The People of Kenya
When I talked about the natural resources of my country Kenya in my previous story in this blog, I didn't mention the people who make our nation. (They too are part of the resources of our nation.) We have about 42 tribes of people in Kenya with different languages and cultures that all merge to become the unique mix of Kenyan culture.
Of the 42 tribes in Kenya, the most famous are the Maasais who are known worldwide for their distinct culture of wearing red sheets, carrying spears, herding cattle and jumping during their dances. I happen to live in a Maasailand and from my experiences of interacting with the Maasais, I have found them friendly and law-abiding despite the fact that they carry spears - you will rarely hear of a traditional Maasai charged in court for violence or robbery. They are also very supportive. Like when my family was fundraising money for my mother's heart surgery in 1999, some Maasais were very generous with their contributions.
Less famous but equally prominent tribe in Kenya are the Kalenjins who have produced the best long-distance runners in the world. The Kalenjin runners, such as Kipchoge Keino, have earned our nation honour by winning medals in the Olympic Games. Recently, a Kalenjin by the name Eliud Kipchoge captured the world's attention when he broke the marathon record by running the race in less than two hours. I think it will take many years before that record is broken, unless some genetically modified persons are produced in test-tube laboratories.
Still less famous but prominent tribe in Kenya are the Luos who are proud to have produced Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States. (Obama's father was a Luo.) I have heard it said that Luos are boastful in their writing and speaking. And I think that's true because I have listened to several adverts on TV and radio of Luos speaking in a bombastic language.
Then there are the Luhyas who hail from the western part of Kenya. The Luhyas are reputed to love chickens. And I think the Luhyas do really love chickens given the way they append the word "kuku" (Swahili word for chicken) to the names of some of their men. Like I have a bright Luhya friend called Lawrence Sikuku who impressed me in high school for his consistent stellar performance in academics. Sikuku was always either position 1 or 2 in our class right from term 1 in Form 1 till the final high school exams.
Then there are the Kikuyus of which I am one. We, the Kikuyus, happen to be the majority in Kenya. It is said of us that we love money. How true that stereotype is, I am not sure. I am personally proud of my Kikuyu heritage; I sometimes listen to some traditional Kikuyu folk songs that I have saved in my laptop. And I am grateful that I can speak Kikuyu fluently.
And then there are the Somalis who come from the north-eastern part of Kenya. Virtually all Somalis are Muslims. And because of their religion, they are very faithful in prayers. When I was at the University of Nairobi in 2011, I used to see some Somalis bow down to pray outside the university lecture-halls. These days, I have observed how the Somalis who run the biggest supermarket in my hometown of Kiserian, close the supermarket at lunch hour so that they can go for prayers in a nearby mosque.
A story about our country's people would be incomplete without mentioning two races of people who are not native to Kenya but have become part and parcel of our nation: that is the Europeans and the Indians.
The Europeans (popularly known as "Wazungu" here in Kenya) settled in Kenya in the early 20th century when Britain was colonizing Kenya. Some of them remained in Kenya after our nation gained independence in 1963. And a few, like the late Dr. Geoffrey Griffin (founder of Starehe Boys' Centre), have played a pivotal role in our country's development. Perhaps because of the many tourists our country receives from Europe, some Kenyans tend to think that the "Wazungu" like to travel.
The Indians also settled in Kenya in the early 20th century. Many were brought by the British to perform such manual labour as building the railway lines. And after Kenya gained independence, they became part of our nation's citizenry. The Kenyan-Indians of today are renowned for their skillful trading.
I would have loved to go on and on about the other tribes of Kenya but let me not do so, for to say too much is worse than to say too little. So let me conclude by advising people to:
Before I finish my story, I must say that the diversity in culture of our nation's people has been more of a weakness than a strength because we have had several tribal clashes in the past thirty years that have left many homeless and displaced. I hope there will come a time when Kenyans of any tribe are free to travel and live in any part of the country. That's all I am saying.
- jump like a Maasai
- run like a Kalenjin
- speak like a Luo
- eat like a Luhya
- bargain like a Kikuyu
- pray like a Somali
- travel like a Mzungu
- trade like an Indian
- and live like a Kenyan!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story about the people of Kenya, you might also enjoy listening to a song I produced a few years ago about "Beautiful Kenya". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Kenya: A Blessed Land
Back in 2006 when I was applying to Dartmouth College in the United States, I wrote an essay about my country Kenya. (I still have a copy of that essay here in my room.) Because Dartmouth was interested in knowing more about me than my country, I have been thinking it was unwise of me to pen an essay about Kenya; I should have written something that revealed something unique about me. All the same, I am impressed with how patriotic I was back then.
I still am patriotic as I love my country Kenya which has, in my opinion, the most beautiful map in the world. And I regularly thank God for the peace prevailing in my country.
Besides its peace, the other things I appreciate about Kenya are its year-round warm climate and natural resources. Yes, we enjoy warm climate throughout the year here in Kenya. And even though it can get unpleasantly chilly in the mornings of July, the chilliness is not as severe as the winter experienced in countries in the northern hemisphere.
Because of the year-round warm climate, it doesn't snow here in Kenya as it happens in countries such as Canada and Sweden. But we do have snow-capped mountains in our country such as Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro that give us a glimpse of how snow looks like. I have personally never been to those two mountains but from the stories I have gathered from friends, I understand they are very taxing to climb and very cold at the top.
The only mountain I have climbed so far is Mt. Longonot which is relatively short. I hiked to the top of that mountain with my high school Wildlife Club in 2002 when I was in Form One. As the mountain is not tall, we climbed it in an afternoon and went back to our camping site before it got dark. And I can't remember getting exhausted at ascending it.
Mt. Longonot is famous for its crater. (Or is it a caldera?). A primary school classmate of mine called Samuel once joked to me when we were in Standard Five in 1998 that a friend of his climbed Mt. Longonot and found Satan roasting maize inside the crater. I found that joke funny especially the way he uttered it in Kikuyu, which is why I have recalled it today.
Kenya is also blessed with numerous green hills. The most known are Ngong Hills that form the western horizon of my home-area. I once hiked through Ngong Hills with my primary school classmates in 1999. And looking back, I am thinking that hiking through Ngong Hills is far more challenging than climbing Mt. Longonot. If you are in search of a physical exercise that will challenge your muscles, I recommend going for an expedition across Ngong Hills. Trust me, those hills will leave your leg muscles aching with pain.
Both Ngong Hills and Mt. Longonot offer a breathtaking view of the Great Rift Valley that runs through Kenya from north to south. When viewed from those hills, the Great Rift Valley has a whitish appearance as if it is covered with mist. And on the floor of the valley are a number of lakes and geysers that attract tourists by their thousands. Among the lakes are Lake Magadi where soda ash is mined. Then there is Lake Nakuru where hundreds of flamingos flock majestically looking for food. What a beautiful sight those flamingos form!
Not all lakes in Kenya are in the Great Rift Valley. Some, like the world-famous Lake Victoria, are situated in other parts of the country. Of all the lakes in the country, Lake Victoria is the largest. The lake, which is fresh-water, provides Kenya with fish. I was fortunate to tour Lake Victoria in 2003 with my high school volleyball team. And what I recollect from that tour is the way the lake didn't appear blue like the Indian Ocean which I saw twice in the '90s during a family tour to the Kenyan coast.
The Indian Ocean is on the south-western side of Kenya. It connects our country to the world through the ships that sail to the Kenyan coast. Several rivers in Kenya drain into the ocean. Among them is River Tana whose source is Mt. Kenya. River Tana is famous locally for the hydro-power stations located along it that provide our nation with electricity.
A story about Kenya would be incomplete without mentioning the numerous national parks and game reserves in the country. In the parks can be found some of the world's most treasured wild animals such as lions, zebras, rhinos, giraffes, buffaloes and elephants. Truly, Kenya is a blessed land.
UPDATE: I have updated with new info the story I wrote last year on "Gaining Wisdom in Pain". Just click on that link in blue to read it. I am sure you'll like the story better the way it is now.