Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya, is a sovereign state in the African Great
Lakes region of East Africa. Its capital and largest city is Nairobi. Kenya lies
on the equator with the Indian Ocean to the south-east, Tanzania to the south, Uganda
to the west, South Sudan to the north-west, Ethiopia to the north and Somalia to
the north-east. Kenya covers 581,309 km2 (224,445 sq mi) and has a population of
about 44 million in July 2012. The country is named after Mount Kenya, the second
highest mountain in Africa.
Mount Kenya was originally referred to variously as "Mt. Kirinyaga" and "Mt. Kiinyaa"
by the indigenous people. "Kirinyaga, Kerenyaga, Kiinyaa" meaning the 'mountain
of whiteness' because of its snow capped peaks; the name was subsequently appropriated
to Mt. Kenya because of the inability of the British to pronounce "Kirinyaga/Kiinyaa"
The country has a warm and humid climate along its Indian Ocean coastline, with
wildlife-rich savannah grasslands inland towards the capital. Nairobi has a cool
climate that gets colder approaching Mount Kenya, which has three permanently snow-capped
peaks. Further inland there is a warm and humid climate around Lake Victoria, and
temperate forested and hilly areas in the western region. The northeastern regions
along the border with Somalia and Ethiopia are arid and semi-arid areas with near-desert
landscapes. Lake Victoria, the world's second largest fresh-water lake and the world's
largest tropical lake, is situated to the southwest and is shared with Uganda and
Tanzania. Kenya is famous for its safaris and diverse wildlife reserves and national
parks such as the East and West Tsavo National Park, the Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru
National Park, and Aberdares National Park. There are several world heritage sites
such as Lamu, and world renowned beaches such as Kilifi where international yachting
competitions are held each year.
The African Great Lakes region, of which Kenya is a part, has been inhabited by
humans since the Lower Paleolithic period. The Bantu expansion reached the area
from West-Central Africa by the first millennium AD, and the borders of the modern
state comprise the crossroads of the Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan and Afro-Asiatic
ethno-linguistic areas of the continent, making Kenya a multi-cultural country.
European and Arab presence in Mombasa dates to the Early Modern period, but European
exploration of the interior began only in the 19th century. The British Empire established
the East Africa Protectorate in 1895, known from 1920 as the Kenya Colony. The Republic
of Kenya became independent in December 1963. Following a referendum in August 2010
and adoption of a new constitution, Kenya is now divided into 47 semi-autonomous
counties, governed by elected governors.