East Africa is the part of Africa around and east of the Great Rift Valley, a land feature stretching from the Red Sea to the Mozambique Channel.
East Africa is the cradle of mankind, as the first species of the Homo genus evolved here, and migrated to the rest of the world. The region is also famous for its savannas, with the well-known African flora and fauna.
Within the historical era, East Africa has received immigration and influences from the Bantu peoples, Malay peoples of Southeast Asia, the Islamic world, and the Western world.
Prior to colonialism, the Swahili Coast, which comprised the coastal areas of what is today Kenya, Tanzania and northern Mozambique was a very prosperous region, being home to numerous wealthy city-states such as Zanzibar, Mombasa and Kilwa Kisiwani. The former in particular was the hub of trade routes that went across the Indian Ocean and Sahara Desert, including that of the Arab Slave Trade.
The East African countries have developed very differently in modern times. In the late 19th century, the British Empire tried to create a chain of colonies from Cape to Cairo, competing with German East Africa until the defeat of Germany in World War I, after which present-day Tanzania was transferred to the British. Ethiopia famously resisted European colonialism (except a brief occupation by Italy in the 1930s), and the Dervish State wasn't colonized until after most other precolonial African states. Economically the countries range from Kenya, an emerging economy, to Somalia, one of the world's least developed countries.
East Africa contains spectacular geography, with the African Great Lakes, and most of the continent's tallest mountains. It is geographically isolated from the rest of the continent by mountains, deserts, and the African Great Lakes. The climate is more arid than it is on similar latitudes on the Atlantic coast, which makes the land dominated by savanna and desert.
While the climate in East Africa is tropical (except the tallest mountains, where snow can occasionally be found), humidity varies a lot, with jungles, savannas, and deserts.
Countries and territories
On the shores of Lake Tanganyika; largely deforested and has precious little to interest the visitor
Small country across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen and largely Arabic in nature
This relatively small nation has heavy Arab and Sub-Saharan African influences
Africa's second largest population; an old Christian country, home to castles, beautiful monasteries, and wonderful food
Known for its world-class safaris and beautiful beaches
Gorillas in the mist
One of the least visited nations on earth, wrought with political instability, civil war, and rampant kidnapping/abductions
East Africa's newest nation, broke off from neighboring Somalia in 1991
Mt. Kilimanjaro and major game parks
Wildlife abounds and this is the best place for treks into the Congolese jungle to visit the nearly extinct mountain gorillas
- 1 Addis Ababa — the huge capital of Ethiopia and a major hub for NGOs and the African Union
- 2 Arusha — Tanzania's gateway to the Northern Safari Circuit
- 3 Dar es Salaam — Tanzania's hot and humid metropolis has little to keep the traveler there, but is a major transit point of the region
- 4 Kampala — the bustling, friendly capital of Uganda
- 5 Kigali — aside from the genocide memorials, there is little to interest the traveler in Rwanda's capital; this is a passing through city
- 6 Mombasa — historic coastal Kenyan city thought to be more than 2,500 years old
- 7 Nairobi — the capital of Kenya
- 8 Stone Town — the capital of Zanzibar, and a centre of Swahili culture
- 1 Axum (Aksum) — the ancient capital of Ethiopia famous for its stelae and the ruins of various palaces
- 2 Mount Kilimanjaro — Africa's highest mountain and a great trekking destination in Tanzania
- 3 Nyika National Park — large highland national park in Malawi
- 4 Rwenzori National Park — home of the almost mythical, otherworldly scenery of the Mountains of the Moon in Uganda
- 5 Serengeti National Park — huge national park in Tanzania, perhaps the archetypal African game park; becomes the Masai Mara National Park over the border in Kenya
- 6 Simien National Park — stunning mountain scenery and important wildlife populations in Ethiopia
- 7 Volcanoes National Park — in Rwanda is full of impressive rainforest and volcanic scenery of the Virunga Mountains, and is perhaps the best place in the world to see rare mountain gorillas. Also crosses into Uganda where it is known as Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Ramadan is the 9th and holiest month in the Islamic calendar and lasts 29–30 days. Muslims fast every day for its duration and most restaurants will be closed until the fast breaks at dusk. Nothing (including water and cigarettes) is supposed to pass through the lips from dawn to sunset. Non-Muslims are exempt from this, but should still refrain from eating or drinking in public as this is considered very impolite. Working hours are decreased as well in the corporate world. Exact dates of Ramadan depend on local astronomical observations and may vary somewhat from country to country. Ramadan concludes with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which may last several days, usually three in most countries.
If you're planning to travel to East Africa during Ramadan, consider reading Travelling during Ramadan.
English is understood throughout some of the East Africa region.
Swahili is understood and spoken by a large number of people, especially Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, where it is an official language.
The national parks of East Africa are known as great safari locations.
If you are travelling by boat, yacht or jet ski, you should be vigilant around the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, due to the activities of Somali pirates. There have also been incidents involving jihadists attacking non-Muslims in various parts of East Africa where they would target those who are unfamiliar with the Quran.