
38. Patriarchy is also common among the Samburu, but there are special all-female tribes. In such tribes, men are rare guests and all power belongs to the council of the eldest women.
39. In most Kenyan tribes, 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 known for its originality. Cheap dishes made from potatoes and rice with lots of hot spices are preferred. Spices help to prevent many infections that are common in the hot climate.
41. One of the most popular dishes among Kenyans is sukuma wiki, a mixture of greens, potatoes and pumpkin. The name of the dish translates to ‘stretch for a week’ and it is cooked in large quantities and eaten for several days in a row.
Nature of Kenya
42. Kenya is an equatorial country. 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 wet seasons. During the dry season, monsoons blow in from the Indian Ocean, while floods are common during the rainy season.
44. Plains covered with savannah or mangroves stretch along the Indian Ocean coast. The central part of the country is covered by plateaus.
45. A major feature of relief 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 snow often falls 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. It covers 68,000 square kilometres, but its average depth is only 40 metres.
48. The country has many picturesque waterfalls. The largest is Thompson Falls, near the town of Nyahururu. It is an entire cascade of waterfalls with a total height of more than 70 metres.
49. The country’s wildlife is amazing and diverse. Almost every animal in Africa can be found here. There are lions, hippos, elephants, giraffes, monkeys, crocodiles and more.
50. To conserve nature and biodiversity, 59 national parks have been established and are operating in the country, more than any other country in the world in relation to its 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!