Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa. Lying along the Indian Ocean to its southeast and at the equator, it is bordered by Somalia to the northeast, Ethiopia to the north, South Sudan to the northwest, Uganda to the west and Tanzania to the south. Lake Victoria is situated to the southwest, and is shared with Uganda and Tanzania. With its capital city in Nairobi, Kenya has numerous wildlife reserves containing thousands of animal species. It has a land area of 580,000 km2 and a population of nearly 39 million residents, representing many different peoples and cultures. The country is named after Mount Kenya, a significant landmark and second among Africa’s highest mountain peaks.
Kenya is a country of 47 districts, each with its own government semi-autonomous to the central government in the capital, Nairobi. The country’s geography is as diverse as its people. It has a long coastline along the Indian Ocean and as you advances inland the landscape changes to savannah grasslands, arid and semi-arid bushes. The central regions and the western parts have forests and mountains while the northern regions are near desert landscapes.
At 580,367 km2 (224,081 sq mi), Kenya is the world’s forty-seventh largest country (after Madagascar). It lies between latitudes 5°N and 5°S, and longitudes 34° and 42°E. From the coast on the Indian Ocean, the low plains rise to central highlands. The highlands are bisected by the Great Rift Valley; a fertile plateau lies in the east. The Kenyan Highlands comprise one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa. The highlands are the site of the highest point in Kenya (and the second highest in Africa): Mount Kenya, which reaches 5,199 m (17,057 ft) and is the site of glaciers. Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 m/19,341 ft) can be seen from Kenya to the South of the Tanzanian border.
Kenya’s climate varies from tropical along the coast to temperate inland to arid in the north and northeast parts of the country. The country receives a great deal of sunshine all the year round, and summer clothes are worn throughout the year. It is usually cool at night and early in the morning inland at higher elevations. The “long rains” season occurs from March/April to May/June. The “short rains” season occurs from October to November/December. The rainfall is sometimes heavy and often falls in the afternoons and evenings. The temperature remains high throughout these months of tropical rain. The hottest period is February and March, leading into the season of the long rains, and the coldest is in July and August.
Kenya has no single culture that identifies it. With such diverse regional peoples such as the Swahili along the coast, several pastoralist communities mainly in the North and the different communities in Central and Western regions, having a mutually acceptable cultural identification is difficult.
There are about 42 different ethnic groupings in Kenya – each of these with its own unique culture, but majority of them with intertwining cultural practices brought about by the close resemblance in the languages, the similar environment and physical proximity of the ethnic groups. The ethnic groups are grouped into larger sub-groups – based on their cultural and linguistic similarities. There are three major unifying categories of languages: the Bantu speaking people of the Coastal region, the Central Highlands and the Western Kenya Region, The Nilotes who are mainly found in the Great Rift Valley and the Lake Victoria Region and the Cushites who are mainly composed of pastoralists and nomads in the drier North Eastern part of the country. Of note is that these sub-groups span a vast area of not just Kenya, but the East, Central and Southern African Region as a whole.
The Kikuyu tribe wears these bright red dresses with brown belts with many beaded necklaces for special rituals.
The Maasai culture owes its widespread identification to the tourist industry.
Historical and current politics of division practiced first by the colonizers and then by subsequent community leaders has led to a situation where Kenyans themselves barely know their own culture let alone that of their neighbours. The colonial administration in partnership with missionary activities and formal education wiped out most cultural practices leaving a gap that was filled by Western cultural attitudes and identification especially by the youth.
The recent attempts at coming up with a national dress testifies to the difficult nature of Kenyans’ cultural identity. The top-down formula employed rendered the entire process irrelevant as it only involved the urban areas hence the better educated and wealthier segments of society. The result was basically a restricted set of pre-approved national dresses and outfits with questionable aesthetic appeal to the majority of Kenyans.