As a traveller, tourist and tour operator I have always regarded Kenya as a welcome-beacon of benevolence in an often troubled and otherwise inhospitable region to travel in. A country forever traveller-friendly, with the joviality of its people a defining feature.
Culturally, ethnically and linguistically diverse, the overriding common denominator of Kenyans is their overt friendliness and welcoming nature. Coupled with multi-coloured attire and array of unique tribal costumes.
My first memory of arriving into Kenya, after hitch-hiking across the western border from Uganda in 1983, was the calming gentle ambiance not only the individual people, but also of society in general. The tranquillity of everyday life in Kenya was a far cry from the politics and street drama in Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda and Zaire.
Thirty-five years on, Kenya remains an example of civility in comparison to the insecurity of neighbours such as Somalia, southern Ethiopia and Sudan. Its people continue to welcome visitors with the trademark Swahili “Jambo habari” and generous hospitality.
The country is made up of an eclectic mix of over forty ethnic groups (Kikuyu 22%; Luhya 14%; Luo 13%; Kalenjin 12%; Kamba 11%; Kisii 6%; Meru 6%; other ethnic African 15% and non-African 1% – including, Arabs, Somalis, Asians and Europeans). Who collectively speak sixty-nine local languages.
Religious beliefs, across a population of approx. 48 million, is less diverse. With Christians (83%) and Muslims (11.%) the most prevalent. Interestingly small religious groups also include the world’s highest number of Quakers (130,000) and Hindus (300,000).
The tourism industry, aside from being Kenya’s primary source of foreign exchange, has for decades given international visitors and the local people a huge opportunity to meet, mix, earn and learn from each other. As these photos show the colour, smile and make up of Kenyan people is infectious, whether you come across it while travelling on safari or chilling on the coast.
Although your average traveller will steer clean from the lesser visited areas such as the desert regions of Turkana, or sprawling Kibera slum area of Nairobi, the tradition of colourful attire and smiling welcome is evident across the land.