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Kenya Culture

Kenya’s Culture

Experience harambee! A Bantu word that means togetherness, is exactly what drives Kenya. Community-focused, the family structure is incredibly important. Kenya tours introduce you to a melting pot of people, where traditional and modern norms mark its unique character today, bursting with linguistic and cultural diversity. The current estimated population is about 46.7 million. Over 40 ethnic groups reside in Kenya, the largest being the Kikuyu, who migrated to Kenya at the turn of the 18th century. 

In the major cities and towns, you will notice a mix of tribal, Western and Islamic dress styles, often accessorized wonderfully with traditional, colorful jewelry.

In smaller villages, the local communities have preserved their traditional dress and some of the nomadic and pastoral peoples such as the Maasai, Samburu and Turkana wear simple cloth pieces and skins, blended with incredibly elaborate bead and metal jewelry, often worn on the head or arms.

Kenyan culture revolves around music, which is a fusion of African, hip-hop/street, India and European beats. Drumming is a passion by the Akamba and Mijikenda peoples and can you experience this art for yourself particularly by the coast. Or you can discover benga, a musical style integral to classical Kenyan music.

There is a lot of a capella (unaccompanied) singing to be enjoyed in Kenya, promoted primarily by the Maasai and Samburu peoples. You might also notice the influence of Congolese rumba during our Kenya tours.

Heavily influenced by European, Arabic and Islamic settlers over the centuries, the majority of Kenyans (two-thirds) are Christian and 15% of Kenyans are Muslims. With beliefs, particularly among the ethnic peoples that spirits live on, respect and reverence for deceased ancestors is quintessential. English is the official language spoken in Kenya, while Kiswahili is the national language of Kenya.

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Culture in Kenya

Kenya Travel Tips

  • Jambo! (How are you?) is the most popular greeting in Kenya and is usually pursued with a handshake and an inquiry into health, family and business. If you do not inquire, you may be considered ill-mannered.
  • When you meet elderly or esteemed people, you should grasp the right wrist with your left hand to show your respect. You should also not eat before them when dining together.
    Muslim men/women do not always shake hands with women/men.
  • If names are unknown, ladies over 21 years of age are generally called Mama, whilst men over 35 years of age will be called Mzee.
  • We recommend you give small gifts, such as pastries, flowers, or sweets, to your hosts whenever you are invited home. In rural areas, tea and coffee is a common and appreciated gift. Never use your left hand to give.
  • Cleanliness is an important part of the culture, so do wash your hands before and after eating. When dining, it is polite to finish everything on your plate.
  • In Nairobi guests have an opportunity to visit the Masai Market, a local market that offers a variety of curios, jewelry, handmade articles, leather goods, African batik fabrics, kikoys, kangas, shukas, paintings, soapstone carvings and pottery. With the popularity of tourism in Kenya, there are curio shops in all major cities.
  • Bargaining is not only a commonly used practice but also a necessary one. Unless you are in a high-end store where prices are fixed, please feel free to bargain on your Kenya tour.
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