Kenya is often credited as being the Cradle of Mankind and possibly the place where human beings first evolved. Fossil records in Kenya date back over 7 million years.
It is a cultural mosaic of over 42 ethnic groups. The indigenous people of Kenya can be grouped into three main ethno-linguistic clusters: Bantu, Nilotes and Cushites. The Bantu speaking people are believed to have originated from the Central African region. The Cushites, who are mainly pastoralist tribes, are believed to have come from Ethiopia. The Nilotes originally came from the Nile Valley, probably in Southern Sudan.
Besides the rich tribal customs that are marked by the rhythms of the seasons, rites and hierarchies, rituals and social ceremonies, the multifaceted culture of Kenya ranges from its people and language, food, artifacts, music and dance, to art, theatre and literature.
Kenya also hosts a myriad of archaeological and historical locations. Fossil sites are found around Lake Turkana in the North, Lake Baringo in the Central Rift Valley and Lake Magadi in the South. Historical sites include archaeological ruins of settlements along the Kenyan coast stretching from the Lamu archipelago in the North to Kwale in the South.
The Indian Ocean brought influences from the outside world and the unique Swahili culture along the Kenyan coast has been shaped by influences from Arabic, Asian and European cultures. The annual Lamu Cultural Festival organised in the World Heritage Site of Lamu Old Town is dedicated to celebrating the time-honoured Swahili traditions of the archipelago.
In the interior, the Maasai people remain the most recognized for having retained their authentic culture. The Maasai had a reputation as fierce warriors but now in an era of peace have retained their traditional ways exemplified by their pastorial way of life and coloured ornaments made of beads.
Kenya is a land of breathtaking contrasts and both natural and human diversity. Few destinations offer the cultural tourist greater possibilities. Within the borders of a single country the discerning traveller can be immersed in a melting pot of fascinating cultures, from the Northern deserts, the Western Lake region, the Central Highlands, the Southern savannas, the legendary land of the man-eating lions in the expansive Tsavo-Taita ecosystems in the East, and finally down to the Kenyan Coast.