Cultural Experience | Kenya

Kenya Turns 50

50 years and what does Kenya have to show for it? Quite a lot actually…

By Diana Odero, Chapman University

Home for the holidays and it feels great to be back! I haven’t been home for Christmas in over four years and I could not have chosen a better time to make the trip back. Kenya turns the grand age of 50 years today, marking 50 years of independence from colonial rule. And in true Kenyan spirit I wanna share some of the things that I really appreciate and love about my home country and at the same time enlighten you on some cool facts about Kenya!

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Kenyan Cuisine

In my true foodie nature, of course food has to come first! Kenyan food or East African cuisine as it is sometimes referred to is basically the best African food you will ever come across with the exception of the notable dishes from West African countries such as Nigeria and Ghana. Due to the huge melting pot of cultures within Kenya we have a diverse range of dishes, some that are a staple to various communities and some that are communal to the entire country. My favorites include Pilau (spiced rice), Chapati (flat bread like indian naan), Mukimo (mashed potatoes mixed with peas and corn) and the staple to my particular community, Fish, specifically Tilapia. Kenyan food is particularly loved because of the spices infused in every single dish plus its all organic, who can say no to that?

Pilau

Pilau

Transport system

So our transport system has many major flaws to tell you the truth but still boasts of better efficiency in some aspects than those I have experienced in 1st world countries. We have 3 forms of road transport, i.e Buses, mini vans (matatus) and motorbikes (boda boda). The buses and mini vans don’t run on a particular schedule like you would see in most states in America but they do have scheduled routes and fares which they follow… almost all the time. Only thing that would change the course of travel route for any bus/mini van would be maybe intense traffic in one area or adverse weather but I promise you you will still get to your destination one way or another. What I like about this system is that it’s very reliable. You will never spend hours waiting at a bustop unless of course something happened to that particular vehicle. They can practically take you anywhere within the city and outside the capital as well, if a place is further than usual you may end up taking one or two or three buses/mini vans but like I said, you will always make it to your destination. The only downside is the traffic caused by them due to their ever growing number but aside from that, transport is pretty decent and very affordable here.

Some of the buses that run through the city of Nairobi. Photo credit-Mutua Matheka

Some of the buses that run through the city of Nairobi. Photo credit-Mutua Matheka

Culture

Kenya has over 40 different ethnic communities co-existing in one country. That is already over 40 different languages,  and over 40 different customs. So obviously this could cause some friction and tribalism has been a problem within Kenya from time immemorial but looking back at 50 years, I think we have come a long way and are finally putting tribalism in the back burner. Having friends from all these different communities has educated me more about them and allows one to appreciate the richness of culture and heritage that Kenya holds.

Different people, different backgrounds, one nation.

Different people, different backgrounds, one nation.

Nightlife

If any of you think you have experienced nightlife and know what its all about, think again. Because I don’t think there is any other country that can compare its nightlife to that of Kenya. Sure Vegas has its awesome nightclubs and NYC has its fancy rooftop bars and ATL can boast about their thousands of bars and lounges… Here in Kenya we do nightlife in a whole different light. And you just have to experience it to know what I’m talking about because I can’t really find the words to describe it.

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#KOT

Social media has really taken Kenya by storm and one network that really speaks to everyone here from the youth to adults, from business executives to politicians is the wonderful world of twitter. Twitter has become Kenya’s digital voice to the country and to the world. #KOT stands for Kenyans On Twitter, and a feisty bunch they are, #JustAskCNN. Twitter has become the go to source in Kenya for news, to advertise businesses, to raise awareness on various causes or to even help curb crime or help others. Twitter was especially helpful during the Westgate Attack as the police would communicate to the public via tweets and also hostages within the mall used social media to get help.

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Innovations

Kenya has been dubbed the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Africa and rightfully so as we have had a series of inventions that are a first of its kind such as M-pesa: a cell phone based money transfer and micro financing service, the Ushahidi system: a platform which allows users to crowdsource crisis information to be sent via mobile and newly released Zabamba rating platform that is basically the Kenyan version of Yelp. At this rate I foresee much much more technological advancement in the next 50 years.

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Tourism

And I saved the best for last… Our tourism industry is world class and that’s mainly because Kenya is home to some of the most rare wild animals in the world so it makes for a popular holiday destination. I can’t forget about the sandy beaches at the coast accompanied with fabulous resorts and hotels and of course, some really great food!

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A resort right by the beach in the coastal town of Mombasa

Kenya at 50 has achieved this and a lot more for a 3rd world country. We are well on our developmental way and I am very proud of how far we have come. Happy Jamhuri Day Kenya which is swahili for- Happy Independence Day.

Diana Odero

Chapman University | 19 stories

Diana is a recent graduate of Chapman University having studied Graphic Design & Sociology. She is an international student from Kenya and is currently working in Atlanta. She is an adventurous person who views the world with an artistic eye. She loves to travel, to read & write, design, cook and meet new people. In addition to writing for The College Tourist she is also working on building her brand as a freelance designer and lifestyle writer. Check out Diana's blog http://www.wrytersden.blogspot.com .


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