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Cultural Practices of Kenya

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Cultural Practices of Kenya

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By Matthys van Aswegen

Safari Travel Planner

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Although the official languages are Swahili and English, Kenya is a multilingual country. There are 62 languages spoken throughout, which mainly consist of tribal African languages and a minority of Middle-Eastern and Asian languages spoken by descendants of foreign settlers (i.e., Arabic, Hindi, etc.).

The African languages come from three different language families – Bantu languages (spoken in the center and southeast), Nilotic languages (in the west), and Cushitic languages (in the northeast).

The Kenyan people are regarded as welcoming and friendly to tourists, credit: AFAR Media
The Kenyan people are regarded as welcoming and friendly to tourists, credit: AFAR Media

Kenya is not a homogeneous country ethnicity-wise. The make-up of Kenyans is primarily that of 13 ethnic groups with an additional 27 smaller groups. Most Kenyans belong to ‘Bantu’ tribes such as the Kikuyu, Luhya, and Kamba.

There are also the ‘Nilotic’ tribes such as the Luo, Kalenjin, Maasai, and Turkana. The ‘Hamitic’ people include the Turkana, Rendille, and Samburu. Around 13% of the population are of non-African descent, i.e., Indian, Arab and European.

Kenyans are group-orientated rather than individualistic. “Harambee” (coming from the Bantu word meaning “to pull together”) defines the people’s approach to others in life. The concept is essentially about mutual assistance, mutual effort, mutual responsibility, and community self-reliance.

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