As we move into 2013, and the 50th anniversary of Independence approaches, a new project – 50 Treasures of Kenya – aims to celebrate the best of our nation.
On 12 December 2013, Kenya will celebrate 50 years as an independent land. And what a land – encompassing some of Africa’s highest mountains, most vibrant cultures, burgeoning cities, beautiful coast and abundant wildlife.
To celebrate this diversity a new project, 50 Treasures of Kenya, is creating a definitive list of the 50 most precious things – both tangible and intangible – in our country. Candidates might include natural wonders, such as mighty Mount Kenya or the Masai Mara; they could be manmade marvels – Nairobi’s skyscrapers or Mombasa’s Fort, perhaps; or they might be more abstract – Samburu bead art or the Kenyan flag.
A committee of experts will choose the final set of 50 Treasures in December. But, in the meantime, you can help! The 50 Treasures of Kenya Trust is undertaking preliminary research in order to aid the committee, and would love you to suggest your favourites via its website, www.fiftytreasures.or.ke. To get you in the mood, here are just a few Kenyan gems to inspire…
Kenya’s artistic talents range from jewellery and handicrafts to music, sculpture and clothing. Textiles such as kangas and kitenges have been adopted worldwide, as have an assortment of music, from traditional to Afro-fusion, kapuka and taarab.
The Central Coast
The Central Coast is simply dazzling, with its white-sand beaches, tropical rainforest, mangrove creeks and rich Swahili culture. It’s here you’ll find the historic ruins of Gedi, as well as Watamu and Malindi marine national parks – among the best places in the world to spot whale sharks and manta rays.
Southern Rift Valley
Wonderful walks, wonderful views, the perfect ambience for unique fish and birds – the Southern Rift is a treasure trove. Here you’ll find the sacred Nguruman Escarpment, the significant Olorgesailie archaeological excavations, lovely Lake Magadi and the Suswa and Longonot mountains.
Kenya’s thrusting, cosmopolitan capital is the biggest industrial city between Cairo and Johannesburg, and the economic, cultural and political heart of East Africa. But it’s also a great green city, and the only one of its kind to boast a vast national park within its boundaries.
Mombasa has long been East Africa’s most important port – and there are many reminders of the city’s illustrious history: Swahili and Indian townhouses, British colonial buildings, the World Heritage-listed Fort Jesus and Al Mandhry Mosque.
The third-largest city in Kenya, Kisumu sits beside Lake Victoria, at the end of a historic railway line. It was designated the first UN Millennium City, and is characterised by beautiful religious buildings, interesting fishing villages and markets, and breathtaking views.
Prominent cultures, like those of the Maasai, Swahili and Cushitic communities, are endlessly fascinating. Initiation rites, naming ceremonies, weddings and funerals, traditional clothing, food, languages and the use of herbs for healing – all mark the best of these cultures.
Known as the Jade Sea, Turkana is the biggest permanent desert-lake on earth. It’s also the cradle of mankind: its shores are home to Koobi Fora, site of some of the most significant archaeological finds in the world. It has the biggest collection of rock art in East Africa and is the site of one of Kenya’s most ambitious energy projects.
Do you agree? Would you vote for these treasures? Or is your favourite not on the list? For more information, and to get involved, see www.fiftytreasures.or.ke