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Kenya - Culture

Kenya Culture

There are more than 70 tribal groups among the Africans in Kenya. Distinctions between many of them are blurred - western cultural values are becoming more ingrained and traditional values are disintegrating. Yet, even though the average Kenyan may have outwardly drifted away from tribal traditions, the first question asked when two of them meet is 'What tribe are you from?'.

English and Swahili are the languages taught throughout the country, but there are many other tribal languages. These include Kikuyu, Luhia, Luo and Kikamba as well as a plethora of minor tribal tongues. It's useful for the traveller to have a working knowledge of Swahili, especially outside the urban areas and in remote parts of the country. Another language you'll come across is Sheng, spoken almost exclusively by the younger members of society. A fairly recent development, Sheng is a mixture of Swahili and English along with a fair sprinkling of other languages.

Most Kenyans outside the coastal and eastern provinces are Christians of one sort or another, while most of those on the coast and in the eastern part of the country are Muslim. Muslims make up some 30% of the population. In the more remote tribal areas you'll find a mixture of Muslims, Christians and those who follow their ancestral tribal beliefs.

Kenyans love to party, and the music style known as benga is the contemporary dance music that rules. It originated among the Luo people of western Kenya and became popular in the area in the 1950s. Some well-known exponents of benga include Shirati Jazz, Victoria Kings, Globestyle and the Ambira Boys. If you're not a jive bunny, your most likely experience of Kenya is the 1985 movie Out of Africa, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.

Kenyan cuisine generally consists of stodge filler with beans or a meat sauce. It's really just survival fodder for the locals - maximum filling-up potential at minimum cost. If you had to name a national dish in Kenya, nyama choma (barbecued meat, usually goat), would probably be it. Kenyan food is not exactly designed for gourmets - or vegetarians. Beer drinkers, on the other hand, are well supplied. Kenyans love their beer almost as much as their dancing and there's a thriving local brewing industry.

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