Everything you wanted to know about Kenya but were too afraid to ask

ABOUT KENYA

HISTORY

Kenya is said to be the “Cradle of Mankind”. The remains and fossils of Kenyathropus found in the area west of lake turkana, and dating back over 2.6 million years, suggested that the protohumans roamed the area more than 20 million years ago. These remains found between 1998 – 1999 are stored at the national museums of Kenya.

The various Kenyan people, that is Bantus, Nilotes and Cushites, migrated from various parts of Africa. The Nilotes consisting of the Kalenjin, Maasai, Turkana, Teso and Luo, moved from West of Lake Turkana into Kenya. The Luos migrated from Southern Sudan to Uganda and settle on the shores of lake Victoria. From there they began spreading along the shores to Kisumu and Kano plains. The Maasai moved through the plains before settling in the Riftvalley area, the Swahili people had long settled along the Kenyan coast

Some Bantu split into two groups when moving into central Tanzania, settling between Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Indian Ocean. The first group migrated north forming the Taveta, Dawida and Akamba peoples. The second group moved along the coast into the hilltops behind the north coastline, becoming the Mijikenda. The third group moved westwards and settled in the Kenya Highlands, which become the Agikuyu, Aembu, Chuka, Tharaka and the Ameru.

The Portuguese explorer, Vasco Da Gama arrived in Kenya 1498. In 1593, Fort Jesus was built in Mombasa Harbour to defend the city from th seaside, and growing resistance from the Swahili people. The 200 years following Vasco Da Gama’s arrival are marked by the fights between the Portuguese and the Arabs and soon after the Portuguese left Kenya, and the region was thereafter controlled by the Sultan of Oman.

Dr Ludwig Krapf, a German missionary of the church missionary society of England, established the first Christian missionary of Kenya among the mijikenda on the coast in 1846.

In 1886, the European colonial powers divided Africa between themselves at a conference in Berlin. German and Britain were the main players in the control of East Africa. The Sultan of Oman was still granted a strip on the Coastline. At the time of the conference, 80% of Africa remained under traditional and local control. In 1895, Britain’s protectorate was formed and officially named British East Africa.

The railway built by Indian workers under British rule reached halfway through Kenya from Mombasa in 1898 and the city of Nairobi was founded a few years later. In 1901 the railway reached Kisumu (then port Florence). European and Indian settlers arrived in great numbers in East Africa. White settlers were favoured from the beginning and given influence on the management of the colony. This did not go down well with the locals who were forced to give up their land to the newcomers.

The first African political protest movement in Kenya against the government began in 1921 by the young Kikuyu Association, led by Harry Thuku. In preparation for efforts to gain freedom from the British rule, members of the Kikuyu, Embu, Meru and Akamba took oaths of unity and secrecy, thus the Mau Mau movement began in 1947. The British sent military expeditions against this movement to assert their authority. The fight to gain self-rule intensified with the deaths and detention of many heroes.

Among the notable heroes was Jomo Kenyatta, born Kamau wa Ngengi, who was charged with directing the Mau Mau movement. Jomo Kenyatta was arrested and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment, while dedan Kimathi was arrested and hanged for his role in the Mau Mau uprising as a field Marshall, after leading thousands of fighter in the struggle for independence.
Koitalel Arap Samoei, a diviner and Nandi leader prophesied that a black snake would tear through Nandi land spitting fire; this was later seen as the railway line. He fought against the builders of the railway line for ten years. As the British were determined to continue with the construction of the railway line, Samoei was eliminated
Mekatilili wa Menza resisted British attempts to eradicate Giriama traditional culture through the destruction of kaya, sacred forest shrines and places of worship. She led the Giriama people into a rebellion against the British. Mekatilili was later captured and exiled to western Kenya.

In 1962, the Lancaster constitutional conference was held in London, giving birth to the first Kenya constitution. Kenya finally achieved internal self-government on June 1st, 1963, now celebrated annually as Madaraka Day. On 12th December 1964 (now celebrated as Jamhuri day) Kenya was declared a republic with Jomo Kenyatta as the first president, a position he held until his death in 1978. The then vice-president Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi took over and ruled for 24yrs until December 2002 when he handled over the presidency to H.E. Mwai Kibaki after a general election.
According to the last census, Kenya has a population of over 45 million inhabitants and grows at an annual rate of approximately 1.6% whilst the life expectancy is just over 47yrs. Most of the Kenyans dwell in the rural areas, with the urban population at approximately 25%. The main tribes in kenya are Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kalenjin, Kamba, Kisii, Meru, Maasai, and Turkana. The rest comprise about 15% of the total Kenyan population, with the remaining 1% being non-Africans (Asians, Europeans and Arabs). The local languages still strongly exist, but Swahili is the national; language while English is the official language.

Though the two dominating religions are Anglican and Catholic, other protestant and evangelical churches, Muslims, hindus etc are to be found all over Kenya.
When traveling through Africa, you can be rest assured that you will always enjoy the comfort and hospitality you’ve come expecting. The warm welcome,a good night’s sleep, and a great breakfast. And while you enjoy the luxuries of our world-class hotels, we’ll go out of our way to make you feel at home. Because that’s just the way you like it

CUISINE
Kenya is very rich in traditional food, and there are several traditional dishes and varieties depending on the region. Maize and its various products form the basic food for up-country regions while rice is the main dish in the coastal region. The Maasai eat a lot of meat, while in the rift valley, milk is taken very liberally.

MUSIC

Popular music in Kenya encompasses a wide range of styles of both local and international origin. Among Kenyans, culture is one of the crucial factors in defining their music. Instruments used for traditional music include the African Drum (Ngoma), a variety of rattles and shakers, small harps, the wandindi (a kikuyu fiddle) and the nyatiti, which is widely used in western Kenya. The word ngoma (drum) is still used to describe most forms of traditional music and dance.
he 1960’s saw the arrival of both independence and the electric guitar, and the birth of modern Kenyan popular music. There were two definite influences, that is from the south Africa jazz and Zimbabwean “highlife” guitar work, and much more significantly, from the west, the distinctive rumba rhythm of Congolese pop. A hybrid form of music involved widely known as benga, which is fast and quite rhythmic.

ART AND CRAFT

The most popular items include Maasai bead jewellery and figurines, music instruments, gold and silver jewellery, soapstone sculptures, wooden carvings, tribal masks and paintings, as well as batiks and kikois – a traditional wraparound “kanga” used by both men and women. Kenyans are generally very gifted artists and these items mentioned above can be found throughout Kenya or at the galleries and art shops found in most parts of Keya. You can even get some artifacts from outside Kenya at the house of treasure.

ATHLETICS /SPORTS

Kenyans are very good long-distance runners winning most of the marathons in the world.

Climate

There are 2 rainy seasons, the long rains from March to may and the short rains in October and November.
On the plateau, the weather is hot and dry with temperatures during the day, between 25 degrees centgrades and 30 degrees centgrades all year-round. During the night, the temperatures can be as cool as 5 degrees centgrades during the months proceeding the short rains. Inland rainfall ranges from 500mm in the south to 250mm in the far north.

The climate is tropical on the Indian Ocean coast, humid and hot. The average rainfall in Mombasa is 1200mm and the average daily temperature ranges from 27 degrees Centgrades to 31 degrees centgrades..It is very dry in the north and northeast of Kenya

Beaches, Sea and Marine Life

Kenya has a coastline of approximately 536 km fronting the Indian Ocean, with beautiful beaches in the world, from white sandy beaches to some of the most diverse marine life in the Oceans. The beautiful bright corals (soft and hard) are abundant as well as dolphins, butterfly fish, sharks and turtles.

The colorful beauty of the coral, compliment by the large number of yellow and red tuna and snappers are unmatched.

The startling contracts of the landscape and the outstanding nature of Kenya must be seen to be believed. From the Savannah in the south, the deserts of the north, to Lake Victoria- the 2nd largest fresh water lake in the world-in the west, the tropical beaches in the east, and the snow capped peaks of Mount Kenya has a great variety to offer even the most demanding visitor. The country boasts more than 80 major species of animals and over 1000 species of birds.

In Maasai Mara, southwest of Nairobi, you can find the most of the animals found in Kenya, including the “Big Five”-the Elephant, the Rhino, the Buffalo, the Leopard and the Lion, as well as the Hippo and Crocodile, Giraffes and numerous species of antelopes and birds among others.

Lake Nakuru National Park, northwest of Nairobi is home to thousands of Flamingoes, the White Rhino, the Lion, and the water as well as other antelopes. It is one of the best chances to see the Leopard as well as the endangered Rothschild Giraffe.

Samburu National Reserves situated north of Nairobi above the Equator. It is Home to Species unique to this park, the Gerenuk – also known as “giraffe necked antelope” due to its long neck adapted for browsing the high bushes. Also the Grevy’s Zebra by having stripes that do not go all the way under its bell. Most felines can be found as well as 365 species of the birds.
Nairobi National Park just outside the city center, most animals can be found including the Black Rhino, with over 400 species of birds. One major animal not found here is the Elephant due to the close proximity of inhabitants of the city of Nairobi.

Tsavo National Park is divided into two, the east and the west and is located southwest of Nairobi. Here, Rhinos, Elephants, Warthogs, Baboons and Hyenas roam freely.
Apart from these, there are numerous other national reserves where game viewing is premium; Lake Baringo, with Hippos, Crocodiles, Fish eagles as well as Pelicans. Aberdare and Mount Kenya has dense forests and a great variety of Monkeys, Amboseli is famous for its big game and its great scenic beauty-the landscape is dominated by Mount Kilimanjaro.
The wide range of altitudes and the variations in climate influences the flora of Kenya. Acacias predominate in the Maasai Mara, the low lying areas are home to the baobab, an expansive branching tree that stands out in the grasslands. As elevations increase over 300 Mts. forests of the hardwood and evergreen thrive. As you climb into the mountains over 2000 mts, some areas are covered with dense groves of bamboo, cedar and junipers. Bright orchids and flowering creepers co-exist among the trees. Along the coast mangrove predominate growing in the salty water and sandy soil of the swamps.

Kenya produces cut flowers almost exclusively for export, supplying 97% of its 40 types of flowers to European countries, Carnation, Statice, alstromeria and the roses are the most predominant flowers grown, mostly in the fertile lands surrounding Lake Naivasha. Kenya is the only place in the world that can produce best straight rose stems.

Useful Information

ENTRY

Kenya is well served in terms of airports; it has 3 international Airports and numerous airstrips in strategic areas of the country. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Moi International Airport in Mombasa and Eldoret are the international Air ports.

The road from the neighboring countries; Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia can also access Kenya. Immigration should be processed at designated border stations.
Entry by sea is also possible through the Port facility in Mombasa. Immigration should be processed at the port.

DEPARTURES

In addition to the other security checks, all outgoing baggage is the subject to inspection by Custom Officers. Airport departure tax is payable on departure. Please ensure that you arrive at the boarding gate at 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time. You can check the flight information screens for the boarding time and gate number.

VISAS AND CUSTOMS

Visitors wishing to enter Kenya must obtain a visa from the Kenyan Consulate or the Embassy abroad, at the Airport at the arrival lounge or at the frontiers. Personal items are not subject to tax but you may need to declare other items.

HEALTH

Well-equipped clinics and hospitals are available in the main tourist areas. However, it is available when visiting areas outside urban areas to pack a small medical kit that includes any basic remedies you may need, such as antacids, painkillers, antihistamines and cold remedies. Like any traveler, it is also advisable to take vaccines as recommended by the Doctor. Malaria is prevalent in some areas of the country. The most suitable choice of Malaria prevention/medication depends on many individual factors, and travelers need professional advice about the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

USEFUL INFORMATION

The electrical current is 240V and the sockets are 3-pin (like UK)

WATER

Tapwater is relatively safe to drink in urban areas, principally in Nairobi and mombasa. If in doubt, high quality bottled water is readily available.

DRIVING

Traffic drives on the left and all major roads are paved. A full British driving license is valid, otherwise an international driving permit is required. For further details, apply to the registrar of motor vehicles in Nairobi.

TRANSPORTATION

Commercial and chartered fights are available from the major towns in Kenya to the main tourist areas. Train services operate between Nairobi and Mombasa as well as Nairobi and Kisumu. There are also normal bushes running through Kenya. Local public transport, known as matatu, is also available in most routes within and out of town.

LANGUAGE

Swahili is the national language and English is the official language. There are over 32 ethnic languages spoken, the most known being Kikuyu, Luo, Luhya, Kamba and Kalenjin. The urban youth have developed Sheng’ which is derived from a combination of the above languages.

CREDIT CARDS

Majority of restaurants and hotels accept most credit cards. Traveler’s cheques are also accepted. several cash dispensers (ATMs)are in Nairobi as well as other major towns and cities.

CURRENCY

The national currency is the Kenyan shilling (KSH or /=). The easiest currencies to exchange are US dollars, pounds sterling and the Euro. Due to frequent alterations in exchange rates, the prevailing exchange rate should be obtained from the bank. Currency may be exchanged at banks and bureau de change or authorized hotels. Banks are open from 9.00a.m. to 3.00p.m. Monday to

Friday. Some branches open on Saturdays from 9.00a.m. to 11.00a.m.

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
Jan. 1 …………. New year’s Day
Mar 25 ………… Good Friday (dates may change)
Mar 28 …………. Easter Monday (dates may change)
Jun 1…………….. Madaraka Day
Oct 20 ……………. Mashujaa Day
Nov. 3 ……………. Idd ul-fitri and Ramadhan (dates may change depending on sighting of the moon)
Dec 12 …………… Independence(Jamhuri) day
Dec 25/26 ………… Christmas

POSTAL SERVICES

The Kenyan postal services have offices spread around the country and provides good quality service. There are also international couriers based around Kenya that offer fast delivery of important packages.

TELEPHONES

One fixed telephone operator (Telkom Kenya) and four mobile telephone operators (Safaricom, Orange, Yu and Airtel) provide good internal and external Telecommunication Services. If you have a mobile phone with a roaming connection, then you are at home with Kenya’s excellent cellular networks, which covers most towns and tourist areas. The international calling code to Kenya +254 followed by the area code.

INTERNET AND EMAIL

Most hotels and lodges offer email and internet access services. In most towns, the services are available in cyber cafes and private business centers. Free WI-FI is available in most hotels and lodges

EMERGENCY TELEPHONE NUMBERS

999 – police, ambulance and fire stations

LOCAL TIME

GMT + 3HRS in winter; GMT + 2hrs in Summer.

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