Where to go
Kenya and Tanzania offer an unrivalled opportunity to meet some of Africa's various cultures
East Africa offers every type of terrain, including deserts, semi-deserts, forests, mountains, lakes, open plains and tropical coasts. This incredible variety has allowed a huge diversity of wildlife to flourish, making the area famous for its animal safaris.
This diversity has also helped tribal cultures flourish, from the coastal Swahili people who are a mixture of Arabic, Bantu and Indonesian, to the Nilotic tribes, the most famous of whom are the Masai, and the full Bantu tribes such as the Kikuyu, Kamba and Abaluhya. Language was the main difference between these groups.
The Bantu tribes are more southern Africa oriented; the languages of these tribes are related and allow inter-tribal communication. Being pastorialists, the majority of the Bantu tribes, such as the Kikuyu, settled in Kenya's south-central areas, around Mt. Kenya's foothills; the Luo settled around Lake Victoria. Both of these areas have rich, fertile soils allowing a settled village life to develop, diverging from the pastorialist lifestyle.
The Nilotic language group is generally considered to be more northern African oriented. The Nilotic tribes found Kenya's arid, semi-desert north and Tanzania's vast open plains as the best areas to develop their cattle herding, nomadic lifestyles. The nomadic cattle herders, such as the Masai and their cousins, the Samburu, roamed the drier open plains while grazing their cattle, sharing the area with the wildlife and developing a close relationship with the wilderness.
The Masai often say the Samburu were kicked out of the Masai tribe for being 'butterflies' or samburu in the Maa tongue. Extremely concerned with their appearance, the Samburu morans, or warriors, are far more colorful in their dress and jewelry than the Masai, despite their very similar language and tribal traditions. Today many tribal areas overlap, but the cultural differences remain to be explored. As the peoples spread out and settled in different areas, the vast distances between each settlement allowed different cultural beliefs to develop within one tribal group as well as each language to alter and change, resulting in today's incredible tribal diversity.