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Undying Traditions in Various Kenyan Cultures

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Kenya can be said to have one of the most diverse ethnicity in the region, creating a melting point of various culture, rites and rituals. However, it is important to note that owing to urbanization and religion affiliation, most communities have gradually adapted to western ways; dropping some aspects while customizing some to fit in this new set up. Listed below by travel advisors at are a few practices that have withstood the test of time and show no signs of leaving the scene!

Of Goats and Odd Numbers for the Kamba

The Kamba community forms part of the larger Bantu speaking group in Eastern Kenyan. Marriage rituals have remained a consistent symbol of unity for family units. For anyone considering to marry a girl from this land, the goats for the Ntheo must come in odd numbers! This viciously guarded tradition takes place ahead the marriage ceremony where the groom’s close relatives presents the goats (3+ odd numbers) and slaughters one for the bride’s father. Ntheo is quite an important ceremony, that anyone of the lineage who fails to pass through the rite will not be recognized as married.

Swahili time; an hour or six late!

Mostly found in the Coastal Kenya, the Swahili people way of life is characterized by an infectious sense of oneness that seems to be the very secret of preserving their culture. Some of the continent’s oldest mosques, trade centers, cultural practices and values are still found within the confines of this community. Time as well has not been able to interfere with this set up; if anything it has in itself been a victim of this non-conformity! The first hour of the day kicks at sunrise (western) 7:00 am. Consequently, 7:00pm is the first hour of the night, known as saa moja ya usiku (1 O’clock, nighttime)

Fun and Feast, the Agikuyu Marriage and Betrothal

Matters pertaining to marriage and betrothal have stubbornly withstood the test of time for the Agikuyu. Although a few variations and adaptations have been made along the way to accommodate religion and civilization; payment of dowry takes more or less the same route as was in the ancient days. For instance, the boy must state his intentions in a ceremony known as “kuhandaithigi” loosely translated to planting of the branch – used to mark of his territory and bar any other interested suitor. It is also expected that each respective family must visit their in-laws bearing gifts and the boy’s family must ‘pay dowry’ to the girl’s family as a sign of gratitude. It must however be noted that, dowry expectations varies family and should not be literally connoted as the bride price.

Bow and Pat; Greetings in the Masai Community

The Masai are renowned for holding on to their culture and traditions long after other communities have largely eroded their practices. Just like their colorful shukas, spear wielding ochre soaked Morans and mirthful initiation ceremonies, the aspect of greetings too has withstood the winds of change. An elder will usually part a younger person on top of the head in greetings and bestowing blessings.

Pucker Power for the Kalenjins!

The Kalenjins are globally acclaimed for their impressive track record in athletics. As David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene once noted,only seventeen American men have run under 2:10 hours in the marathon, yet in 2011 alone 32 runners from the community took home the record! However, if keen enough, you’ll notice that this global acclaim, in spite of its magnitude has not at all changed some traditions; our brothers and sisters from the Rift Valley still prefer puckering their lips briefly towards the direction they wish to call attention to as opposed to using their fingers. Talk of pucker-power!

Any interesting and time-defying practices where you come from? Feel free to share!

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