Are you curious about what Kenya is famous for? Whether you’re planning to visit soon or you’re just looking for some fun facts about Kenya, you’re on the right page. You’re about to embark on a Kenyan journey without leaving your seat.
So, what is Kenya known for? Kenya is known for the Big Five and the Great Wildebeest Migration. It’s also known for its world record-breaking athletes, its rich biodiversity, and great safari destinations. Kenya is known for being home to Lupita Nyong’o and Barrack Obama Snr. The most famous foods in Kenya are Nyama Choma and Githeri.
Let’s discover the 20 things that Kenya is known for.
1. Eliud Kipchoge
Kenya is known for being home to the world’s 26.2 miles (42 kilometres) marathon record holder, Eliud Kipchoge. Kipchoge officially holds the record at 2 hours, 1 minute and 39 seconds. Kipchoge has been named by some as the world’s biggest marathoner of all time and has won 12 out of 13 marathons he has participated in.
In 2019, Kipchoge unofficially broke his own record. He ran and finished the marathon in 1 hour, 59 minutes, and 39 seconds in Vienna, Austria. Kenyans in their witty way made up a verb in his honor: Kipchogeing, which means running very fast.
2. The Big Five
Kenya is home to the big game. The Big Five are the Lion, the Elephant, the Leopard, the Buffalo, and the Rhino. Most game parks and game reserves in the country have either two or three of the five, but the Tsavo, Maasai Mara, and Amboseli national parks have four. Nairobi National Park has all five of them.
Other conservancies, ranches, and game reserves in Kenya have one or two animals and birds they are famous for.
3. Wildebeest Migration
The July to October period offers you an exciting opportunity to witness the Great Wildebeest Migration at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. These magnificent mammals do this every year, crossing from the neighboring Serengeti into the Maasai Mara and back. The crossing is one spectacular and awe-inspiring event where you watch nature at its best.
4. Barrack Obama Snr
Remember America’s 44th president, Barrack Obama? His father, Barrack Obama Snr, was Kenyan. He hailed from Rachuonyo district in what was previously known as Luo Nyanza. The former president’s grandmother, Mrs. Sarah Obama, and most of the Obama family still live there to date.
5. Mt. Kenya
Mt Kenya is Africa’s second-largest mountain after Mt. Kilimanjaro. The Kikuyu who live on its southern and western sides believe that their god, Mwene Nyaga (owner of the ostriches), chose it as his home after coming from heaven. They call it Kirima Kia Nyaga, the mountain of the ostrich and revere it as a holy mountain. The Maasai, Embu, and Meru also have similar folklores, and all regard it as an integral part of their existence.
Mt. Kenya is an important catchment, with River Tana and the Ewaso Nyiro, two of the county’s biggest rivers having it as their source.
Kenya is known for its tea production and is among the top four countries in the world. Among the most interesting habits of Kenyans is their love for tea, also called chai. You have not been properly welcomed in a Kenyan household if no one has offered you a cup of chai.
Besides being a beverage, Kenyans have adopted tea as a euphemism for a bribe. It’s not uncommon to hear a cop asking for chai to let you get away with a minor infraction.
Kenya is also known for flamingos. Flamingos are quirky, large, pink-hued, non-migratory birds. They will usually be found resting on one foot, which has not been scientifically explained yet. They are populous in three of Kenya’s soda lakes namely Lake Elementaita, Lake Bogoria, and Lake Nakuru.
You’ll want to visit Lake Elementaita, a little known soda lake, for the best birding experience since that is the flamingos’ breeding ground. You might also get lucky and catch a glimpse of the Great White Pelican at this lake.
Although English and Kiswahili are the official languages in Kenya, Sheng may very soon be gazetted as the third. Unlike other East African nations where pure Kiswahili is used for communication, Kenyan Kiswahili is a slang.
Sheng is part Kiswahili, English, Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo and Kamba. It is not uncommon to find matatus, Kenya’s most popular transport system with Sheng phrases on their sides. The phrases are often hilarious and self-deprecating, which is Kenyan to the core. There is even a radio station that broadcasts in Sheng.
This is the most popular meal in all Kenyan secondary schools. It is a mixture of maize and beans, or any other legume, boiled together. This meal is popular across all ethnicities, and you will find it in all eateries in Kenya. For most Kenyans, githeri with a piece of avocado is pure heaven.
On 8 August 2017, one Mr. Kamotho garnered countrywide popularity for loving githeri. A picture of him carrying and eating a bag of githeri as he went to vote on Election Day had emerged. The president awarded him the highly coveted Head of State Commendation (HSC) on 27 November 2017. This made him the first Kenyan to get national recognition for his food choices. Mr. Kamotho has since been christened Githeri Man.
10. Lupita Nyong’o
Kenya is known as home to Black Panther’s actress Lupita Nyong’o. The actress’ father, Professor Anyang Nyong’o, is the current senator of Kisumu County, in what was previously called Nyanza province in Kenya. He has acted in different capacities for the Kenyan government.
Lupita’s younger brother is a soccer player and her sisters are businesswomen.
11. Mashemeji Derby
Kenyans love soccer, or football, as it is popularly known. Besides having a great following of the English Premier League matches, Kenya has its own derby popularly known as the Mashemeji derby. Mashemeji is Kiswahili for in-laws.
The Mashemeji derby, also known as the Ingo-Dala derby, is played between Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards. Gor Mahia is popular with Luos while AFC Leopards is popular with the Luyha. You definitely do not want to talk ill of football in the presence of any of these two’s supporters.
Ugali is Kenya’s staple food. It is a meal predominantly made from maize flour, although in some places other cereals are incorporated in the preparation of the flour.
Besides githeri, this is the most common meal in all Kenyan households. Ugali’s accompaniments vary from community to community although greens are usually more popular. The best ugali I know is accompanied by a side dish of the bitter nightshade vegetable popularly known as managu. Even better, managu and barbecued goat ribs, Mbuzi Choma. In some places, ugali is incomplete if there is no fermented milk, known as mala, or fish.
13. The Kenyan Coast
Kenya’s coast has three popular towns. Diani has the most popular beach resorts, Mombasa for its active nightlife and Nyali which is a residential part of Mombasa. The entire coast has beaches, both private and public ones. Diani has the best private beach, the Diani beach, while Mombasa has the most famous public beach, Kenyatta beach.
14. Giraffe Manor
Kenya is famous for the Giraffe Manor. This is a privately owned property whose main attraction is the resident Rothschild’s giraffes. It is located in the city’s suburbs at Langata. Visitors to the manor get an opportunity to have either breakfast or dinner with the giraffes, while the giraffes crane their long necks through the windows hoping for a treat.
Few attractions on earth can beat the experience of taking breakfast with the world’s tallest mammal.
15. Nairobi National Park
Kenya is also known for Nairobi National Park. This is the only national park within a capital city in the world. It is smack in the middle of the central business district. This park is popular as the biggest black rhino and lion sanctuary in Kenya. It has been widely used as an example to prove that human beings and wildlife can coexist. Four hundred bird species have been discovered in this park alone.
16. Hakuna Matata
Brought to prominence by the movie Lion King in 1994, this phrase aptly describes the Kenyan people. Loosely translated, the phrase means “No trouble”, a philosophy held very dearly by most Kenyans. Kenyans do not stress too much about things they cannot change and will be found on social media platforms making fun of their plight
17. Nyama Choma
Kenyan barbecue, popularly known as Nyama Choma, is the unofficial official meal of Kenya. In most circles, no official function is complete without a few barbecued goat ribs or steak. Nyama choma can be made from beef, mutton, or pork. Barbecued chicken is called Kuku Choma and is also a national delicacy. Nyama choma is usually accompanied by kachumbari, a fresh tomato and onion salad dish, and a few beers to complete the meal.
18. Safari destination
Kenya has won the world’s leading safari destination five years in a row, from 2015 to 2019. Laikipia County has some of the best wildlife conservancies in Kenya. Everyone born in Kenya has seen a wild animal in its natural habitat at least once in their life. In some cases, animals and human beings are separated by a mere fence.
19. Mugiithi and Rhumba
Kenyans love a good time and good music. Every Friday night, most people will be found in a club dancing to Mugiithi or Rhumba. These two are so famous there are events specifically organized where people dance to either or both the whole night. A true Kenyan will know some Mugiithi or Benga tunes by heart.
20. Kitenge Culture
Dowry negotiations, engagements, and weddings are big deal in Kenya. Kenyans will flock to the tailor’s, called a fundi, to get their African print fashioned into their catchy Kitenge attires. One picture taken of a man and a woman in their matching Kitenge wear is enough to tell who is dating who or is engaged or married to whom.
What else is Kenya known for? Share it in the comment box below!