Kenya lies across the equator in east-central Africa, on the coast of the Indian Ocean. It is twice the size of Nevada. Kenya borders Somalia to the east, Ethiopia to the north, Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west, and Sudan to the northwest. In the north, the land is arid; the southwest corner is in the fertile Lake Victoria Basin; and a length of the eastern depression of the Great Rift Valley separates western highlands from those that rise from the lowland coastal strip.
Paleontologists believe people may first have inhabited Kenya about 2 million years ago. In the 700s, Arab seafarers established settlements along the coast, and the Portuguese took control of the area in the early 1500s. More than 40 ethnic groups reside in Kenya. Its largest group, the Kikuyu, migrated to the region at the beginning of the 18th century.
The land became a British protectorate in 1890 and a Crown colony in 1920, called British East Africa. Nationalist stirrings began in the 1940s, and in 1952 the Mau Mau movement, made up of Kikuyu militants, rebelled against the government. The fighting lasted until 1956.
Traditional Kenyan foods reflect the many different lifestyles of the various groups in the country. Most Kenyan dishes are filling and inexpensive to make. Staple foods consist mainly of corn, maize, potatoes, and beans. The Maasai, cattle-herding peoples, eat simple foods, relying on cow and goat by-products.
The Kikuyu and Gikuyu grow corn, beans, potatoes, and greens. They mash all of these vegetables together to make irio. They roll irio into balls and dip them into meat or vegetable stews. In western Kenya, the people living near Lake Victoria mainly prepare fish stews, vegetable dishes, and rice.
There are two national dishes: ugali and nyama choma. Maize (corn) is the main ingredient of ugali, which is thick, similar to porridge. Many Kenyans eat this on a daily basis. Ugali is usually eaten with meat, stews, or sukuma wiki, which literally translates to "stretch the week." This means that the food is used to stretch meals to last for the week. Sukuma wiki is a combination of chopped spinach or kale fried with onions, tomatoes, green pepper, and leftover meat, if available. The traditional way of eating ugali is to pinch off a piece of the dough, shape it into a scoop by pressing and indenting the dough with the thumb, then using it to scoop sauces or stew.
Nyama choma is roasted or grilled meat. The process of grilling meat in Kenya is different from that done in the United States. Basting and the use of herbs and seasonings are not used in most Kenyan dishes. When eating nyama choma at a restaurant, the diner chooses from a selection of meat. It is grilled plain and served sliced into bite-sized pieces. It is often served with mashed vegetables.
There are about 37 different ethnic groupings in Kenya but no single culture that identifies it.
Kenya is known as the cradle of mankind. It is here that we humans are closest to our roots. Kenya's indigenous peoples are the Bantu and the Nilotic. The arrival of Islamic traders around the 9th century profoundly influenced Kenya's peoples and culture. They brought with them a religion, a language and the dreaded slave trade. The mixture of cultures gave birth to the Africa-Arab culture known as the Swahili who reside mainly on the coast.
Other notable peoples include pastoralist communities in the north, and several different communities in the central and western regions. The Maasai culture is well known because of tourism, despite being a minor percentage of the Kenyan population. They are renowned for their elaborate upper body adornment and jewellry.
Kenya has a diverse assortment of popular music forms, with multiple types of folk music based on the variety over 40 regional languages. Guitar rhythms are very complex and include both native beats and imported ones especially from neighbouring African countries. Lyrics are most often in Swahili or Lingala.
Malaria is prevalent in all areas except Nairobi. We recommend that any travellers to Kenya take anti-malerial medication. You should consult your physician before travel. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid and Yellow Fever vaccinations are also recommended prior to travel.
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10,169 sq mi (26,338 sq km)
12,337,138 (growth rate: 2.63%)