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Kenya inspires images of the traditional African safari, exotic Maasai tribesman and herds of animals migrating across a dry and dusty landscape. This eastern African country has an interesting history that spans back to when Arabian merchants first came to it shores hundreds of yeas ago.
The people of Kenya are a diverse group that are descended from three major groups:the Bantu (67%), the Nilotic (30%) and the Cushitic (3%). While a major percentage of the 37.9 million inhabitants are of African descent, a small percentage are descended from the Middle Eastern and European traders and colonists that came to the country centuries ago.
The ethnic groups that call Kenya their home speak a wide variety of languages that differ between regions. Languages spoken may even differ within a single region. The official languages are English and Kiswahili. The further one is travels from the urban centres, the more common Kiswahili becomes while the cities tends to have more English-speaking peoples.
Kenya spans over 582 646 km². It rises from a coastal plain to mountain ridges and highland plateaus above 3 000 metres. The Rift Valley divides the country in two, and is responsible for the highlands, the mountains and the majestic Mount Kenya, for which the country is named. Vegetation ranges from arid to semi-arid brush to lush forests and rainforests that are home to a host of animals – some of which cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.
As an equatorial country, Kenya has very little differentiation in temperature throughout the year. The differences in altitude between regions, however, do have allow a greater variation of different microclimates within the country. At the coast, one can expect tropical weather with hot a humid days and cooler nights. The central parts of the country are hot and dry with afternoon thunder showers during the rainy seasons. The highlands, where most of Kenya's agriculture takes place, is more temperate but with cold nights.
As with many African countries, Kenya's rainfall is divided into seasons. There are two rainy seasons. The one occurs during April to June and the second during October to December. During these times the countryside becomes lush and green but when the rains go away during the scorching summer, the land is parched, and rivers and lakes shrink away into the ground.
The Maasai Mara Game Reserve or the Nairobi National Park are probably the places most people think of when they bring Kenyan game reserves to mind. But, the landscape is scattered with reserves and parks to ensure that the natural heritage of this beautiful country is not lost. Nearly 30% of Kenya's land is given over to the conservation and the government lists conservation as one of its tops priorities.
Kenya is home to the famous Big 5 and lions are abundant all over the country. The other members; the elephant, the Cape buffalo, the leopard and the rhinoceros; also exist in healthy numbers. There are also a number of rhinoceros sanctuaries where the endangered black rhinoceros can be seen.
While Kenya may be a premier destination for visitors hoping to capture the majesty of Africa's local wildlife on film, it is also known as a country of remarkable athletes. Kenyan athletes have walked away with the laurels on more than one occasion in long distance events at the Olympics and other games. Recently they have also caused a bit of stir when they managed to hold their own when they competed for the first time in the Cricket World Cup.
Kenya is a land that epitomises to many the very image of the African bush. From the Maasai who continue to live their traditional lives in golden savannah to the bustling cities of Nairobi and Mombasa, there is more to Kenya than a single visit will ever be able to reveal.