Kenya is bestowed with well over 40 different ethnic groups with different languages and dialects, traditional arts & crafts, architecture in homestead designs, clothing and jewellery, food, social and economic activities. Successive migrations and invasions, right until the British colonisation in the late 19th Century, have left their mark in the rich mixture of tribes, race and customs seen in Kenya today. If any one thing of Kenya speaks of this unique character, it is the modern melding of traditional societies and culture. Kenya’s culture is both diversified and fragmented, born of myriad sources and influences both new and old.
In Kenya the modern and the traditional live side by side, and at times the lines blur. For many visitors to Kenya, this is evident within minutes of arrival. In Kenya it is possible to leave Nairobi, a city with a thriving business heart powered by the latest information technology, and drive in just a few hours to a place where life is lived in accordance to tradition and custom, where warriors armed with spears drive cattle into thorn brush enclosures to protect them from lions at night.
The Kenyan official national language is English and Swahili. Swahili is the most widely spoken African language, with 50 million speakers in East Africa and Central Africa, particularly in Tanzania (including Zanzibar) and Kenya.
There are many other languages spoken by each Kenya’s 42 different ethnic groups,including Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin, Luo and Kikamba and many more The average Kenyan therefore speaks atleast three different languages.
A more modern language spoken amongst the younger members of society is Sheng. This is a mixture of Swahili and English along with a words of other languages.
Kenyan food includes a variety of African and Indian recipes. Ugali (porridge made from cornmeal or millet flour), groundnut soup, stews and kebabs are favourite dishes. Use of spices and coconut feature in Kenyan cuisine. Indian food such as pilau rice, samosas and chapatis are often eaten with meals. Tea is served very hot and sweet.
The education system provides for eight years of primary, four years of secondary and four years of university education. This is referred to as the 8-4-4 system of education. Currently, Kenya has five public and many private universities, polytechnics, institutes of technology and technical training institutions. There are a number of international schools catering for various educational systems e.g. American, British, French, German, Japanese and Swedish.
The Constitution of Kenya guarantees freedom of worship and there are hundreds of religious denominations and sects in the country. The followers of Christian faith are the majority, with 40% being Protestant and 30% Roman Catholic. Islam is the main religion for most of the communities along the coast and the Somali community. The Asian community is mainly Hindu. Some Kenyans observe traditional methods of worship.