Harambee! Let's Explore The History of Kenya

Harambee! Let's Explore The History of Kenya

Kenya is a country on the east side of Africa. Officially known as the Republic of Kenya, it became an independent country in 1963.

Let’s find out more about its history!

A Good Land

map of Kenya

Kenya is located on the equator. That means it has a tropical climate. It’s warm all the time there, which means it's been a great place for people to settle.

Kenya has been inhabited by people since pre-historic times.

The People and Languages of Kenya

There were many different tribes who migrated to Kenya. Many of the tribes make up lots of the people who are there today.

There are three main groups of people: the Bantu, the Nilotic, and the Hamitic. And these three main groups are divided into smaller groups.

All in all, there are about 13 unique tribes that live in Kenya today! Each of the major tribes has its own language. Then there are the smaller groups within the tribes which have their own dialect.

Kenyan people in traditional attire

A dialect is a certain way of speaking which is specific to a particular group or region.

That’s a whole lot of different languages and dialects for one country. Plus, there are other immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East.

Even with all the differences, there’s an awesome Bantu word which describes how Kenyans view life and the world.


Harambee means to “pull together.” It’s all about working together, helping each other, and being a part of the community.

With all the different people speaking different languages, how does anybody talk to each other?

There are two main languages spoken in Kenya.

One is English, which is a carry-over from when Britain ruled in Kenya from 1920-1963.

The other is Swahili.

Kenyan student writing Swahili on board

Swahili is the language which is spoken and understood by the native African people from Kenya to Tanzania.

It’s been spoken along the eastern coast of Africa since 500 A.D.

The word “Swahili” originally meant coast, and was used by the Arabic and Persian traders when they were talking about the area. Later it became the word used to describe the East African culture specifically.

How did Kenya get its name?

The country of Kenya is home to the second highest mountain in Africa.

view from the top of Mount Kenya

Mount Kenya’s highest peak is the Batain, standing tall at 17,057 feet!

Up until 1920, the country was simply known as British East Africa. It’s thought that the name came from the Kamba language’s pronunciation of the mountain.

Ki-Nyaa is what the Nilotic people called the mountain. The Kikuyu tribe called it “Kirima.” The tribe which lived along the slopes, the Embu, called it “Kirenyaa.”

All three words translate the same. The words describe the black, volcanic rock on the lower slopes, and the snow-capped peaks.

Later, as maps were being drawn out of the country while people from Europe explored, the mountain was labeled “Mt. Kenia.” The name of the mountain was adopted as the name of the country.

Cool Facts About Kenya

Kenya is home to some really fast people! The Kalenjin tribe (a part of the Nilotic peoples) are known as the “running tribe.” They have introduced some unbelievably fast, world-record breaking runners to the rest of the globe!

mother cheetah with cubs and running cheetah

Kenya is home to the fastest land animal, too! In the big animal preserves, the cheetah can be found.

Just how fast is a cheetah?

It can run up to 74 miles per hour! That’s faster than you can drive in most places.

The cheetah is also the largest animal in the feline family. And cheetahs purr like house cats, but they don't roar like lions.

Kenya is a place which draws a lot of tourists because of the big animal nature reserves like Maasi Mara.

African Elephant, black rhinoceros, Cape buffalo

An African Elephant, a Black Rhinoceros, and a Cape Buffalo

African elephants, lions, Cape buffalo, leopards, and black and white rhinoceroses live there! Beautiful and majestic, the wildlife of Kenya makes it a safari destination.

What are some favorite foods in Kenya?

Kenya being as culturally diverse as it is, doesn’t have an official dish. (But it does have an unofficial one...read on to learn which!)

Three foods are enjoyed across the country.

Ugali and Sukuma Wiki with beans a Kenyan feast

Ugali and sukuma wiki with beans

One is called ugali, which is a kind of corn or maize flour porridge.

Another is sukuma wiki. This dish is made from collard greens stewed with onions and spices. It’s usually served with ugali.

dish of traditional nyama choma

Then there’s nyama choma. This is a dish that’s made for gatherings. It’s a specialty of grilled meat, usually beef or goat.

Actually, the name nyama choma is Swahili for grilled meat! It’s kind of the unofficial dish of Kenya and one that can be found in homes and fancy restaurants alike.

And don't forget about matoke! When you find plantains at the store, give our bonus recipes a try!

Explore your world and learn about new things, different cultures, and tasty foods. Dive into the amazing tastes of Kenya in our Kenya box from eat2explore!

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1 comment

We were gifted the Kenya box. The dishes look really interesting. I was curious, though, about the cooking tool that came with it. It’s a curved piece of metal with a metal loop on the back. It seems to be something you slip over a finger, like a ring. Can you tell me what it is used for?


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