Facts About Kenya: Culturally Vibrant, Beautifully Diverse

Kenya — home to more than 40 different ethnic groups — boasts of both cultural and natural diversity. If you were to travel across the country, you’d see the Indian Ocean, towering mountains and vast savannas. You’d hear 60 different languages. You’d taste the unique flavors of the many different styles of Kenyan food. It is a truly diverse and vibrant country. And today, we’d like to share an array of interesting facts about Kenya — facts that will give you a deeper look into the culture of this beautiful country where hundreds of thousands of Compassion-assisted children live.

Masai in Najile, Kenya. A group of smiling boys in similar red clothes and headbands stand in a line in front of a dark sky and storm cloud.

Key Facts About Kenya

Here are some quick, key facts you should know about Kenya:

  • Population: 52,214,791.
  • Capital: Nairobi.
  • Official languages: Swahili, English.
  • Area: 224,080 square miles. That’s more than twice the size of Nevada.
  • Economy: Kenya is considered the economic, financial and transport hub of East Africa. Agriculture contributes to one-third of the gross domestic product, but tourism also contributes greatly to the Kenyan economy.

Culture and Traditions of Kenya

Kenya is made up of more than 40 different ethnic groups that speak over 60 languages, making the country’s cultures and traditions just as diverse as the population itself. It’s nearly impossible to list them all, so we’ll give you a few cultural facts:

Religion: Kenyan culture is heavily influenced by Christianity. Over 80% of the population identifies as Christian — a majority of whom are Protestant and Roman Catholic. The remainder of religious practices are mostly made up of Islam and various traditional African religions.

Clothing: With the large number of ethnic groups, there isn’t really a cohesive national dress. Each group has its own unique traditions when it comes to clothing. However, the clothing of the Maasai people in southern Kenya is considered the national attire of Kenya. Their traditional dress includes a red piece of clothing called a kanga and lots of bright necklaces, bracelets and beaded headdresses.

General culture: Kenyans put great emphasis on the values of humility, caring for your neighbors and maintaining friendships. While Kenya is adapting to many modern values like the importance of education, they also remain strongly tied to tradition. While some people wonder if this signifies a lack of commitment to their traditional beliefs, many Kenyan people disagree. Instead, it reflects a reality that progress and tradition can coexist beautifully. You’re more likely to find people who hold more tightly to a traditional lifestyle in the rural areas of Kenya — some of whom live in huts, walk barefoot and dress in colorful robes and jewelry.

Music and Dance of Kenya

Out of all the African countries, Kenya has perhaps the most varied assortment of popular music forms, likely due to the 40-plus ethnic groups that make up the country and its culture. Many of the different ethnic groups have their own distinctive musical styles. Historically, music in Kenya has been used for sharing information and stories. But, as oral tradition continues to disappear, the musical traditions of many Kenyans are at risk.

Throughout Kenya, a variety of drums are used in music traditions within the different ethnic groups. For example, the Luhya in western Kenya developed a dance called sikuti, which is named after a drum. It’s an energetic dance performed by a pair of dancers.

Another popular style of music in coastal Kenya is called taarab, which combines traditional African percussion with the sounds of Arab instruments. Traditional taarab is sung in Swahili, but the style continues to evolve alongside the changing of popular beats and rhythms.

From folk and taarab music to imported sounds like hip-hop, reggae, soul, soukous, rock, funk and pop, Kenya’s music has a lot to offer.

From Child Beggar to Full-Time Music Mixer

Jey was raised in one of the largest and poorest slums in Africa. As a child, he was forced to move to the streets of Nairobi to beg for food and money. And at only 9 years of age, he was arrested and imprisoned for stealing.

When Jey was released, he thought he would have to return to the streets — that is, until he was invited into Compassion’s child development program. Jey was given the resources and the hope he needed to escape the cycle of poverty. At the center, he received food, school supplies, medical care and spiritual guidance. He also learned about music.

Today, Jey is a youth pastor and DJ. He has escaped the cycle of poverty, and now music is part of his story.

BONUS: More stories about Kenya.

Food and Drink of Kenya

Just like its culture, traditions and music, the food and drink of Kenya is extremely diverse. Each of the ethnic groups has its own styles and specialties. But today we’ll give you a taste (wink, wink) of a few of the most common dishes and drinks across the country of Kenya.

Ugali is perhaps the most common dish in Kenyan cuisine. Ugali is a cornmeal that is boiled into a thick paste. You can think of it like porridge or polenta. Ugali is often accompanied by vegetables, sauce or protein. It’s also a dish that can be made affordably — making it accessible to even the poorest communities in Kenya.

Githeri is another staple dish in Kenya. It is a stew made of corn and beans with vegetables occasionally mixed in. Githeri is easy to cook — all that’s needed is a pot and the few ingredients that go in! To learn how to make your very own githeri, click here!

Chapati is Kenyan flatbread. It is made of flour dough that is wound into a coil and fried in oil. The origin of chapati can be traced to the influence of the Indian population in Kenya — it even looks a little bit like naan bread. Chapati is considered to be a special treat in Kenyan culture. It goes well with vegetables and dishes like githeri, or it can be served on its own. To learn how to make chapati, click here!

Tea is not only a drink that the Kenyan people regularly enjoy, but it has also become one of the country’s key exports. In fact, Kenya is the biggest exporter of black tea in the world! Tea in Kenya is typically served with milk. It’s often enjoyed with a treat — like chapati.

BONUS: Fun Fact About Kenya

While Kenya participates in many sports, the country is particularly dominant in long-distance running. In fact, the world records for fastest marathon finishing times for BOTH women and men are held by Kenyans.

Photos of What Daily Life Is Like in Kenya

An aerial view of Nairobi, Kenya.
An aerial view of Nairobi, Kenya.

Do you want to learn more about the beautiful country of Kenya and Compassion’s ministry there?

Facts About Compassion and Kenya ›

47 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Pivon Nemwel August 21, 2020

    Hello compassion, i have emailed you i hope I’ll get a reply , am really much humbled to be here let’s unite and help Kenya kids , the Book of James in the Bible do say the truth religious is the religious that take care of orphans and widows in truth

    1. Taryn August 24, 2020

      Hello Pivon! Thank you for reaching out to us! We appreciate the chance to speak with you. If you have any other questions, we would be happy to continue the conversation via email. Thank you! ?~Taryn

  2. Pivon Nemwel August 20, 2020

    Hello dear sisters and brothers in Christ am Pivon Nemwel am from Kenya am happy and so exited to be here above all much humbled if i can explain am saved and born again do believe Jesus being my saviour of my life am a single parental behind that i have 37 orphans i do take care of 7 of them are HIV positive and 1 He’s 3 months years old the mother to the kid died when she was giving birth to He am much humbled to request for donations in terms of food and any support its a registered Home care

    1. Mackenzie August 20, 2020

      Hello Pivon! Thank you for your message! We would be happy to speak with you about this further. Could you please send us an email at [email protected]?

  3. Maxim Mamin August 8, 2020

    Thank you very much Compassion team for the idea to feature the country where the sponsored children live! It was very insightful and touching to see what surrounds Alphine, whom we sponsor as a family. One day I would like to plan a trip to Kenya and meet and greet and encourage Alphine in person, as well as to see the savannas and the wild life of Africa. God bless the team of Compassion!

  4. Janet Grayson August 7, 2020

    We have our third Kenyan Compassion child. Our other two aged out. In 2019 my husband Richard and our son Chas went on a medical mission to the town of Sanjwero in Kenya, They started the trip in Nairobi and were able to do a safari in the Masaii Mara. Hopefully I will be able to go in 2021 as the trip this year was cancelled due to Covid-19. . Thank you so much for the informational blog. As a note, Richard brought me back a beautiful skirt made in Kenya by a woman he met and Chas gave me a Masaii blanket,

  5. Barbara Shepard August 5, 2020

    Kalumba has been my special girl for over 5 years. Would love to meet her and her family. This blog was a special treat for me. Thank you for a beautiful presentation.

    1. Anna August 6, 2020

      Barbara, we hope that you will be able to meet Kalumba and her family as well! Thank you for your sponsorship of Kalumba over the past five years! ?

  6. Debbie August 5, 2020

    Thank you so much for this article. It was so interesting to read and see so many enlightening facts about Kenya. It helps to understand where and how our sweet Musengya lives. Beautiful pictures and article!

    1. Shayla August 5, 2020

      Debbie, I am so glad that you were able to see a little snippet of Kenya. I know how learning about where your sweet sponsor child lives can help you feel a little more connected! Thank you for all that you do for Musengya. ???

  7. Margaret Terrell August 4, 2020

    Thanks for telling me more about Kenya. I didn’t realize it was soo beautiful. They are loving people. Family and friends mean everything to them. So glad their is so many Christians in Kenya. I love Sharon , telling me about where she lives, makes me fill closer to her. God Bless Kenya !!!!

    1. Shayla August 5, 2020

      This makes my heart so happy, Margaret! I know that you are impacting Sharon’s life in all the best ways! Thank you for being a blessing. ??

  8. David Burdette August 4, 2020

    Thanks for the very informative facts on Kenya and its people and traditions. We sponsor Sandra, and now I can better understand her life at home in Kenya. David and Elizabeth, USA

    1. Shayla August 5, 2020

      David and Elizabeth, thank you for all that you do for Sandra. I am so glad that you enjoyed this blog and that it helped you better understand her way of living.

  9. Linda Espinoza August 4, 2020

    What a blessing (wink, wink)? to have these interesting facts about my sponsor child, by the name Blessing! I plan to print it, so I have it readily available when I write to her. Thank you so much for all you do for these children ❤️

    1. Anna August 4, 2020

      That is such a wonderful idea, Linda! We are overjoyed that you were blessed ? by this article! ?

  10. Marcia August 4, 2020

    This is so helpful as I continue to learn about Hillary. I have been so worried about him during this pandemic. He has mentioned some of these foods, so I might make some and send him photos. Continued prayers for him, his family, his country, and all the Compassion Centers providing help.

    1. Anna August 4, 2020

      Thank you for your prayers during this difficult time, Marcia! We believe in the power of prayer, and we appreciate your concern for Hillary’s well-being. ?

  11. Rosemarie Hitesman August 4, 2020

    Thank you for sending this very enlightening information on Kenya.
    It will help me to better understand the letters I receive from my teenager Victor.
    Rosemarie Hitesman

  12. Elizabeth Cain August 4, 2020

    Wonderful article! I truly enjoyed reading this and want to try to make chapati… I cannot wait till I can hear from our young man again!

    1. Anna August 4, 2020

      Thank you, Elizabeth! We hope that you hear from your sweet child soon as well! ?

  13. Pamela Capps August 4, 2020

    Thank You so much for Sharing Helps me Understand more about My Sponsor Child

  14. Connie Vaughan August 4, 2020

    I really enjoyed reading about Kenya, where my girl Mutheu lives. She writes regularly, but I now have a deeper understanding regarding her surroundings; dress, religion, foods, music and her education. Prayers for Metheu and Kenya.

    1. Anna August 4, 2020

      Thank you for your prayers for Mutheu and Kenya, Connie. We love that this article gave you a better understanding of Metheu’s home. ?

  15. Carol & Jack Dressel August 4, 2020

    My husband and I went on a Compassion Sponsor trip to Kenya. It was a trip of a lifetime, and cemented a wonderful relationship with our sponsor child, Wambui. We visited many Compassion Projects, and it was an absolutely amazing trip, which included a 3 day safari. Thank you Compassion , for the wonderful work you’re doing in this beautiful country.

    1. Anna August 4, 2020

      Thank you for sharing this with us, Carol! We are overjoyed that you were able to meet Wambui, and experience the beauty of Kenya! ?

  16. Cynthia Crysler August 4, 2020

    Thank you for sharing this and giving me the chance to learn more about Hannah living in Kenya. I am going to try the recipe for the bread.

  17. Charlotte Smith August 4, 2020

    Wow what an amazing place of beauty. My heart desires to see it in person but don’t think I will ever get there.
    Thank you so much for keeping me up to date on my beautiful Kadzo. I love that girl so very much.
    Love and prayers as you continue in this work

  18. Jill Cruse August 4, 2020

    Yes they make fantastic black tea. You can buy it online.

  19. Collin August 4, 2020

    Kenya sounds beautiful! I learned a lot about the culture reading this blog post. God bless!

  20. Karen Eland August 4, 2020

    I love armchair traveling to Kenya through your helpful blog. Someday perhaps I can visit in person!

  21. Jan Nickerson August 4, 2020

    Thank you so much for this information about Kenya. When I think of the child that I sponsor, I can now picture her in her country. God bless you and all those who work for Compassion. You are God’s hands and feet to these people and especially to the children. Praying for you all for your safety and good health.

    Jan Nickerson

    1. Anna August 4, 2020

      Thank you for your prayers, Jan! This makes us so happy that you can visualize the country of your precious sponsored child. May God bless you as well!

  22. JACK UNDERWOOD August 4, 2020

    Thank you for the information about the beautiful people of Kenya and their culture.

  23. Steven Kohn August 4, 2020

    Great info thank you for sharing. We loved our visit to Kenya in 2018. The people are so full of joy and love. We felt very warmly welcomed and were amazed at the country’s scenic beauty as well.

    1. Anna August 4, 2020

      Thank you for sharing about your trip to Kenya, Steven! The people, culture and countryside are truly beautiful.

  24. Joan Stewart August 4, 2020

    Loved seeing these pictures, thanks so much for them and the info!

  25. David Cole August 4, 2020

    Thank you for the post. The info you shared explained some of the things my sponsored child wrote to me.

    1. Anna August 4, 2020

      David, we are so happy that this article shed some light on the letters your sponsored child wrote to you! Thank you for sharing. ?

  26. Karen Russell August 4, 2020

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful information of Kenya I have a child that I’m sponsoring there and his name is Joshua. It is really wonderful to see and read of his culture which is amazing and beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing and also love and prayers to Joshua and his family also to all the compassion children and leaders of compassion there in Kenya. God bless

    1. Anna August 4, 2020

      Thank you for sharing, Karen! We are so glad that you learned more about Joshua’s home and culture from this article. Thank you for your powerful prayers! ?

  27. Ify August 4, 2020

    I really enjoyed reading about Kenya. I hope to go visit someday!

  28. Dianne Butler August 4, 2020

    I chose our child, Moses, because he was from just outside Nairobi. A good friend is from there, and I love when she shows me pictures and tells me about her homeland. So beautiful! On my bucket list some day, and now have an excuse for a visit! Thank you for telling us a little more about the country. Can’t wait to see it for myself!

    1. Anna August 4, 2020

      Dianne, we hope you are able to visit Moses in Kenya someday soon! Thank you for sharing this with us!

  29. Mitzi Bess July 31, 2020

    Thank you for sharing all this about Kenya. It helps me to learn a little more about Melvin, my child sponsor. Mitzi USA

  30. Rhonda Evans July 31, 2020

    Loved reading about Kenya!! Thanks for sharing this. God bless you all!!!!

    1. Shayla July 31, 2020

      Rhonda, I am so glad that we were able to show you the beauty of Kenya! Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. <3

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