Destination #5: Kenya
Our 5th journey took us to Kenya, a smaller country centrally located on the eastern edge of Africa, overlooking the Indian Ocean. It has everything to offer visitors: wilderness and sophistication, mountains and beaches, artisanry and industry, history and modernization. We also found that almost everyone speaks 3 languages: English, Swahili, and their tribal language. The capital city of Nairobi was established just over 100 years ago and has over 4 million people; 10 million if you include the suburbs. It is growing rapidly as people move to the metropolitan areas to find opportunities. The growth currently overcomes the infrastructure, but the city is working hard to catch up.
Why We Chose Kenya
Kenya is a developing country that is growing fast. This country only gained it’s independence from England in 1963 and the people are working hard to develop the Kenyan way and make a better life for all Kenyans. There were originally 47 tribes which became the 47 counties (comparable to our states). Several of the original tribes of Kenya specialize in handmade goods and regularly hold their own markets around Nairobi. We were very excited to explore the landscape and culture and visit as many of the markets as possible.
The Lay of the Land
Much of Kenya’s landscape is African Savannah, however, you can visit the 2nd highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kenya, just a couple hours north of Nairobi. The tallest mountain in all of Africa is the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro. It lies a few hours south of Nairobi just across the border in Tanzania. It used to be in Kenya but a former President gifted it to the President of Tanzania. How many Presidents can gift a massive mountain?
There are also palm trees everywhere. Nairobi is only 1 degree south of the equator, so it is a very tropical environment.
There are numerous National Parks around Kenya where the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS)oversees human activities. Wildlife in Kenya are considered property of the state and hunting and killing them is illegal. This law went into effect in 1977. Unfortunately, there are occasionally poachers that the KWS constantly searches for.
We visited Nairobi National Park which borders the southern edge of the city. It is open to the wildlife that lives off the land in and around Kenya. The word ‘Safari’ means ‘trip’ in Swahili. Many Americans associate Safari with hunting but that’s not what it means. We went on a one-day safari around Nairobi National Park and were thrilled to see all the wildlife during our drive-through.
The Culture / The History
Kenya is a clash of local tribal culture and British culture. The impact of the country being under British rule for many years can be seen in the government, infrastructure, communication, and monetary system. The tribal influences can be seen in the daily life style, attire, appreciation of their beautiful country, and respect for each other. We felt so welcomed. Kenyans are very proud of their country and everyone we met was very interested in telling us or showing us something special about their amazing country.
Kenyans are working hard to protect and re-grow the wildlife populations of their country and Africa. We were honored to get into the Orphaned Baby Elephant project which only allows the public in for 1 hour per day. They raise the baby elephants that have been abandoned in the wild and slowly introduce them back into the wild. We also visited the Giraffe Center which is re-populating Africa with the majestic giraffe. We got to feed them!
The Maasai Markets feature the artisans from the Maasai tribe. The Maasai women make glass beads which are woven into numerous items. They use wires strung with beads to make necklaces, fruit bowls, trivets, belts, and napkins rings which we found to make a great addition to the Discover Kenya box. The Maasai Market travels around the city 6 days a week. They often set up in mall parking garages which is perfect considering how much rain this place gets every year.
Other markets are available several days a week and are always in the same location. The items at these other markets may include more items made from wood, leather, and metals. The artisans make the most of every inch possible. Each stall has a back rack and a blanket spread out with all their goods. The aisles between the blanket edges are less than 2 feet wide so it is very hard to pass anyone. You must be very careful where you step.
Kenyan food is unique but basic. A staple with most meals is the chapati. It is the common pan-fried bread used for dipping and soaking up the broth of stews.
Another common dish is the Samosa. It is triangular fried meat pie that contains
beef, lamb, chicken or fish or a combination of any of these. Some recipes add onion, shredded carrot, beans, or cabbage but we only saw the beef-filled Samosas and they were yummy.
Lentils are often used in foods such as the Ndengu Arancini. These little balls of deliciousness were a mix of lentils, onions, garlic and breadcrumbs then stuffed with mozzarella and deep fried. It is served with marinara.
Thank you for taking the time to read about our journey to Kenya! This was another adventure that has changed my life. I had limited knowledge about sub-Saharan Africa but learned so much and can’t wait to go back to see and learn more.
We are thrilled you chose to read about our travel experiences, after all, we are on this journey together!