The dancers explode into the arena with the sounds of pounding drums, executing a Kalenjin warrior dance. This is followed by Embu drumming and Swahili taarab music, sending the performers swirling into new rhythms. Acrobats leap onto the floor in a dazzling display of gymnastics and the entire program combusts in a grand finale with fire, music and song.
Welcome to Bomas of Kenya – a rich panorama of Kenya’s many cultures presented in dance and music. It also offers visitors the opportunity to explore outdoor reproductions of the country’s traditional homesteads… “bomas” in the Kiswahili language.
Sometimes called “Kenya in miniature”, the village is a display of the traditional building styles from 23 of Kenya’s more than 40 ethnic groups. Adjoining the outdoor bomas is one of the largest auditoriums in Africa.
Here, Kenya’s national dance company, the Harambee Dancers, have a repertoire of over 50 dances from the country’s many ethnic tribes. To the accompaniment of drums, string and wind instruments this richly artistic company will take you on a musical adventure through Kenya’s history. The daily performances in this 3,000-seat arena offer dozens of traditional dances and songs including spectacular performances from Samburu and Maasai warriors.
On the grounds of the Bomas you can visit the various “villages” of the different ethnic groups and compare their construction styles and organization.
One group’s culture will show off hierarchies – a first wife’s hut, then a second wife’s hut, etc.
At another homestead the placement of granaries will highlight the status of different family members. Keep an eye out for various room partitioning methods and decorations to signify villagers’ responsibilities and status.
The Bomas is an especially welcoming favorite of children. They can explore the traditional houses, climb ladders and generally run about the various huts on display.
The center was founded in 1971 by the Kenya Tourist Development Corporation to preserve and promote Kenya’s ancient traditions and rich cultural heritage. It was the brainchild of an imaginative and entrepreneurial executive who conceived and planned the complex. His name was Barack Obama Sr., father of the 44th president of the United States.
An idea whose time had come, the center has thrived with over 10 million visitors. It is also held in high regard nationally and was chosen as the site for the National Constitutional Conference in 2003, producing a version of the new constitution called the Bomas Draft.
Location: In the suburb of Lang’ata, about 9.5km (6mi) from the centre of Nairobi. It is located near the main gate of Nairobi National Park.
Climate: Nairobi is warm with a significant amount of rainfall throughout the year. The temperature here averages 20oC/68oF.
Operating Hours: The Bomas is open from 10:00 hrs. to 18:00 hrs. daily. Performances take place Monday through Friday from 14:30hrs. to 16:00 hrs., and 15:30hrs. to 17:15hrs. on weekends and holidays.
Getting there: You can book a tour with Natural World Kenya Safaris in Nairobi.
By air: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is the main aviation hub serving the capital of Nairobi.
Utamaduni Restaurant – Offers cuisines as diverse as the cultural performances of the Bomas. Besides local barbecue you can enjoy such specialties as ingokho chicken, matoke plantain bananas and mukimo potatoes.
Play area for Children – As mentioned the Bomas is a wonderful place for children to run, learn and explore. There is also a large dedicated play area for young children.
Craft Shops – There are several shops offering the handiwork of local artisans. Here you can peruse the beadwork, carvings, traditional artifacts, and African attire.
Hosted Events – The Center presents special hosted events in addition to the regular cultural performances such as theater, fashion shows, poetry readings and seminars.
This unique cultural complex offers a fun and informative way to learn about the many aspects of Kenya society. You’ll be entertained by the live performances and enlightened as you explore the authentic ethnic villages of this very diverse country.
So close to the city center, take a Natural World Kenya Safaris excursion to The Bomas of Kenya.
We have safaris departing from the capital to this and other special Kenya Parks and attractions for your Africa holiday.
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Photo credits: Bomas of Kenya
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