Even if you've never been to Kenya, chances are you know what it looks like. Kenya's savanna is familiar from movies, TV shows, books, and commercials. It's the landscape many people imagine when they think of Africa.
Kenya is located in East Africa. Its terrain rises from a low coastal plain on the Indian Ocean to mountains and plateaus at its center. Most Kenyans live in the highlands, where Nairobi, the capital, sits at an altitude of 5,500 feet (1,700 meters).
West of Nairobi the land descends to the Great Rift Valley, a 4,000-mile (6,400-kilometer) tear in the Earth's crust. Within this valley in the deserts of northern Kenya are the jade-green waters of famous Lake Turkana.
Map created by National Geographic Maps
PEOPLE & CULTURE
In Kenya, more than 60 languages are spoken and there are more than 40 ethnic groups. Almost everyone there speaks more than one African language.
School is free in Kenya, but many children are too busy to go to classes. They help their families by working the land, tending cattle, cooking, or fetching water.
Music and storytelling are important parts of Kenyan culture. For centuries, tribes throughout the country have used songs, stories, and poems to pass on their beliefs, history, and customs.
Millions of people visit Kenya each year to see its endless savanna and the animals that inhabit it: elephants, lions, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, hippos, rhinos, and more. The Kenyan government has set up more than 50 reserves and parks to protect these animals.
People seeking African wildlife usually focus on Kenya's lowland savannas. But Kenya's ecosystems also include deserts, swamps, mountain, and forests. Each region has its own mix of plants and animals that are suited to the area's particular conditions. Kenya's highland forests are home to many animals found nowhere else in the world.
Kenya was a colony of the United Kingdom from 1920 until 1963. Since its independence, it has been a republic, with a president, a national assembly, called the Bunge, and a judiciary.
Kenya's location between the Indian Ocean and Lake Victoria means that people from all over Africa and the Middle East have traveled and traded across it for centuries. This has created a diverse culture with many ethnic groups and languages.
Scientists think Northern Kenya and Tanzania may have been the original birthplace of humans. The bones of one of the earliest human ancestors ever found were discovered in Kenya's Turkana Basin.
Slavery is a big part of Kenya's history. During the 1600s and 1700s, many Kenyans were kidnapped and taken as slaves by Arabs, Europeans, and Americans. By the mid-19th century, slavery was outlawed by most countries, but by then, thousands of Kenyans and other East Africans had been taken to countries throughout the world.