East Africa, yaaaasss! If you know anything about me, you know I am a huge fan of this region. Blame it on my first African friends in America being Kenyan, one of my closest friends over the years in America being Ugandan, my current favorite Africa band Sauti Sol being Kenyan,Zanzibar being my dream honeymoon destination and my love affair with all things “habesha,” the history, food, the people, after my unforgettable summer in Addis! To be fair, Zimbabwe is sometimes counted as East Africa and we are more South East though if you are to press the issue. Being Bantu people we have a lot of similarities with some of East Africa, linguistically and food wise. Swahili is a “bastardized” version of my language Shona and if I speak slow enough my Kenyan friends can understand me! The staple food of Zimbabwe, sadza, is ugali in Kenya :)!
Ok to start off here are some top of line facts and stuff about East Africa that i find fascinating!
1. East Africa is home to the some seriously amazing environmental landmarks on the African continent,
- The tallest peak in Africa, Mt Kilimanjaro( firmly in my travel plans)
- The world’s second largest freshwater lake Lake Victoria,
- The world’s second deepest Lake Tanganyika.
The longest river in the world(Often disputed with the Amazon River), the River Nile, whose water source is shared by 11 countries. I got to visit one of its sources the Blue Nile in Ethiopia and it is amazing!2. East Africa probably has the most phenotypically, culturally and religiously diverse population in Africa across the region. The coastline of east Africa, had centuries of European/Portuguese and Arab influence through trade and then various European colonizers had different pieces of East Africa. Consequently East Africans are many shades of brown, hair textures and religions and the oh so delicious food! I am secretly, nope openly jealous of the even dark chocolate skin tone of my Ugandan best friend, and cannot get over the amazing hair my Somali and Ethiopian friends have! We shall get into that in the next article!
3. Ethiopia is one of my favorite countries that blew my mind with its an unique history and presence on the African continent. It includes their own version of Christianity; the Ethiopian Orthodox church, and a history of great monarchs that include its last one King Haile Selassie, the father of the rastafari movement, a religion found largely in the Caribbean. The Ethiopian kings even lived in castles which at first glance you think you are in Scotland, but alas you are deep in the middle of Africa! Ethiopia also went through a brutal military government, a time they call the “Red Terror”, where lot of people were being executed and it is largely the reason for the large migration to the US by Ethiopians in the 80s and 90s. I was deeply saddened and embarrassed to learn the man responsible for this, who headed this government, Mengistu Hail Mariam comfortably living on several acres of land in exile in my country, Zimbabwe, because of course my president protects another murderer! Last note on Ethiopia, it is the only African country that was never fully colonized after fighting off the Italians twice. If you cannot tell already, I highly recommend visiting it!
4. East Africa ,in particular the horn of Africa part, has been the center of historical conflicts on the African continent, with countries like Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan having been at war for the past god knows how long. We will touch on this in the next few articles.
5. East Africans speak a diversity of languages, from various native tongues to others they adopted from the foreign influences. In fact Swahili, which actually sounds a lot like my language, Shona, is a mash up of the Arabic vocabulary and native languages along the east coast of Africa. Ethiopians also speak a unique language called Amharic which is an Afro-Asiatic language of the Semitic branch originating in the Middle East.
6. East Africa, in particular Kenya, is considered the tech center of Africa, so named Silicon Savannah.Nairobi is the technology epicenter of Africa, and that’s why literally everyone I know loves that city so much and move out there to live out their start-up dreams on the continent. Another cool topic that we will cover in the next few articles!