Kenya is a wild and wonderful place. As the country is filled with lions and giraffes and zebras, you might think it’s little more than a nature preserve for foreign sightseers. How wrong you are:
6 Land Of Many Tongues
An amazing 67 languages are spoken in Kenya. (Some sources say 68 or 69, but let’s not quibble, folks.) While the country’s official languages are English and Swahili, the other major languages have evolved from those of tribal culture Africans. A minority group formed by the descendants of the foreign Arabic and Eastern settlers generally favor speaking Middle Eastern and Asian languages such as Arabic and Hindi.
Three main language families dominated the region. People in central and southeastern Kenya speak the Bantu language while the Nilotic languages are common among the people of western Kenya. The third language group is Cushitic, which is common in the northeast.
So, depending on where you go in Kenya, you could end up trying to comprehend a truly staggering array of languages. While English will get you by, the smorgasbord of available tongues in Kenya can only be analogous to a particularly wild night at Hugh Hefner’s mansion sometime in 1978.
5 No Fridge, No Problem
Due primarily to a near total lack of electrical infrastructure outside of major cities during the country’s modernizing period, the Kenyans were introduced to a wild array of beverages without the accompanying technology to keep the new wave of terrible American beers cold. Perhaps the Kenyans have discovered some way to make Budweiser or Coors palatable at room temperature.
Who knows? We do know that all your favorite drinks are available in Kenya, just at a cozy 25 degrees Celsius (77 °F) in the shade. In a way, it’s an honest appraisal of the quality of American lager that this quasi–rat urine fluid is the same at any temperature. On the other hand, the possibility of consuming warm Czech pilsner is daunting.
Let us not even contemplate how people handle champagne.
4 A Monkey Cut The Nation’s Power
Think we were kidding about the scant electrical grid in Kenya? Well, in 2016, a monkey fell off a roof onto a transformer. The resulting power outage lasted for four hours and completely darkened the nation.
Kenya, which is the size of France with about two-thirds of the population density and far more uninhabited land, relies on five major stations by the Tana River to provide most of the power. A disruption to one station can cause major problems for distribution—as we saw in this case.
Despite electric fences, intrepid animals who may or may not be attempting to conquer humanity can and will turn off the lights for the whole nation. What agenda these possibly despotic primates have we may never know. Do they want to hold our XBox Live access hostage for bananas? Is this a declaration of simian war that we just cannot understand? Why won’t they tell us?
In any case, this particular monkey terrorist survived and apparently escaped death by firing squad or prison. Liberals, eh?
3 An Alien Landscape
The Great Rift Valley splits Kenya in two and stretches from Lebanon to Mozambique. In the Kenyan part of the valley lies Lake Magadi. Jam-packed with natural bicarbonate of soda, the environment is strange to the eye.
Only one kind of fish can survive in such salty conditions, but plants and algae conduct supercharged photosynthesis—making the lake itself energy rich. This, in turn, feeds shrimp, which attract flamingos by the thousands in the rainy season.
From the journal of Robert Ripley, 1933:
A light rain, which barely wets the surface, causes a tiny plant growth on the soda, giving it a pink color. A long heavy rain leaves water to a depth of a few inches, causing the lake to turn blue in color. But the heavy specific gravity of the water makes it still and smooth as glass, with never a ripple appearing on its even surface.
In ancient times, the valley was a gigantic freshwater lake. The current salty conditions have preserved many ancient and extinct species perfectly.
2 A Different Kind Of Bullfighting
In the common understanding of bullfighting, a Spaniard dressed like the head of the Kenya Film Classification Board’s dirtiest daydream attacks a cow with a sword. It’s really uncool, and no one should like it—except when the angry hamburger smashes some guy in the bum with a pointy horn. Then you can laugh.
In Kenya, they do things a little differently. There, the Idakho and Isukha communities meet once a month for a real bullfight. Bull versus bull. Horn to horn.
The bulls are bred solely for battle, ramped up on potions, and guarded against potential interference from witches. Then the steers are let rip at each other, bets are made, beers are pounded, and a good time is had by all. It’s kind of like watching the NFL but without the political protests and weird rules.
2 Tech Crimes Are A New Epidemic
One might not expect hacking to be a particularly prevalent problem in a nation where your Internet can be shut down by a monkey. The issue has arisen from easily available hardware not being accompanied by quality software or support—leaving a gap in the market for tech-savvy thieves.
Every year, around two billion Kenyan shillings (US$19.3 million) leave the economy through cybercrime—no mean pickings in a country with a GDP of approximately US$70.5 billion in 2016. “Cybercrime is now recognized as a threat to national security, key ICT infrastructure, and the enjoyment of constitutional human rights of Kenyans such as the right to privacy,” said Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko.