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Written by: The Ministry of East Africa Affairs, Commerce & Tourism 

Although Kenya’s safaris and wildlife are one of the country’s most popular assets, Kenya has many other sides that are not so well known. For Kenya’s Independence Day, known as Jamhuri Day, on 12th December, here are 10 interesting facts that you might not know about Kenya:

Flamingos on Lake Nakuru © Xiaojun Deng
Flamingos on Lake Nakuru ©Xiaojun Deng, Make it Kenya

1. Kenya’s name

It is believed that the country’s name was taken from the majestic Mount Kenya. It was originally known as Kirinyaga (named by the Kikuyu community), which translates to ‘place of brightness’. It is said that when the British were colonising the country, they could not pronounce this and used an abbreviation which eventually became ‘Kenya’.

2. The Kenyan flag

On Kenya’s Independence Day in 1963, the symbolic flag was adopted. The colours are all representative of different elements of Kenya’s independence; black represents the indigenous Kenyan population, red represents the blood shed in the lead up to independence and green represents the country’s rich agriculture and land. Following independence, the white stripes and Maasai shield were included to represent peace and the independence Kenya fought so hard for.

Kenya-flag

3. Beaches

beach-kenya

Kenya is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and its coastal line stretches across a vast 1,420km – more than classic coastal destinations such as the Seychelles and Barbados.  With white sands and turquoise blue water, the regions such as Diani and Baburi are ideal for beach lovers.

Nyali Beach, Voyager Beach Resort © Stuart Price
Nyali Beach, Voyager Beach Resort ©Stuart Price, Make it Kenya

4. Producer of the freshest cut flowers

Almost half of the cut flowers in Europe originate from Kenya. The country offers year-round conditions to keep the flower-growing industry thriving  – securing it as one of the largest exporters of flowers in the world.

flowers-kenya

5. White rhino

Kenya is home to the last three remaining northern white rhinos. The three rhinos (Najin, Fatu and Sudan) reside at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Nanyuki. The centre is currently appealing to the public to support an IVF initiative to avoid extinction.

6. Hakuna Matata

Famed by Walt Disney’s The Lion King, the phrase ‘Hakuna Matata’ is actually widely spoken in Kenya. It is Swahili and translates to ‘no worries’, as communicated by Timon and Pumbaa in the classic film.

Take a look at Timon and Pumbaa gallery in our online magazine.

7.  Nobel Peace prize winner

Kenya was home to the first African woman to win a Nobel prize. The environmental and political activist, Wangari Muta Maathai was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.

8. Princess to a Queen

Princess Elizabeth was staying at the Treetops Hotel in Kenya when her father, the King, passed away. Unofficially she became a queen while in Kenya and it is known that she went into the trees as a princess and came down as a queen.

9. Bird species

Kenya set the world record in 1986 for the greatest number of bird species spotted in just 24 hours. A huge 342 birds were seen out of the 1,132 bird species that can be found in Kenya.

Little bee-eaters © Stuart Price
Little bee-eaters ©Stuart Price, Make it Kenya

10. Wedding dowries

Unlike in Western or Indian cultures that expect the bride’s family to pay a dowry to the groom’s family or to pay for the wedding ceremony, it works the other way around in Kenya and other African countries. The groom’s family is expected to offer a starting dowry of ten cows.


For more on Kenya, read: 10 Kenyan Highlights from Saba Douglas-Hamilton 

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