20 Little-Known Exciting Facts About Kenya

  • Kenya is known for many things.

    Kenya is known as one of the most beautiful and peaceful Nations in Africa, although there have been a few skirmishes within the country.

    Despite it being a huge exporter of high-end coffee, most Kenyans don't really drink it. They actually prefer taking tea and beer.

    Kenya is also known for its entrepreneurial and innovative spirit that has seen it produce some of the world’s most admirable technology, M-PESA, a mobile money transfer service.

    The list goes on and on.In this article, we’ll highlight some of the most interesting, informative and little known facts about Kenya.

    1. Origin of the name Kenya

    Kenya was initially known as the British East Africa Protectorate or British East Africa and it was not until 1920 that it was officially named Kenya.

    The earliest recorded version of the modern name was written by German explorer Johann Ludwig Krapf in the 19th century.

    While travelling with a Kamba caravan led by the legendary long-distance trader Chief Kivoi, Krapf spotted the mountain peak and asked what it was called.

    Kivoi told him "Kĩ-Nyaa" or "Kĩĩma- Kĩĩnyaa" probably because the pattern of black rock and white snow on its peaks reminded them of the feathers of the cock ostrich.

    The Agikuyu, who inhabit the slopes of Mt. Kenya, call it Kĩrĩma Kĩrĩnyaga in Kikuyu, while the Embu call it "Kirenyaa." All three names have the same meaning.

    Ludwig Krapf recorded the name as both Kenia and Kegnia. Others state that this was, on the contrary, a very precise notation of a correct African pronunciation.

    2. A destination for Hollywood films

    Over the past years, Kenya has become a popular destination for Hollywood filmmakers. Thanks to the exceptional views of our environment. Here  is a List Of Hollywood Movies Shot in Kenya 

    The Constant Gardener 

    This is a political thriller film which is based on a story of Justin Quayle, a British diplomat whose activist wife is murdered. It was filmed on location in Loiyangalani and the slums of Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya. It was released on 31 August 2005.


    The 2010 neo-noir science fiction heist film has scenes shot in Mombasa, Kenya. 

    Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life

    The movie which features Hollywood Star Angelina Jolie was shot at Amboseli and Hell’s Gate. It was released in 2003.

    The Ghost and the Darkness

    The Ghost and the Darkness is a 1996 adventure film starring Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas. The film features the deadly man-eating lions in Tsavo.  

    Out of Africa

    The 1985 American epic romantic drama movie was shot at Nairobi’s Ngong Hills near Karen Blixen’s house. It revolves around an unmarried wealthy Danish woman ( Karen Blixen)  who moves to Nairobi to complete a marriage of convenience with her lover’s brother.  

    Rise and Fall of Idi Amin 

    The movie revolves around a Dictator by the name  Idi Amin Dada who rules Uganda with a mad and murderous zeal from 1971 until his overthrow and forced exile in 1979. Most of the filming of this movie was done in Kenya while some parts were shot in the United Kingdom and Nigeria.  

    White Mischief

    White Mischief is based on one of the most scandalous murders in British history, it transpires in Kenya at a time just before the beginning of World War II.  The film tells the story of a tempestuous romance that erupts into murder. It was filmed in Kilifi, Muthaiga, and Karen. 

    Cry Freedom

    The movie which stars Denzel Washington centers on the real-life events involving black activist Steve Biko and his friend Donald Woods, who initially finds him destructive, and attempts to understand his way of life.

    Denzel Washington stars as Biko. Some scenes of this movie were shot in Mombasa. 


    This is an American science fiction drama series which involves a psychic connection of eight strangers from different cultures and parts of the world who eventually form a cluster of “sensates”.

    Sense8 was shot at various locations across the world, in Kenya the series was shot in Nairobi – Kibera, KICC rooftop and Ngara. 

    Nowhere in Africa

    Nowhere in Africa tells a story of a German Jewish family who escapes from the Nazis by going to live and work on a farm in rural Kenya. 

    Paradise: Love

    The 2012 drama film tells the story of a 50-year-old white woman who travels to Kenya as a sex tourist.

    The First Grader

    The First Grader is a 2010 biographical drama film based on the true story of Kimani Maruge, a Kenyan farmer who enrolled in elementary school at the age of 84 following the Kenyan government’s announcement of free universal primary education in 2003.

    3. The largest producer of roses worldwide

    Let’s put it this way, there would be no Valentine’s Day without Kenya.

    Well, not quite. But if you received a stunning, deep-red, fragrant bouquet of roses this past Valentine’s Day, chances are that they made it to your doorstep via a direct flight from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.  

    That’s because Kenya is the third largest producer of roses in the entire world! These roses are also compressed into an oil that is used in famous perfumes such as Yves Saint Laurent’s Paris and Hermes’ Rose Ikebana. Roses, also widely known for their medicinal value for their high concentrations of vitamin C, can be made into a deliciously delicate nigh cap that aides in regulating sleep patterns for sweet dreams.

    4. Elizabeth became Queen while in Kenya

    Princess Elizabeth was staying at the ‘The Treetops Hotel’ with her husband, now Prince Philip, when she got the news that her father, King George VI, had passed away.

    Of course, she had to go back home and get coronated, but technically, she became Queen of England while in Kenya.

    5. Apple’s Siri Originated from Swahili

    You may know that Swahili (and English) is the official language spoken in Kenya, but did you know that your favorite imaginary iPhone friend received her name from a Swahili word, which means Secret?

    According to Siri co-founder Adam Cheyer, the name came up after several other contenders.

    For this Norwegian-American global citizen, the name was nostalgic for its double meaning. In Swahili, it means secret, while in his Nordic tongue it translates into, beautiful woman who leads you to victory.

    Adam had even considered naming his daughter Siri, but discovered that in Japanese, a similar word spelled as shiri means butt!

    6. A part of the Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest freshwater lake, flows through Kenya.

    The country shares the lake with Tanzania and Uganda. Lake Superior in North America is the largest of all the freshwater lakes in the world.

    7. Some of the forests, especially Kakamega, have some of the rarest breeds of butterflies and snakes that cannot be found in many other places.

    8. Rift Valley is the most geographical fault on earth

    The rift valley (which is the longest -6,300 km- and deepest geographical fault of its kind on earth) cuts across 11 countries, one of which -you guessed it- is Kenya.

    According to astronauts who have observed the earth from space, the rift valley is the most visible geographical fault on the face of the planet.

    Reports have it that it was created around 20 million years ago when the cust of the earth was split.

    9. Home to the Great Wildbeast migration

    The great wildebeest migration takes place in Kenya and Tanzania.

    Considered as one of the most breathtaking natural events in the world, the concentration of wildebeest is spectacular; sometimes the herd is comprised of over a million at the height of the migration.

    The migration is between, the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.

    The migration of approximately 1.7 to 2 million animals (including gazelle, zebra, and eland) takes place between Serengeti in Tanzania and Maasai Mara in Kenya.

    Some have even labeled this transition as one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World.” The event is also known as “The World Cup of Wildlife”.

    10. Maasai Mara has one of the largest densities of the lion in the world. 

    11. It is considered the cradle of mankind

    There have been discoveries of Paleolithic remains in Turkana that have led scientists to believe that Kenya might just have been the birthplace of humanity. 

    Kenya has the largest number of fossil human remains appr. 1000 individuals than any other country in Africa.

    Kenya has the oldest human remains going back to 7 million years old from Turgen Hills, Baringo (oldest in Ethiopia = 4.5 million years; S.Africa ca 3 million years, Tanzania = 2 million years.

    Kenya has some of the most complete skeletons e.g Turkana Boy (1.6 Million years), which provided a great wealth of information regarding early human physiology than anywhere in the world.

    12. Jomo Kenyatta National Airport is the biggest airport in East Africa.

    13. 1st African Nobel Peace Prize winner

    Wangari Maathai became the first African woman to win a Nobel peace prize in 2004. Sadly, she passed away in cancer in 2011. But she will always be remembered.

    14. Hosts 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kenya

    There are 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kenya. UNESCO World Heritage Sites are places that are recognized as being of great physical or cultural significance. 

    In this list, 4 are cultural sites and the remaining 3 sites are natural. 

    Fort Jesus, Mombasa (2011)

    Lamu Old Town (2001)

    Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests (2008)

    Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley (2011)

    Lake Turkana National Parks (1997)

    Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest (1997)Thimlich Ohinga Cultural Landscape (2018)

    15. Generous country

    Kenyans generally love being generous especially when they are called upon.

    They will line up to donate blood (remember the Westgate terror which saw Kenyans emerge in plenty to donate blood?).

    Remember the Kenya for Kenyans campaign that raised over Ksh 1 billion through M-PESA for the starving Kenyans in northern and north-eastern Kenya? Remember the about Ksh 7 million raised to enable Jadudi to India for an operation to remove a tumour on his head? 

    According to 2018  World Giving Index report, Kenya has been ranked as the topmost generous country in Africa.

    It ranked position 15 globally, with a giving score of 49%. This is in terms of people’s willingness to give their time or money in order to help others.

    16. Fear of rain

    Kenyans, especially those living in urban areas, will complain about how hot it has become lately.

    They will blame the scorching sun for everything that has become dry including their pockets and wonder when it will rain. But, when it rains, the mad rush that comes with it is spectacular.Umbrellas emanate from ‘nowhere’.

    Everybody gets into a frenzied rush trying to get home and instead, gets nowhere as traffic jams build up quickly and last long after it has stopped raining. Business savvy people will sell you umbrellas, sweaters to beat cold while matatus will suddenly hike the fair by as much four times.

    16. Kenya politics

    Kenyans are obsessed with politics. You may think Kenyans were born with politics as part of their body. 

    They politic all the time but blame all the wrong things in the country on politics or politicians. 

    Interestingly, when ‘one of their own’ political leader is being ‘attacked’ for either making spiteful remarks in public or on allegations of corruption, they recoil in their tribal cocoons to stand with their own. 

    17. Last minute deals

    Kenyans are known to be last minute people. Be it going to file tax returns on the deadline, doing last minute shopping for their kids going back to school or going to vote when the polling station is about to close and demand an extension of the time.

    Many will complain that they were not given enough time to prepare and even when the deadline is extended to suit their demands, they will still wait for the last minute.

    18. Kenya shares Lake Victoria, the world's second largest freshwater lake, with Tanzania and Uganda. 

    19.Kenya is also famous for its Crying Stone in Kakamega. 

    As one approaches this town from Kisumu city, there is a unique, tall stone, around seven feet, that produces a streak of water that makes it appear like it is crying.

    The droplets of water, which local scientists have failed to understand, normally appear like tears.

    20. About 70 per cent of Kenyans are Christians.

    Of these, 38 per cent are Protestant and 28 per cent are Catholic.

    About 25 per cent are adherents of indigenous religions and 6 per cent are Muslim. Over half of Kenya's Muslim minority are of Somali origin.

    The remainder is largely made up of Galla-speaking peoples and the Swahili-speaking community on the coast, which has maintained uninterrupted contact with Muslims from the Arabian peninsula since the fourteenth century. Most Bajun are Muslims, as are some members of the Mijikenda and Pokomo groups.

    Among the Asian community there are Hindus, Sikhs, Parsees, and Bahais.

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