Curious about Kenya? This unique destination is a melting pot of diverse and fascinating human history that dates back as far as six million years ago. Today there are over 70 different ethnic groups in Kenya, each offering their own unique history, language and belief systems. On the other side of the country, you’ll find a unique world all of its own in Mombasa along Kenya’s coast with beaches and a laidback lifestyle. Read on to discover some unique facts about Kenya’s culture and coast:
Culture & traditions
Visiting Kenya is an incredible cultural experience where you can mix and mingle with ancient African tribes. There are five major tribal groups in Kenya, namely the Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kamba, and Kalenjin and these make up approximately 70% of Kenya’s population. During your stay, you’ll have the chance to meet the Maasai people (semi-nomadic) and a host of other tribes such as the Samburu, Swahili, Turkana and Kikuyu tribes. In Nairobi, about 40% of the population is Kikuyu — a Bantu tribe home to over six million people!
Food & drink
Kenya is steeped in local tradition and the foods and it is definitely recommend to try out the local food and drink while you’re here. Sour milk is the most common while the foods consist largely of meat, potatoes, vegetables and fish. Definitely try nyama choma – roast meats served on a wooden platter with ugali (cornmeal porridge) and kachumbari – tomato and onion relish. Head to the coast for delicious roasted cashew nuts and great seafood flavoured with coconut, tamarind and local spices! You’ll also find plenty of fruit (bananas, mangoes, coconut and passion fruit) and deep-fried snacks here, including samosas, pancakes and more. If you’re in Nairobi, stop for some street food – cassava chips, roasted corncobs and roasted termites. Chai tea is also popular and Kenyan beer brands include Tusker and White Cap while palm wine is popular on the coast. Did you know that most drinks are served at room temperature in Kenya as the locals believe it is unhealthy to drink ice-cold drinks?
The Kenya coast
Stretching 500 kilometres long, Kenya’s coast is blessed with rustic coral beaches and tropical waters. Known as the Swahili Coast, a beach escape is the perfect way to start or end off your Kenyan safari adventure. Spend your days relaxing on the soft white sands of your hotel beachfront, head further afield to the quieter and more isolated sands of Msambweni or enjoy a sailing trip on a traditional dhow – the choices are endless. Whatever you do, make sure you add a trip to the coral reef in Watamu Marine Park, home to more than 600 different species of fish as well as endangered sea turtles that nest on the quieter beaches here. The wildlife spotting opportunities are impressive here – keep your eyes peeled for whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins and even Humpback whales (July to September).
The main port of call for your holiday on the Kenya Coast, Mombasa is an intoxicating mix of cultures with an old town that was built back in the 1500s from coral rock. As it was built by the local Swahili tribesmen, the town is an exceptional example of Swahili architecture with dramatic archways, impressive Islamic-inspired doors and large balconies. There’s plenty of history to be found here – visit the 16th century Fort Jesus (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), shop for souvenirs at the Akamba Handicraft Industry Cooperative Society (providing jobs for 10,000 local people), explore the Mandhry Mosque (the oldest Swahili building in the town) and barter for bargains at the Spice Market and Main Market.
Find out more
- Kenya: An Introduction
- Health & Travel Information
- Wildlife & National Parks
- When to Travel
- What to Do
- Where to Stay