46 Interesting Facts About Kenya

Last updated on January 15th, 2019

Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa. It has a population of 47,615,739 (July 2017 est.) With these facts about Kenya, let us learn about its history, geography, culture, economics, people and much more.

About geography and history

1. A part of the Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest freshwater lake, flows through Kenya. The country shares the lake with Tanzania and Uganda. Lake Superior in North America is the largest of all the freshwater lakes in the world.[1]

2. Kenya is named after Mt Kenya, the tallest mountain in the country and the second-highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro. The highest peak of the mountain is Batian – 5,199 m.[2]

Mt. Kilimanjaro, Kenya
Mt. Kilimanjaro, Kenya

3. Between 1920 and 1963, Kenya was a colony of the United Kingdom.[3]

4. Interestingly, Kenya could possibly be the birthplace of humans. This assumption is supported by the fact that the bones of one of the earliest human ancestors ever found were discovered in Kenya.[3]

5. Because of its geographic position, Kenya was also the regional hub for trade and finance in East Africa.

Flag of Kenya

Flag of Kenya
Flag of Kenya. Image credit – CIA

6. And then there are the coastal towns of Mombasa, Malindi, and Kilifi, which harbor some of the most interesting views in the world. Mombasa is an old town first developed by the Portuguese during the 19th century. Perhaps the oldest and most unique building is the famous Fort Jesus, a sanctuary used by the Portuguese for protection during the siege.

7. Some of the forests, especially Kakamega, have some of the rarest breeds of butterflies and snakes that cannot be found in many other places.[8]

8. A good portion of land in Kenya is covered by a mass of water. Apart from the Indian Ocean at the coast, Kenya has several lakes, both freshwater and salty. Some of these lakes include Lake Victoria, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha and Lake Bogoria, among others. The country also has many rivers, making it possible for visitors to travel by boats instead of cars.

9. According to the CIA, Kenya has a coastline of 536 km along the Indian Ocean.[19]

10. Some of the most frequently visited parks include the Nairobi National Park, Tsavo Game Reserve, Maasai Mara Game Reserve, and Amboseli National Park, among others.

11. Anybody visiting Kenya will surely notice some unique scenes and places. Among them are places like the Fourteen Falls in Thika, which is ranked among the longest and steepest falls in East Africa.

Fourteen-Falls Thika
Fourteen-Falls Thika.

12. Mombasa is surrounded by the Indian Ocean, making it one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The city is normally frequented by many visitors, not just because of its beauty but also for business opportunities.

13. Lamu Island is the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the country. The town was founded in 1370. Interestingly, more than 6,000 donkeys are used for transporting goods and people through the town. The streets of the town are narrow. Believe it or not, there are just two cars on the island and one of these is an ambulance for the donkeys.[23]

14. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA or NBO) located in Kenya is one of the largest airports in the East African region, and the 9th busiest in Africa.

Map of Kenya

About Kenyan people and their culture

15. Dr. Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, was born in Kenya in 1940. Unfortunately, she died of cancer in 2011. She was known as a fearless social activist and an environmental crusader. She started the movement to reforest the country by paying the country’s women a few shillings.[4]

16. It should not be forgotten that Kenya is also popular across the world for producing some stunning and famous long-distance runners. Kenyan Wilson Kipsang is one such runner. Interestingly, all these runners are actually from the same tribe of Kenyans known as “the Kalenjin”.[14]

17. Iten, a town in Kenya, with miles of hilly dirty roads and perfect altitude for long distance running, attracts elite athletes from all over the country and the world to train. Here runners train for between 20 to 30 miles per day.[25]

18. On August 9, 2012, at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, David Rudisha led from start to finish winning gold in what was called “The Greatest 800 Meter Race Ever.” In doing so, he became the first and, so far, the only runner to break the 1:41 barrier for the 800 m race.[15]

David_Rudisha_Memorial_Van_Damme_2010
David Rudisha, 2012 Gold medalist at Summer Olympics. Image source

19. According to the World Bank, the population density in Kenya reached a maximum value of 85.15 in 2016 and a minimum value of 14.69 in 1961.[18]

20. Freedom of religion is one of the constitutional rights of the Kenyans. The majority of the population of the country is Christian. Other religious groups include Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs.

21. Kenya is home of the father of Barack Obama, the former president of the United States of America. He recently visited the country to promote the opening of a sports and training center that his half-sister, Auma Obama, founded through her charitable foundation, The Associated Press reported.[21]

22. Kenyans are group-orientated rather than individualistic. Unlike most other places in the world, where people are normally unconcerned about others, social life in this country is tied to companionship, hospitality, kindness and a willingness to help. This is, perhaps, what makes visitors want to come back again and again.[9,20]

23. The kind nature of the Kenyan people might be attributed to the setting and structures of families and communities. In Kenya, a child is brought up by the community and the society at large, and not just the family members alone. This makes it easy for people to develop feelings of concern and helpfulness towards others, strangers or not.[9]

24. The Kenyan people can compromise some of their daily routines and beliefs just to accommodate people from other cultural backgrounds. However, visitors must also acknowledge and respect the locals’ way of life for good coexistence.

25. Greetings in Kenya are a fabric of their social and cultural life. Whenever people meet, irrespective of whether they are acquaintances, they must greet each other, either through a raised hand or thumbs up. The most common greeting is “Jambo?” (“How are you?”), which is generally said immediately prior to the handshake. Greetings often include inquiries about health and family members.[9,20]

26. When it comes to food, the staple meal in Kenya is a delicacy known as “ugali.” This is a meal made from flour; it can be maize, sorghum or even millet. The delicacy is normally accompanied by stew and is enjoyed by many visitors, including President Obama during his visit to the country.[10]

27. Although it is very common to find Kenyans wearing Western clothes, their own way of dressing is distinct. When visiting this country, one cannot fail to notice a red/pink/maroon piece of clothing commonly referred to as “Maasai’s Shuka” around people’s shoulders/waists/necks.[11]

Maasai’s Shuka from Kenya . Kenya fact file

28. Inasmuch as there is no uniform footwear among the Kenyan people, there is no doubt that Sahara Boots and sandals, for both men and women, are the most commonly worn shoes around the country.

About education, languages used, and sports activities

29. With a population comprising of at least 40 ethnic groups, more than 60 languages are spoken in Kenya.[3]

30. English and Swahili are the two official languages of Kenya as well as Tanzania.

31. School education is free in Kenya.[3]

32. However, that does not mean that other forms of entertainment are lacking. On weekends, most Kenyan youths throng city clubs to watch various sports, including football, basketball, rugby and other athletic endeavors.

33. Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Kenya.[13]

About politics, government, economy, and trade.

34. The main economic activity in Kenya is farming. The country is among the top exporters of coffee, tea, flowers, and pyrethrum. Due to their quality, Kenyan coffee and tea are normally grabbed the moment it reaches the international market.[12]

35. Coffee is the biggest foreign income generator for Kenya. Surprisingly, only 3% of the coffee grown in Kenya is consumed locally.[12,17]

36. Other economic activities include fishing and trade. Kenya has many rivers and lakes, making it easy for fishermen to have big catches. Trade activities include selling clothes and basic commodities.

37. Entertainment is a crucial aspect of Kenyans’ lives. The most common forms of local entertainment include traditional dancing, storytelling, and bullfighting.

38. According to the current exchange rate, a US dollar, when exchanged with the local currency, will fetch you approximately 100 Kenyan Shilling.

A 50 Kenyan Shilling note. Kenya fact file
50 Kenyan Shilling front. Image credit – Wikipedia.org

39. Kenya is a politically stable country that has never experienced a major civil unrest. Headed by the President and his Deputy, the country has well-defined structures that make it ideal for foreigners to carry out businesses.

40. Kenya promulgated its new constitution on 27 August 2010, thereby introducing a bicameral house composed of a senate and parliament. After the 1963 independence constitution, the constitution has seen two major reforms – one in 1969 and the other in 2010. The country also has a system of governance enabled through its 47 counties.[16]

41. The president of Kenya can be appointed for a five-year term and one can only serve as president for a maximum of two terms. The Supreme Court is the highest, the Court of Appeal is the second highest, and the High Court is the third highest court in Kenya.[22]

Some unusual facts about Kenya

42. Kenya is also home to the Great Wildebeest Migration. The migration of approximately 1.7 to 2 million animals (including gazelle, zebra, and eland) takes place between Serengeti in Tanzania and Maasai Mara in Kenya. Some have even labeled this transition as one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World.” The event is also known as “The World Cup of Wildlife”.[5]

43. Maasai Mara has one of the largest densities of the lion in the world.[5]

44. There are some scenes that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. As one travels to Machakos city, there is a certain step portion of the highway that seems to defy gravity: things normally go upward instead of downward. For most, this place has remained a mystery.[6]

45. Kenya is also famous for its Crying Stone in Kakamega. As one approaches this town from Kisumu city, there is a unique, tall stone, around seven feet, that produces a streak of water that makes it appear like it is crying. The droplets of water, which local scientists have failed to understand, normally appear like tears.[7]

the crying stone in kenya
The crying stone in Kakamega, Kenya.

46. The Maasai Ostrich Farm in Kenya is the place where you can ride an Ostrich, the largest living species of bird on the planet. With a running speed of 40-60 miles per hour, the ostrich is the fastest two-legged creature on earth. The farm was established in 1991.[24]

Kenya – country at a glance

Independence12 December 1963 (from the UK)
Capital CityNairobi
(1°16′S 36°48′E)
Largest CityNairobi
(1°16′S 36°48′E)
Total area580,367 sq km
Population47,615,739 (July 2017 est.)
Official LanguageEnglish, Swahili
BordersSomalia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan.
CurrencyKenyan shilling (KES)
ReligionChristianity, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhs, Parsees, Bahais
Demonym Kenyan
Life expectancy64.3 Years (2017)
Life expectancy at birth indicates the number of years a newborn infant would live if prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of its birth were to stay the same throughout its life.
Climatevaries from tropical along coast to arid in interior
Terrainlow plains rise to central highlands bisected by Great Rift Valley; fertile plateau in west
Natural resourceslimestone, soda ash, salt, gemstones, fluorspar, zinc, diatomite, gypsum, wildlife, hydropower
Agricultural land48.1%
Birth rate23.9 births/1,000 population (2017 est.)
Death rate6.7 deaths/1,000 population (2017 est.)
Sex ratio1 male(s)/female (2016 est.)
National symbollion
National colorsblack, red, green, white
National anthem"Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu" (Oh God of All Creation)
Government typepresidential republic
PresidentUhuru Kenyatta
Deputy PresidentWilliam Ruto
Literacy78%
Suffrage18 years of age; universal
Industriessmall-scale consumer goods (plastic, furniture, batteries, textiles, clothing, soap, cigarettes, flour), agricultural products, horticulture, oil refining; aluminum, steel, lead; cement, commercial ship repair, tourism
Exports$6.397 billion (2017 est.)
tea, horticultural products, coffee, petroleum products, fish, cement

Imports$14.52 billion (2017 est.)
machinery and transportation equipment, petroleum products, motor vehicles, iron and steel, resins and plastics
GDP - per capita (PPP)$3,500 (2017 est.)
Time ZoneEAT (UTC+3)
Internet country code.ke
Calling Code+254
Drives on theLeft
Data sourcesCIA, Wikipedia
Table last updatedJuly 11, 2018