East Africa is a massive region, containing hundreds of countries and spanning as many as 19 territories. The cultures of East Africa are diverse, but there are common threads that run through much of the region. Many countries have a shared heritage of Western colonialism, Islamic conquest and subsequent independence.
At times multiple countries have been joined under a single African Empire, colonial territory or sultanate. As much as these countries have in common, so, too, do they differ; in fact, even within a single nation there may be as many as a hundred different cultures, dozens of languages and very distinct views of their national identity.
Food and Clothing
East African cuisine makes heavy use of grains and tubers, which are often processed into a mash, eaten with either bread or rice. Yams, millet, sorghum, beans, corn and teff are all widely seen. These dishes are generally accompanied by a meat dish and significant amounts of milk and butter. Pork is not widely seen in East Africa, because of the Islamic influence; most meat dishes consist of chicken, beef or buffalo. Western clothing is most commonly seen in the cities of East Africa, but traditional garb is still worn in rural regions. Clothes are brightly coloured and consist of simple wraps, covering either only the lower body or both the lower body and upper body. In Islamic regions, covering is more substantial, and daily wear includes a head wrap.
East African music consists of simpler instrumentation than Central Africa or West Africa, with a heavy reliance on percussion and basic horns, and less in the way of complex bowing. Since the 1980s East Africa has produced a great deal of fusion music, incorporating elements from Western music to create mash-ups of traditional and modern. Many countries in North-East Africa draw on Arabic influence in their music as well, incorporating elements such as religious poetry into the songs.
The legacy of Islamic rule along the coast of East Africa remains strong, and the majority of those on the coast and in North-East Africa are practicing Muslims. The interior of East Africa is more influenced by South Africa, and they have a Christian majority. Native religions are still widely practiced throughout East Africa as well, especially in the rural areas.