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The Swahili Speaking People aka Waswahili !

Who are the Swahili People?
Swahili people (speakers of Swahili, the language) often referred to as Waswahili belong to the Bantu ethnic group of East Africa. People from this ethnic group are mainly on the Swahili coastline, including coastal Kenya, the Zanzibar archipelago, northern Mozambique, Tanzania seaboard, Northwest Madagascar, and Comoros Islands.

In my years as a teenager in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya and later working with the Voice of Kenya, I realised the people from upcountry ( in Swahili Wabara) defined Swahili people as any Muslim African person who speaks Swahili as the first language, and among the major urban centres of modern-day coastal Kenya and Tanzania, Comoros and northern Mozambique, through a Swahilization.  This trend continued with the Asians who also called any coastal Muslim, a Swahili, therefore realistically there is no race as the Swahili, rather Swahili is a language spoken mainly in the Coastline of East Africa by people of different races, faith or cultures- Swahili was a common platform of communication.
Kiswahili – The Language
Swahili is from in Arabic and Sawāhil Roman, literally meaning ‘coasts‘. People of Swahili origin speak the Swahili language. The endonym (An endonym is a name that people of a certain place and language call themselves.) for the Swahili people is Waungwana to mean the civilized ones. Zanzibar, consider the Kiunguja dialect (Zanzibari dialect) to be the better Swahili. Although Swahili is a Bantu language, the language includes some Arabic words, especially those used for administrative descriptions and words are from Hindi, German, and Portuguese. The ancient dialects have very few Arabic words to indicate the language’s underlying Bantu character.Kiswahili was the lingua franca at the East African coast and commercial language since the 9th century. Traders from Zanzibar intensely went into the interior of Africa during the late 18th century to promote the use of Swahili as a common language in most of East Africa. Today Kiswahili is a prevalent spoken African language, used by over 200million people in Africa and the diaspora.
Where in Africa are Swahili Speaking Communities.
Swahili people come from the Bantu who lived along Africa’s southeast coast, in Mozambique, Tanzania, and Kenya. These agriculturalists were Bantu-speakers who inhabited the coast towards the beginning of the first millennium. A substantial amount of discoveries revealed shell beads, timber buildings, bead grinders, iron slag, and shell beads onsite… Mombasa and Dar es Salaam became the first centre for maritime culture at the coast. Thecoastal cities appeared to have participated in the Indian Ocean trade by this time.
The Shirazi Connection
Some Swahili people allege Shirazi origin to form the grounds for the origin of the myth regarding the Shirazi era that infiltrated the coast towards the coming of the millennium. Contemporary academics deny the originality of the claims regarding Persian origin. These refer to the comparative uniqueness of Persian speech and customs, the absence of documentary proof regarding Shia Islam among the Muslim literature along the Swahili Coast, also the rather heavy presence of Sunni Arab-related background proof. The potential origin of the stories regarding the Shirazi came from Muslim dwellers in the Lamu archipelago who migrated south during the 10th -11th centuries. These people came with a system of coins and Islam in indigenous form. The Muslim migrants of African descent probably came up with the idea of Shirazi origin while moving further southwards, close to Mombasa and Malindi, on the coast of Mrima. The long term trade relationships with the Persian Gulf endowed credibility to these stories. It’s possible to allege distant identities by paternal lines regardless of somatic and phenotypic evidence in contradiction. The alleged Shirazi tradition symbolizes the onset of Islam during those eras, a reason there has been
long-lasting proof.
Existent mosques and coins portrayed the “Shirazi” as Muslim Swahili from the north but not immigrants from the Middle East. They migrated south, establishing mosques, bringing coins, mihrabs and precise carvings with inscriptions. The Shirazi should be seen as local Muslim Africans who benefited from the Middle East politics. The Shirazi arrived much earlier and went into mixed marriages with locals connects this allegation to the formation of compelling local stories regarding Swahili people ancestry without separating it from the idea of a maritime-centred culture.Two significant theories exist regarding the origins of the Shirazi subdivision of Swahili. A thesis focusing on oral tradition reveals that migrants from the Shiraz area in Iran’s southwestern region directly inhabited multiple islands and mainland ports along the seaboard of East Africa since the 10th century.
The Gold Connection
During the 12th century, as the gold trade with the faraway Sofala entrepot along the Mozambique seaboard, the settlers were said to have migrated southwards to multiple coastal cities in Tanzania, Kenya, Indian Ocean islands, and northern Mozambique. In 1200 CE, these had set up local mercantile networks and sultanates on various islands, including Mafia, Comoros, and Kilwa on the Swahili coast and in Madagascar’s northwest. The mother tongue of contemporary Swahili people is Kiswahili of the Bantu group of the Niger-Congo lineage. This language has Arabic words.
The Religious Connection
Swahili people belong to the Sunni group of Muslims. Traditional Islamic dressing, including thob and jilbab, is famous amongst Swahili. Using divination is popular among the Swahili people, including the adoption of syncretic features from underlying indigenous beliefs.
Where Do People Speak Swahili
People speaking Swahili and whom we can consider the language as their mother tongue are the Bantu subdivision of the Niger-Congo ancestry. The closest relatives of the Swahili language include Comorian of the Comoros Islands and Mijikenda of the Mijikenda people, Kenya. With the first people to speak it mainly on Zanzibar and parts of the coast in Tanzania and Kenya, the coastline known as the Swahili Coast, it became the language of Africa’s Great Lakes area’s urban class. Finally, it became the lingua franca in the period after colonialism.
The Trade Connection
The Swahili people relied mainly on the Indian Ocean trade for centuries. These people played an essential role as middlemen between the rest of the world and central, south, and southeast Africa. Trade routes went as far as Tanzania, Kenya, modern-day Congo, togethe with goods brought to the coasts for selling to Indian, Portuguese, and Arab traders. Archaeological and historical archives say the Swahili were great maritime sailors and merchants who navigated Africa’s southwest coastline to further lands, including Persia, Arabia, India, Persia, Madagascar, and China.
Artefacts and Architecture
Arabian beads and Chinese pottery were discovered in the ruins of Great Zimbabwe. At the peak of the Middle Ages, slaves and ivory became substantial revenue sources. Various Swahili people captured by the Portuguese and sold in Zanzibar were moved up to Brazil, then a colony of Portugal. Swahili fishers today are still depending on the ocean for their primary source of income. Despite many Swahili people living below the standards of the upper hierarchy in wealthy nations, they are generally taken to be comparatively robust economically because of their trading history. Formerly believed by most scholars as essentially Persian or Arabic origin and style, written, archaeological, cultural and linguistic evidence; however, generally recommends African sustainment and genesis. This was to be supported afterwards by a continuing Islamic and Arabic influence in trade and ideas exchange. Ibn Battuta, a great Berber explorer, was impressed with the substantial beauty he found in 1331 after visiting Kilwa Kisiwani His description of its dwellers as “Zanj” or pitch black with faces having tattoo marks revealed that Kilwa was a wonderful and substantially built town and with all wooden buildings (his account of Mombasa was similar). The building
included courtyards, arches, towers, and isolated quarters for women, decorative elements, and mihrab. Most ruins, including the Gede ruins (Gede or Gedi lost town), are still visible around Malindi Port in southern Kenya.

It is estimated that those that speak Kiswahili as a second language is up to 200 million
in Africa and in the diaspora

World Kiswahili Day Celebrations  2023 

Thursday, 6th July, 6pm to 8pm

Beautiful Swahili Evening

River Room of the House of Lords, London hosted by Lord Boateng courtesy of the Lord Speaker.

Key Note Speaker Mr Ahmed Rajab BBC Legend

Msemaji mkuu atakuwa Speaker Bw Ahmed Rajab, gwiji aliyekuwa BBC

It will be an evening of culture, networking, swahili entertainment and light refreshments.

Dress Code: Official Lounge





Sherehe ya Siku ya Kiswahili Duniani 2023 

Tarehe 6 Julai 2023 ilitangazwa rasmi na Umoja wa Mataifa kuwa Siku ya Kiswahili Duniani. 

ALHAMISI, Tarehe 6 Julai, saa kumi na mbili jioni hadi saa mbili usiku 

Jioni ya Kiswahili yenye mvuto

River Room katika House of Lords, London mwenyeji akiwa Lord Boateng kwa heshima ya Lord Speaker.

Msemaji mkuu atakuwa Speaker Bw Ahmed Rajab, gwiji aliyekuwa BBC

Itakuwa jioni ya utamaduni, kufahamiana, tumbuizo la Kiswahili na vinywaji laini.

Mtindo wa Mavazi: Rasmi



World Kiswahili Day Celebrations  2023 

Thursday, 6th July, 6pm to 8pm

An INVITE ONLY EVENING – Limited Availability



KeyNote Speaker Ahmed Rajab

Ahmed Ali Muhammed Ahmed Rajab

Our Key Note Speaker for the World Kiswahili Day is a celebrated broadcaster, writer, columnist and role model.

It is with a lot of pride and honour for us to have Ahmed Rajab as our KeyNote Speaker for the World Kiswahili Day celebrations.

Knowing Ahmed Rajab…


Ahmed Rajab did his secondary education at King George VI Secondary School, Zanzibar, later on at Westminster College, London for his GCE and A Levels. In 1971 – he graduated in BA (Hons) Philosophy Birkbeck College, University of London; 1974 – University College, University of London

Postgraduate Diploma in Urbanisation in Developing Countries and in 1980 at the University of Sussex for an MA in African Studies, (Modern African Literature and African Political Economy).

 Professional Career

1964 – 1978 – BBC Africa Service (Swahili Service), London, Acting Head/Producer/Programme Assistant.

1980 – 1983 – Ahmed worked in the UNESCO Communications Office, Kenya, as a Consultant, later in 1984 BBC World Service, London, Producer before joining Africa Events, London, as a Senior Editor 1984 – 1986

1986- 2006 Ahmed was the editor of the seminal London-based Africa Analysis – a very well-known and highly regarded publication.


Ahmed has a number of publications to his credit; we look at a few, “A Chilly Wind over the Indian Ocean” in Pioneers, Rebels, and a few Villains – 150 Years of Journalism in Eastern Africa, Edited by Charles Onyango-Obbo, Konrad Adenauer Stitfung, Johannesburg, 2021.

He is the Translator, Samad Msituni by Mohammed Umar, Salaam Publishing, London 2018 and Samad Jangwani by Mohammed Umar, Salaam Publishing, London (2018).

He is also written, “Healing the Past, Reinventing the Present: From the Revolution to Maridhiano” in Social Memory, Silenced Voices, And Political Struggle – Remembering the Revolution in Zanzibar,  Edited by William Cunningham Bissell and Marie-Aude Fouéré, Mkuki na Nyota Publishers and IFRA (2018).

Finally from the few we have selected to share is, ZANZIBAR: Photographic Journey, 50 Years of The Revolution, Lead writer and editor, Gallery Publications, Zanzibar (2014).

Media Contributions

He has  contributed chapters in, Africa Review, Kogan Paul, London, (1994), Africa Today, Africa Books Ltd., London, (1991), Africa South of the Sahara, Europa Books, London, (1990) and New African Year Book, IC Publications, London, (1976).

Ahmed has also written to a number of leading newspapers that include,  Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg,The Guardian, London ,The Independent, London, Africa Forum, London amongst several.

Recently Ahmed has started a new role as a columnist for a Tanzanian Kiswahili online weekly newspaper called Gazeti la Dunia.


Independent Advice Panel for Restructuring the BBC World Service in English, Chaired by Michael Green, former Controller BBC Radio 4, (1997)

Electoral Observer, Equatorial Guinea (2000, 2003 & 2009) on behalf of US-based The Institute for Democratic Strategies.

Former Chairman, Pan-African Association of Writers and Journalists, London.

Director, African Renaissance Centre for Social Research Media and Development (ARECSMED), Hargeisa, Somaliland.

Deputy President, New Africa International Foundation, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Judging Panel

Judge: 2019 Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature;

2018 Caine Prize for African Writing; 1999 CNN African Journalist of the Year Awards.

Languages spoken

 Kiswahili (Mother tongue)

English (Excellent written and spoken)

Arabic (Fair)

French (Fair reading and speaking)

Portuguese (Learning)

His interests are Continental philosophy; chess and poetry.

Ahmed was born in Vuga, Zanzibar, and moved to UK 1964, where he has been living since.


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