Introduction to Kenya
Did you know that Kenya is a multilingual country? People speak there at least 3 languages!
It is also good to know that everybody drives on the left-hand side of the road and there are only two seasons.
For more information about Kenya, please read the sections below!
Country local name: Republic of Kenya/Jamhuri ya Kenya
Government type: republic
Time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
Independence: 12 December 1963 (from the UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 12 December (1963); Madaraka Day, 1 June (1963); Mashujaa Day, 20 October (2010)
Ethnic groups: Kikuyu 22%, Luhya 14%, Luo 13%, Kalenjin 12%, Kamba 11%, Kisii 6%, Meru 6%, other African 15%, non-African (Asian, European, and Arab) 1%
Languages: English (official), Kiswahili (official), numerous indigenous languages
Religions: Christian 82.5% (Protestant 47.4%, Catholic 23.3%, other 11.8%), Muslim 11.1%, Traditionalists 1.6%, other 1.7%, none 2.4%, unspecified 0.7% (2009 census)
Terrain: low plains rise to central highlands bisected by Great Rift Valley; fertile plateau in west
Elevation extremes: Lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
Highest point: Mount Kenya 5,199 m
Natural resources: limestone, soda ash, salt, gemstones, fluorspar, zinc, diatomite, gypsum, wildlife, hydropower
Agriculture – products: tea, coffee, corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruit, vegetables; dairy products, beef, fish, pork, poultry, eggs
Industries: small-scale consumer goods (plastic, furniture, batteries, textiles, clothing, soap, cigarettes, flour), agricultural products, horticulture, oil refining; aluminium, steel, lead; cement, commercial ship repair, tourism
Exports: tea, horticultural products, coffee, petroleum products, fish, cement
Shopping hours: Shops are open Monday-Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm.
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhoea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vector-borne disease: malaria, dengue fever, and Rift Valley fever
water contact disease: schistosomiasis
animal contact disease: rabies (2013)
Climate: varies from tropical along coast to arid in interior
Natural hazards: recurring drought; flooding during rainy seasons
Kenya lies on the equator and consequently has a very pleasant tropical climate with the average temperature between 20°C (68°F) and 28°C (82°F) during the day. The weather will be warmer and wetter by the coast, while the lowlands will be hotter and drier. Of course, the highlands are colder. Generally speaking, Kenya is a country, which is worth visiting throughout the year.
The best time for seeing wildlife falls between June and October (dry season). If you want to go on safari in Kenya, you can choose this destination between January and the end of March. The hottest months are between December and March. The wet season is between mid-March and June and from October to December.
Kenya can boast excellence of many dishes. The main ingredients are superb quality meat, tropical fruit, vegetables and a local freshwater fish. Kenya’s cuisine is also famous for rice and seafood curriers with coconut milk, tamarind or spicy aromas.
The most popular dish for breakfast is Uji (a thin porridge) or some kind of bread – usually a tape of flat bread (a chapatti of Indian origin). Sometimes mahamri is served with coconut milk (a heavier fried bread). You can also try kumaras and yams, which are potatoes.
Let’s find out more about specialities!
Ugali is a stiff, cornmeal porridge, usually eaten with a meaty stew (supu), various kinds of spinach and beans. Nyama choma is a roast meat served with a spicy tomato relish. Sukuma Wiki is made from spinach and tomatoes, sometimes includes meat, potatoes and other ingredients. Irio is a mixture of green peas, potatoes, kernels of corn and meat or only with Sukuma Wiki. Kachumbari is a potato and onion relish served with meat. Mandazi is a puffy, sweet or savoury, deep-fried doughnut. Tilapia is a popular freshwater fish. Biryani and Pilau are mixed rice dishes, made with spices, meat or vegetables. Matoke (also known as Matooke or Batoke) is a plantain banana dish. You can taste a lot more of delicious dishes, but we want to introduce you the last dish, which is Maharagwe – kidney beans in coconut soup.
Most known beverages are chai (tea with milk and sugar) and kahawa (coffee). You can also enjoy good beer. Tusker, Pilsner, Safari and White Cap are the main local brands. You can also try Uki, which is a traditional beer made with honey. Wine is popular, too. Naivasha is a place with a small viniculture industry.
Changaa is a spirit made from maize and sugar. Dawa Cocktail is a mix of vodka, white rum, honey and lime juice. Kenya Cane is white rum and Kenya Gold is coffee liqueur.
SOME LINGUISTIC CURIOSITIES
· Most of Kenyan people speak at least 3 languages. There are a total of 68 languages spoken in the country including two official languages: English and Swahili.
· Kenya is called ‘Jamhuri y Kenya’ in Swahili.
· Swahili is called ‘Kiswahili’.
· The name Kenya comes from Mount Kenya, which is the highest mountain in the country and stands tall at 17058 feet (5,199 m).
SAYINGS AND SLANG PHRASES
Jambo, habari? – Hello, how are you?
Niaje buda? – How are you man? (slang)
Karibu – Welcome
Asante – Thank you
Naomba Kupiga picha – Can I take a photo?
Ngapi – How much?
Subiri! – Wait a moment!
Ndiyo – Yes
Hapana – No
Tafadhali sema polepole – Speak slowly, please.
Poa – Good
Sawa – Ok
Pole – Sorry
U mzima? – Are you all right?
Yule mse ni Sonko – That guy is rich.
Nipe mkwanja – Give me money.
Sina Dau – I don’t have money.
· Kenyans are very friendly, polite and hospitable.
· Shaking hands is the customary form of greeting and maintaining eye contact helps you to build trust. Kenyans usually show their politeness through asking ‘Jambo?’ (‘How are you?) immediately after greeting.
· Families are often very big including even the extended family. Family members have great respect for each other and family has huge value.
· Address people using ‘Mr.’, ‘Mrs.’, ‘Ms.’ or ‘Miss’ and the surname.
· Punctuality is especially important on business meetings and appointments.
· Avoid pointing with a finger and displays of affection in public.
· Kenyans like a conservative style of clothes.
· Small, practical gifts are acceptable. Be careful with buying alcohol. Make sure that the host drinks.
· Remember to wash your hands before eating and after eating.
· Don’t use your left hand while eating.
· Always ask about permission before photographing someone.
· Never smoke while you are on a safari.
· Take off your shoes before entering someone’s house.
Masai Mara National Reserve is one of the top destinations in Kenya. The area covers 1,800 square kilometres and is located in the Great Rift Valley. Home to 95 species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and over 400 birds species including the big five (buffalo, leopard, rhino, elephant, lion). It is visited by thousands of tourists, offering an incredible spectacle - the “Great Migration”, which falls between July and October. Then around a million animals such as wildebeest, zebras and Thomson's gazelles migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania. You can even try hot balloon flights and admire views from the height.
Diani Beach is the most wonderful beach south of Mombasa, which is situated on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya. The beach is about 10 km, lined by a string of hotels where every room has an ample private veranda overlooking the ocean, there are also high-class restaurants, shops and obviously a long stretch of palms and other indigenous bush. The place is crowded by honeymooners, party people, backpackers, sunbathers, families and water sports enthusiasts, so everybody will find place for themselves.
Nairobi is the capital city of Kenya and is the largest city in East Africa. The name comes from a phrase Enkare Nairobi, which translates to ‘cool water’. The city is fabulous for its colourful colonial history, that is why you should visit the Nairobi National Museum. The Daphne Sheldrick’s Elephant and Rhino Orphanage and the Nairobi National Park are both well worth a visit also. Moreover, other main places of interest are Giraffe Center, Uhuru Gardens, Karen Blixen Museum, Kazuri Bead Factory and Pottery Centre. They are a must-see!
Lake Nakuru National Park is famous for its millions of pink flamingos. It is located in the Rift Valley of Kenya, just a two hours drive from Nairobi. You can expect to see up to 450 species of birds such as yellow-billed storks, pelicans, spoonbills and much more, also other wildlife and protected animals such as Bohor reed-buck, black and white rhinos, hippos, defassa waterbucks, buffaloes, Rothschild giraffes, pythons, lions or hyenas. The coming back of flocks of flamingos, is often called the greatest bird spectacle on earth, you can’t miss it!
The Lamu Archipelago is located in the northern Kenya’s coast and consists of many islands and islets including two main islands: Lamu Island and Manda Island. You can enjoy sounds of peace and silence, swim with dolphins or snorkel on pristine reefs.
Lamu Town is the oldest living town in Kenya, characterized by no roads, just alleyways and footpaths. People move about on foot, by donkey or by boat. The place has very unique character and you can feel like you are stepping back in time. You can also visit there the Lamu Museum and the Swahili House Museum.
Tsavo National Park is one of the largest parks in the world and the largest national park in Kenya. It occupies 21,000 square kilometres. Because of the enormous area the park was divided into two parks: Tsavo West and Tsavo East. Both are very spectacular and ideal to unwind. The Tsavo East has much more open savannah and bush woodland while Tsavo West is wetter and has impressive volcanic scenery.
Amboseli National Park is situated in Loitoktok District, Rift Valley Province of Kenya, and covers 329 square kilometres (39,206 hectares, 151 sq mi). The name means ‘salty dust’. The park is famous for its wildlife, especially elephant, cheetah Maasai, lion, leopard, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, waterbuck, gazelle and over 370 species of birds. All of this you can admire on the backdrop of Africa’s best views of Mt Kilimanjaro (5895m).
Mount Kenya National Park is located in the Central Highlands and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is Africa’s second highest peak with the 4986 m (16 358 ft) above sea level. The national park has amazing scenery, consists of glaciers, mineral springs, an extinct volcano, lakes and forests. It is a perfect place for climbers and trekkers, but also for tennis and golf players or fisherman. Above all, it is worth visiting only for its breath-taking scenary.
Mombasa is the second largest city in Kenya, located on the Eastern coastline of Kenya and it’s actually a multicultural tourist magnet. It is a place for history buffs, beach lovers, snorkels, families and everybody who is interested in walking among asymmetrical streets, watching dolphins, admiring intricate mosques and temples or trying deep-sea fishing.
Other places which you must see, just to name a few, are Malindi (125 km north of Mombasa), Watamu, Meru National Park, Lake Victoria, Funzi Island, Shaba National Reserve, the Tana Delta, Samburu Game Park and much more.