Kenya History

The history of Kenya Africa is rather long and complicated, involving a list of different cultures and influences, and as such, this article aims to give readers an adequate summary of how Kenya got to where it is today. Besides enjoying the Kenya safaris and the Kenya beaches, visitors to this East African country can also indulge in the culture of Kenya, which is brought to life by groups like the Swahili, Kikuyu, Masai, and Luo peoples, among others. Some anthropologists go so far as dubbing Kenya "the cradle of humanity", so it is a part of the world that surely figures prominently in overall human development. Kenyan history has surely seen its fair share of strife, some of which continues to this day, though all in all, it has become a relatively safe African country where tourism is among the top industries. Hopefully, the most recent clashes will blow over, allowing Kenya to return to the travel radars of those who might currently be looking elsewhere.

Around the year 2000 BC, nomadic Cushitic tribes from northern Africa began moving into present-day Kenya, though fossils show that hominids, such as Homo Habilis and Homo Erectus, had previously lived here going back millions of years. After the Cushitic tribes came other groups, which started flowing in with more regularity between 1000-500 BC. Kenya's Bantu-speaking groups, such as the Kikuyu and Meru, came mainly from West Africa, with the Nile River Valley being the previous stomping grounds of Nilotic speakers like the Luo, Samburu, and Maasai. The Maasai remain a major fixture in the culture of Kenya, and their tall stature and red robes make them quite distinguishable. The early tribes seemed to stick mostly to the interior, while beginning around 8 AD, Muslims from Arabia and Shirazis from Persia began to frequent the East African coast. The Swahili people of Kenya, who are found primarily near the coast, are descendants of Muslims, and they are still very much Muslim based to this day. Coastal destinations in Kenya like Lamu, Mombasa, and Malindi are excellent places to see relics from the past, with the Gedi Ruins near Malindi and the Takwa Ruins near Lamu as two major historical attractions of interest.

The first Europeans to visit present-day Kenya were the Portuguese, who began to take notice of the trade industry that really extended along much of Africa's east coast. Vasco da Gama was the first Portuguese traveler of repute to explore Africa's east coast, and he arrived in the Mombasa area in 1498. Though he was not exactly received with open arms by the resident Muslims and Arab traders, da Gama had laid the groundwork for further Portuguese interests. As Kenyan history moves into the 16th century, it's evident that the Portuguese had succeeded in gaining control of much of the Kenyan coast. Interesting vestiges from this portion of Kenya history include Fort Jesus in Mombasa, which is a Portuguese fort dating back to 1593, and the earlier Pillar of Vasco da Gama in Malindi, which is made mostly from coral. The Portuguese interests in Kenya and East Africa were centered mainly around controlling trade routes to India and beyond, but other factions would move in to spoil the party, so to speak. Omani Arab, Dutch, and English incursions weakened the Portuguese hold on the coast, with the Omani Arabs being the most imposing enemy. By 1730, the Omani Arabs had basically eradicated the Portuguese, who were losing interest in their trade route as it was.

The Arab slave trade along the coast was prosperous for some time, that is until Kenyan history sees the British putting an end to that. The British managed to end the open seas slave trade by the end of the 1800"s, and Kenya Colonial history began pretty much in and around the 1880"s. Germany had interests in the Kenyan coast during the 1800"s, but they figure less prominently in Kenya Colonial history. Interestingly enough, many of today's wealthiest and most influential Kenyan coast citizens are descendants of Omani Arabs. The British would take great interest in all of present-day Kenya, as would other Europeans, and since the Maasai were engaged in civil war in the 1800"s, their ability to fight off intruders was severely hampered. The Maasai, who were also weakened by famine and disease, eventually signed a treaty with English officials and the historic Kenya/Uganda Railway was soon constructed. This railway would change Kenya history forever, spawning the growth of the capital of Nairobi and bringing a new era with it. In the first half of the 20th century, the British maintained control of British East Africa, as their protectorate was known, and Kenya Colonial history doesn't see Kenya gaining independence until 1963. Unfortunately, the British taking of Maasai and Kikuyu lands remains a stain on Kenyan history, but these and other groups have managed to survive through it all, and as mentioned, groups like these are still part of the backbone of the culture of Kenya.

Kenya's first president, Jomo Kenyatta, brought stability and prosperity to Kenya, though after his death in 1978, president Daniel Arap Moi's subsequent regime became another stain of sorts on Kenya history. In the 1980"s and 90"s, Kenya was losing much, if not all foreign aid, yet the stubborn Moi managed to hold power until retiring in the late 90"s. Not long after his retirement, the fateful 1998 bombing of the US embassies in Kenya showed how unstable Kenya, and other African countries can be. Things like droughts, floods, epidemics, and ethnic fighting have continued to plague Kenya, which has still managed to stay on its feet most of the time. The 2008 ethnic clashes in Kenya have many around the world wondering what is next, but many travelers continue to see Kenya as a safe travel destination, for the most part. It's certainly a rewarding travel destination, offering some of the best that Africa has to offer, so hopefully the latest developments see peace returning to the Kenyan countryside.

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