Kenya is a truly magical place. Just the mention of the name conjures up images of archaeological discoveries, world-beating athletes, world-famous wildlife sanctuaries, beautiful rolling beaches, and the welcoming spirit of her people.
A trip to Kenya offers a lot more than just wildlife and breath-taking scenery. The vibrant and rich cultures of its people pulsate as a rhythmic heartbeat heard from the Maasai Mara to the ancient stone town of Lamu.
Let us explore a few of the most culturally-alive, must-see destinations within Kenya’s borders.
· Bomas of Kenya
A visit to Kenya would not be complete without checking out this fantastic showcasing of Kenya’s diverse cultures and traditions. Located in cosmopolitan Nairobi, Bomas means traditional homesteads in the local Swahili language.
Spread over several acres, you will find displays of traditional villages of Kenyan communities complete with information on the various tribes who inhabited them. Bomas of Kenya also hosts a series of daily cultural shows in its impressive 3500 person capacity auditorium.
At the Bomas of Kenya, you can expect to be wowed by the high-octane displays of dance, music, acrobatics and more. It is often difficult to experience all the cultural sights and sounds a country has to offer in just one visit. Bomas of Kenya does a pretty decent job of putting together the highlights.
· Lamu Island
Another absolute must-see is the tranquil tropical island of Lamu. Here, life plays out at a relaxed rhythm. Stunningly beautiful, tiny villages nestle among mango and coconut plantations against a backdrop of endless beaches and rolling dunes.
Of particular cultural significance is Lamu’s medieval stone town. Largely unchanged since the 14th century, the narrow alleyways means there are no cars on the island. Delightfully quaint, donkey rides and traditionally crafted dhows are the only available means of transport. To visit Lamu is to step back in time.
Rich in history, ancient Turkish, Portuguese, and Arab explorers and traders heavily influenced the islands culture, language, and religion. Lamu is the cradle of civilization for the Swahili people and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As a bonus, Dhow safaris can take you beyond Lamu into the exotic islands of Pate, Manda, and Kiwayu. The surrounding archipelago has isolated villages and mysterious ancient ruins for you to explore.
· Maasai Villages
Without a doubt Kenya’s (and likely Africa’s) most famous and instantly recognizable tribe, the Maasai have for hundreds of years freely roamed the lands of Kenya and Tanzania. With their cattle in tow, living a free, nomadic lifestyle, their traditional areas now form the bulk of Kenya’s national parks.
The Maasai, majestic in their brilliant colors, wrapped in their famous shuka and with spears in hand are a welcoming people and allow visits to their traditional homesteads or Manyattas. A warrior tribe with its morans revered for the ability to singlehandedly kill an adult lion; they are surprisingly gentle.
Today, the Maasai people live on smaller parcels of land mainly in the Kajiado and Narok districts. While many have adopted modern lifestyles, a vast number still practice nomadic pastoralism and uphold their long-held cultural practices and beliefs.
A great way to see a country and experience its heart and spirit is by fully immersing yourself in its culture. Kenya, with its more than 42 tribes, is a melting pot of tradition, color, and adventure. The indigenous communities still holding on to their traditional way of life make for a great experience.
If you ever visit this amazing country, be sure to meet the Swahili sailors of the Coast, the culturally rich Maasai, Samburu, and Turkana, as well as the Luo; master fishermen of Lake Victoria.