The majority of Kenyans are of East African descent although there are people with Arabic, Indian and European heritage, stemming from the Moorish and British periods of colonization. Modern Kenya is proudly African with food, music, customs and dress, an exciting blend of traditional, Arabic and European elements. Much of the population is Christian so many of the rituals revolve around religious cycles.
Kenya has been inhabited by people ever since human history began. Tribal hunter-gatherer groups were the first to populate the area, followed by a farming civilization from the Horn of Africa and the agriculturalists from Sudan. Around 100 AD Bantu speaking farmers from Nigeria brought ironworking to the area. Arab and Persian traders set up settlements and built mosques along the coast in the 8th century.
The independent Republic of Kenya was formed in 1963. It was ruled as a de facto one-party state by the Kenya African National Union (KANU), led by Jomo Kenyatta from 1963 to 1978. Kenyatta was succeeded by Daniel arap Moi, who ruled until 2002. Moi attempted to transform the de facto one-party status of Kenya into a de jure status during the 1980s, but with the end of the Cold War, the practices of political repression and torture which had been “overlooked” by the Western powers as necessary evils in the effort to contain communism were no longer tolerated.
Kenya is a culturally diverse nation made up of different tribal groups, each with distinct languages, dress, music, and food. Some of the better-known tribes include the coastal Swahili people and Maasai warriors in the wildlife-rich grasslands. As much as a quarter of the population belongs to farming communities in the north.
The Kenyans have a family and community-oriented culture, influenced by African traditions and the colonial period, most notably Catholicism. They are creative and artistic and the nation has produced a number of notable writers and musicians and has a well-developed cultural scene with television, theater, music, dance and the visual arts well represented. Kenya’s colorful festivals are a good way for visitors to gain insight into aspects of the country’s traditions.
In the multilingual nation of Kenya, English and Swahili serve as the official languages of the country. Kikuyu is one of the major regional languages in the country. Luhya is another major regional language spoken in Kenya. Luhya language is native to the Luhya ethnic group whose members are predominantly found in the western region of the country. The total number of native Luhya speakers in Kenya is estimated to be 1.2 million people. There are six main dialects which make up the Luhya language, and these are Hanga, East Nyala, Marama, Kabras, Tsotsi, and Kisa.
Seasonal climatic changes are controlled by the large-scale pressure systems of the western Indian Ocean and adjacent landmasses. From December to March, northeast winds predominate north of the Equator, while south to southeast winds dominate the south of it. These months are fairly dry, although rain may occur locally. The rainy season extends from late March to May, with air flowing from the east in both hemispheres. From June to August there is little precipitation, and southwest winds prevail north of the Equator as southeast winds prevail in the south.
In the Lake Victoria basin, annual precipitation varies from 40 inches (1,000 mm) around the lakeshore to more than 70 inches (1,800 mm) in the higher elevations in the eastern areas. The lakeshore has excellent agricultural potential because it can expect 20 to 35 inches (500 to 900 mm) in most years. Daily maximum temperatures range from 80 °F (27 °C) in July to 90 °F (32 °C) in October and February.
In the Rift Valley, average temperatures decrease from about 84 °F (29 °C) in the north to just over 61 °F (16 °C) around Lakes Nakuru and Naivasha in the south. The adjacent highlands are generally moderate, with average temperatures ranging between 56 and 65 °F (13 and 18 °C). The floor of the Rift Valley is generally dry, while the highland areas receive more than 30 inches (760 mm) of rain per year. The reliable precipitation and fertile soils of the Mau Escarpment form the basis for a thriving agricultural sector.