General Information About Kenya
Kenya is the most powerful economy of East Africa and is also a middle income country with a fast growing middle class, however, it is still a developing country, and so certain aspects of the country's society and infrastructure may come as a shock to some visitors from developed countries who are unfamiliar with the quality of life experienced by many Kenyans. Socio - economic inequalities are also observable, with many middle to upper class Kenyans living moderately affluent lifestyles while many other lower income Kenyans live in squalor.
Although made up of many diverse ethnic groups and tribes, Kenyans have strong sense of national pride which may be due in part to unity in the struggle for Uhuru (Kiswahili: "freedom") – independence from British colonial rule, achieved in 1963. Most Kenyans seem optimistic about the country's future. Kenyans understandably pursue the business opportunities offered by tourism with a zeal that may be off putting to some visitors, but are usually open, talkative and friendly once business matters have been settled.
Although foreign visitors are now a common sight in many parts of the country, there still exist vast areas off the beaten track where a white or yellow face will attract cries of "Mzungu! Mzungu!" (Kiswahili: "white person") from local children. Visitors to these areas should think especially carefully about the long term effects of their visit on the local community, and should for example avoid giving out sweets or money without restraint – playing with children, or talking to and helping villagers will yield far better results than merely giving out handouts.
Kenya has a tropical climate moderated by altitude. It's hot and humid at the coast, temperate inland, and very dry in the north and northeast parts.
Kenya receives a great deal of sunshine all the year round and summer clothes are worn throughout the year. However, it is usually cool at night and early in the morning. Also, because Nairobi and many highland towns are at a high altitude, it can be quite cold even during the day between June and August with temperatures sometimes dropping into single digit territory (celsius).
The long rain season occurs from April to June. The short rain season occurs from October to December. The rainfall is sometimes heavy and often falls in the afternoons and evenings. The hottest period is from February to March and the coldest from July to August.
It's always a good idea to check the weather forecast, as this can help you plan in advance.
The annual animal migration - especially migration of the wildebeest - occurs between June and September with millions of animals taking part and has been a popular event for film makers to capture.
Kenya Culture and History
The majority of Kenyan’s are of East African decent although there are people with Arabic, Indian and European heritage, stemming from the Moorish and British periods of colonization. Modern Kenya is proudly African with food, music, customs and dress that are an interesting blend of traditional, Arabic and European elements. Much of the population is Christian so many of the rituals revolve around religious cycles.
Kenya has been inhabited by people ever since human history began. Tribal hunter gatherer groups were the first to populate the area, followed by a farming civilization from the Horn of Africa and the agriculturalists from Sudan. Around 100 AD Bantu speaking farmers from Nigeria brought ironworking to the area. Arab and Persian traders set up settlements and built mosques along the coast in the 8th century.
Arabs founded the independent city states of Mombasa, Malindi and Zanzibar on the coast in the 10th century, blending linguistic and cultural elements with the Bantu. By the 15th century, Mombasa was a major and prosperous port. Over the next 300 years, 90 percent of the natives of the Swahili coast were enslaved and sold by Arab traders, mainly to Europeans.
The Imperial British East Africa company took hold of Kenya in 1890 and began building railways using mostly Indian laborers, many of whom went on to settle in Africa. Resistance from locals resulted in the first reserves being established to keep difficult tribes out of the way. The highlands of the interior were created by European coffee and tea farmers, who became wealthy, with about 30,000 white settlers living in the area by 1930, displacing the original natives.
Queen Elizabeth II was holidaying in Kenya when her father died in 1952. A Mau Mau rebellion against British rule lasted from that year until 1959 when the African loyalist Home Guard launched an offensive that resulted in over four thousand deaths and the removal of many supporters. The loyalist Africans were rewarded with land grants.
The Kenya African National Union (KANU) gained power via election in 1957. The country gained independence at the end of 1963 with the establishment of a new constitution and a war against factions who wanted to join Somalia. Since the death of the first elected president, Jomo Kenyatta, in 1978, Daniel arap Moi was chosen president three times under a single party constitution until 1998 when undemocratic elections Daniel arap Moi was re-elected, and again in 1997. Moi was constitutionally unable to stand again in 2002, and opposition leader Mwai Kibai of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) was elected president in 2003 in what was regarded a free and fair election.
Kenya is a culturally diverse nation made up of different tribal groups, each with distinct languages, dress, music, and food. Some of the better known tribes include the coastal Swahili people and Maasai warriors in the wildlife rich grasslands. As much as a quarter of the population belongs to farming communities in the north.
The Kenyans have a family and community oriented culture, influenced by African traditions and the colonial period, most notably Catholicism. They are creative and artistic and the nation has produced a number of notable writers and musicians and has a well developed cultural scene with television, theater, music, dance and the visual arts well represented. Kenya’s colorful festivals are a good way for visitors to gain insight into aspects of the country’s traditions.