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Kenya Quick Introduction

Kenya has been called the ‘cradle of humanity’, a description based on its closeness to the rift valley.

It has a diverse culture of Islam, Christianity and tribal groups such as the Masai and the Kikuyu.

Culture
• Kenya has a population of 31 million people made up of various tribes, and people of European and Arab descent.
• There are a variety of dishes associated with various tribal groups, the most common being Irio, a dish made with mashed potatoes, M’Chuzi wa Kuku (chicken in coconut), M’Baazi (pea beans) which are dishes of the Kikuyu tribe. There is also a porridge-like staple called Ugali which is a dish of the Abaluhya tribe.
• Important public holidays are Kenyatta day (20 Oct) and Independence Day (12 Dec).

The rainy season runs from March to May with a second between October and December; The March rains are the worst, and June to September is the dry season. Luckily the rains do not unduly affect travellers in this part of the world.
• East Africa has a strong religious element and regardless of whether the majority in a particular area are Muslim or Christian wearing long skirts or loose trousers causes less offence, although you may want to get the traditional long cloths called Kanga, which are typical in East Africa!
• As ever if you want to take pictures of people do ask permission and don’t be shocked if they expect some money in return, as it is expected for Europeans to have money.

Working or Volunteering in Kenya on a Gap Year
Apart from teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), it is unlikely that gap year travellers will find paid work in Kenya, for obvious reasons. Even highly qualified and experienced TEFL teachers will earn very little in Kenya, as it is a developing nation, with many economic problems. Your time may be better spent volunteering in Kenya, and you could make a valuable contribution to a voluntary project in Kenya, which though unpaid, will be constructive.

Places of interest
• Kenya is full of dramatic scenery from the salt lakes of the rift such as Nakuru (known for its flocks of pink flamingos), Bogoria, Naivasha, Baringo to the peaks of Mount Kenya and Mount Elgon
• The Serengeti national park, and the Masai Mara game park are famous for the phenomenon of the wildebeest migrations in July to August as well as numerous BBC documentaries!
• Lamu, Watamu and the Gedi ruins are interesting as they show Kenya’s varied past as a trading nation and culture before colonial intervention.

Things you have to know before you go
• The capital is Nairobi and is not the safest of places, nicknamed ‘Nairobbery’ and you should avoid River Road or Uhuru Park, as they are known for muggings. Mombasa beaches are also known for crime.
• Banditry is a problem in certain districts, especially between Isiolo and Ethiopia where you need to go in convoy or with armed escort. There are also bandits in Lamu and the Northwest and northeast. Try to avoid travelling by Matatu (minibus-taxi) at night as people tend not to drive with lights on in the interests of saving money but this means inevitably there is a high ratio of crashes on certain roads.
• You need a visa before you go.
• The currency is the Kenyan Shilling, which is made up of 100 cents, and most tourist places and hotels accept Visa, MasterCard, Access, American Express, Diners Club in their shops and restaurants. The surrounding countries also use the shilling as currency but those shillings are not the same as the Kenyan shilling. £1 is equal to 144 Kenyan Shillings.
• Banks usually open from 9.30-5.30 Monday to Friday.
• The official languages are Kiswahili and English but there are many tribal languages in the various districts and you may have to learn a little of them to get by if you are on a placement.
• You need to get jabs to visit Kenya including Yellow fever, Hepatitis, Tetanus, and Typhoid. You will also need a certificate for your yellow fever jab. You need to have malaria medicine while you are out there. It is recommended you purify water and boil water before you use it. If you like soft drinks and can get them they are generally safe, as Coca-Cola tends to have the best water supply as they have the resources unavailable to local populations.

It is really important to have comprehensive travel insurance when visiting African countries. Also make sure you check with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Travel Advice for Kenya before booking your travel.

Phrases its impossible to do without:
Yes Ndiyo
No Hapana
OK Sawa
Hello Habari
Goodbye Kwa heri
Please Tafadhali
Thank you Asante
Sorry Samahari
I don’t understand Silewi
English Kingereza
How are you? Hujambo
Can I have… Nawaja kupata

 
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