Introduction

Kenya lies on the eastern coast of the African continent, located right along the equator. Its coastal area lies to the southeast, Somalia to the east, Ethiopia to the north, Sudan to the northwest, and Uganda to the west.

Kenya is the center of all adventure travel in Africa, with one of the best - and without a doubt the most popular- safari destinations in the world. Safari, however, is not the only reason to visit Kenya, because there is a very rich culture and fascinating surroundings as well. There are many wonderful beaches and enough water-based activities to keep any visitor busy. The mountains offer a challenge to hikers and climbers, and the rolling hills are a game-viewer's haven. Kenya has a very well organized tourism infrastructure, with the two largest cities enjoying the majority of the tourist trade. Nairobi, the capital, is the safari and hiking hub, situated in the cool Central Highlands, with all the contemporary amenities of a major city; and on east coast there's Mombasa, the second largest city, functioning as the gateway to the resorts and unspoiled beaches of the region.

People

Kenya has a diverse population that includes most of the major ethnic and linguistic groups of Africa. Rural farmers, Muslims, Christians, and urban residents of Nairobi and other cities contribute to rich contemporary culture. People have come to Kenya from a wide cross-section of society, and each day traditional tribes and city dwellers come together, bringing with them ancient customs and current sensibilities. Kenya's population is overwhelmingly comprised of people of African descent. The group is composed of over 70 diverse tribal groups. Among the most significant are the Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kalenjin, Kamba, Kisii, Meru, with other African and non-African (Asian, European, and Arab) making up the remaining 16%.

Geography

Kenya is the world's forty-seventh largest country, with a topography that varies from the coast on the Indian Ocean, to the low plains that rise to the central highlands. The highlands are divided by the Great Rift Valley; a rich plateau in the east. Kenya's diverse geography means that temperature, rainfall and humidity vary widely, though the temperature remains comfortably warm much of the year. Many parts of Kenya experience heavy rainfall from March through May, and to a lesser extent, from October through December. The best time for most outdoor activities, like safari and mountain climbing, is during the dry season, from June to September. The average annual rainfall is between 1000mm and 1250mm, and average temperatures vary little during the year, ranging from 22 - 30 degrees C.

History

The colonial history of Kenya dates from 1895, when the British government established the East African Protectorate, and opened the productive highlands to white settlers. During this time, Africans were prohibited from direct political participation until 1944. The "Mau Mau" rebellion against British colonial rule, from 1952-1959, placed Kenya under a state of emergency. African participation in the political process, at this point increased rapidly.

In December 1991, Parliament repealed the one-party section of the constitution, and by early 1992, several new parties had formed, with multiparty elections being held in December 1992. Moi won re-election as President in the December 1997 elections, but because of defections, had to depend on the support of minor parties to forge a working majority.

In October 2002, a coalition of opposition parties joined forces to form the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). In December 2002 the NARC candidate, Mwai Kibaki, was elected as the country's third President.

Today, though the country is plagued by constant stream of party infighting, corruption and economic setbacks, the road to reform has been established and people hoped that some progress will finally be made, such as with the new matatu regulations.

Famous Attractions

Safari:

Safari is the country's greatest attraction, with an outstanding variety of wild animals and unique viewing opportunities. Kenya's most popular park is the wildly attractive Masai Mara National Reserve, a game viewer's heaven with diverse wildlife, including the Big Five, the lion, leopard, buffalo, rhinoceros, and elephant. These are found in the extension of the Serengeti Plains of neighboring Tanzania.

Ballooning over the Masai Mara:

Masai Mara game viewing while standing in the basket of a hot air balloon as it floats through the tranquil dawn skies is an incomparable experience. With such elevated panoramic views, visitors are assured a great African experience.

Nairobi National Park:

Established in 1945 as Kenya's first national park, Nairobi National Park is uniquely situated on the capital's doorstep. It's a well-kept, dense, and stunning area of plains and wild bush, containing a huge number of Africa's best-known animals, with large herds of buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, and zebra roaming the plains. Ostrich, black rhino, cheetah, lions, and baboons are also seen, but remain a bit more elusive.

Nightlife

Many bars appear almost empty during the week, some of them are even closed, but on Friday night everything changes. The bars are crowded on Friday by locals and tourists who come here to dance, meet friends, and enjoy the irresistible Tusker, an elegant and not too strong local beer. If you want to engage in some table game, there are a number of Casinos in Nairobi., with the biggest in the International Casino on Westlands Road near the National Museum. Want to watch a movie? Cinemas are found in the main cities and Nairobi has a number of screens showing the latest films. If watching a play interests you, the Kenya National Theatre in Harry Thuku Road is nearby, with Kenyan drama and African theatre.

Culture

Kenya is a diverse country, with many cultures represented, including the Swahili on the coast, pastoralist communities in the north, and several different communities in the central and western regions. Today, the Maasai culture is popular, given its heavy exposure from tourism; however, Maasai is a relatively minor age of the Kenyan population. Most Kenyans are bilingual, speaking English and Swahili, and there are a large percentage who also speak the tongue of their ethnic tribe

The majority of Kenyans are Christian with 45% identifying themselves as Protestant and 33% as Roman Catholic. Sizeable minorities of other faiths do exist, and there is a fairly large Hindu population in Kenya, well integrated into the community and playing a key role in Kenya's economy. Muslims comprise 10%, and indigenous beliefs another 10%, but estimates for the percentage of the population that adheres to Islam or indigenous beliefs vary widely.

Cuisine

With a population consisting of more than 40 distinct tribes, it is no wonder that the cuisine combines many different historical influences and traditions. The coastal area, where many years of Arab dominion have left their marks, has dishes not found anywhere else in the country.

In a general sense, Kenyan cuisine is simple, and there are a few dishes distinct to Kenya. Before becoming an independent nation in the 60's, tribes and communities lived and migrated around the eastern African region. As a consequence, some recipes are also familiar in Tanzania and Uganda.

Traditional dishes are: Ugali, a simple staple made from corn or maize flour and water; Githeri, found all through Kenya, basically a mixture of corn and beans, usually boiled together; and Irio, made from corn and potatoes, boiled and simmered with other greens and vegetables and mashed into a thick paste.