Bomas of Kenya is a tourist village and cultural hub located 6 miles outside of Nairobi. The village represents the traditional homesteads, or bomas, from 23 different ethnic groups in Kenya, as well as traditional dances presented in its enormous auditorium.
The place was first opened in 1971 by the Kenya Tourist Development Cooperation after being created and planned by Barack Obama Sr., even though he is not mentioned on the official website. Despite being the driving force behind the project, Obama Sr. was removed under contentious circumstances, his superiors dissatisfied with what they viewed as his excessive use of unilateral decision making.
Despite its rocky start, the center evolved to become a thriving celebration of Kenya’s more than 40 ethnic communities. The name of the tourist village is derived from the Swahili term Boma, which means “homestead,” and refers to the 23 imitation villages found on the site, each reflecting the distinct traits of their individual ethnic group.
At first look, all of these spherical huts appear to be the same. However, with closer examination, significant and different social systems emerge. The layout of the many homesteads gives interesting details about the ethnic group. Homestead planning in polygamous tribes, for example, shows this different order (first wife’s hut, second wife’s hut, etc.). The size and placement of granaries at different homesteads reveals the responsibilities and importance of specific family members. Different construction methods, as well as different types of partitioning and décor within homes, differ amongst groups, showing significant cultural distinctions.
Along with the homesteads, one of the most important structures at Bomas of Kenya is the 3,000-person auditorium, which is one of the largest of its kind in Africa. The auditorium, designed in the manner of an African hut, presents daily song and dance performances by several of Kenya’s ethnic groups. These cover a wide range of tribal cultural traditions, from Kalenjin warrior dances to Swahili taarab music and Kikuyu circumcision ceremonies (minus the actual circumcision). The Utamaduni Restaurant completes the cultural showcase by celebrating traditional Kenyan food with delicacies from all throughout the country.
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