Mount Kilimanjaro stands on an otherwise featureless part of the East African plateau, on the Tanzanian side of the Kenya border, side by side with the smaller Mount Meru. Both mountains are extinct volcanoes, with Kilimanjaro actually being the agglomeration of three distinct volcanoes, whose violent creation is geologically associated with the creation of the Great Rift Valley, 100km to the West.
These two great mountains create a micro-climate around themselves and the rain-shadow created to their South and East supplies the beautiful and superbly fertile land in which the towns of Moshi and Arusha are situated, full of banana groves and coffee plantations. Mount Kilimanjaro National Park and Forest Reserve occupy the whole of Mount Kilimanjaro and its surrounding montane forest.
Kilimanjaro National Park comprises all of the mountain above the tree line and six forest corridors that stretch through the montane forest belt.
There are many unsatisfactory explanations for how the mountain got its name and no one can quite agree which is the truth. “Mountain of Greatness”, Mountain of Whiteness”, “Mountain of Caravans”, “Small Mountain of Caravans” are all names derived from the Swahili, Chagga and Machame dialects.
From what little we know on the subject, we think it might have something to do with the swahili word ‘kilima’, which means ‘top of the hill’. The second portion ‘njaro’ presumably refers to the snow in some way. We did discover that a similar word ‘ngare’ means water in the Meru language.
There is also a claim that the word “kilemakyaro” exists in the Chagga language, meaning “impossible journey”, but this is thought to have derived as a consequence rather than as a precidence.
Of course everyone knows that in truth the mountain was named after the legendary Tanzanian beer.