Swahili Travel Destinations – Swahili Culture for kids

Kenya

The Masai Mara – Kenya

During the dry season from July through October, the wildlife is abundant.  You can see the annual migration of over a million wildebeest.  You can see animals chasing their prey. This area is very native and not developed.

Lamu – Kenya

This is one of Kenya’s oldest towns having been settled by the Swahili over 700 years ago.  Many tourists enjoy backpacking in this area.  There are no mini-buses that come here, just donkeys.  You can explore the island or enjoy wandering the narrow streets of the old town.

Lake Nakuru National Park – Kenya

This area is famous for its huge flocks of flamingos (more than 1 million) that enjoy the shallow lake. Home to more species of birds the park also has white rhino, warhog, giraffe, hippo, ostrich and lion.

Mount Kenya – Kenya

Mount Kenya is Africa’s third highest mountain peak of close to 5000 meters, following Batian (5200 meters) and Nelion (5188 meters).  Unlike these two mountains, trekkers can climb Mount Kenya without technical climbing experience or skill.  The mountain slopes are forested and have worn dirt, grassy paths to climb opposed to rock, ice and snow. Mount Kenya is part of a large reserve.

Amboseli National Park -Kenya

This park is a popular park with view of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.  The park is centered around Observation Hill which offers views of the plains below.  The park is home to more than 50 species of mammals and over 400 species of birds.  You can also see elephant, hippo, cheetah, leopard and other species of animals.

Lake Turkana – Kenya

It is the largest permanent desert lake in the world.  Large crocodiles love this lake!  The lake is said to change colors with the wind. The lake area is home to various ethnic tribes.

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy – Kenya

This is a private reserve made to protect black rhino, sitatunga (a type of antelope) and the endangered Grevy’s zebra.  There are over 60 species of mammals and over 200 kinds of birds.  You can observe the animals on foot, on the back of a camel or on a safari jeep ride.

Malindi and Watamu – Kenya

Malindi is a small town.  The beaches that surround this city are one of Kenya’s main attractions.  South of the town are lovely beaches, villas and small resort towns.  There is Marine Park, great for snorkeling.  Watamu National Park is further south and has two main lagoons, lots of resorts and hotels.  Water activities are popular and include sailing, sunbathing, dolphin watching and scuba diving.

Tanzania

The Serengeti – Northern Tanzania

Serengeti National Park offers a traditional African safari setting.  The migration of millions of wildebeest and zebra begin here.  The grassland is home to wild cats.  You can watch them stalk their prey.

Mount Kilimanjaro – Northern Tanzania

Mount Kilimanjaro is an inactive volcano in northern Tanzania near the border of Kenya. It is Africa’s highest peak and the world’s tallest mountain!  Many people from all around the world come here to climb the almost 6,000 meter (19,340 feet) high mountain.

Zanzibar –Tanzania

Zanzibar is a top travel spot because of its beaches on the Indian Ocean.  Famous for its spices, the city became an important slave trading post under the Arab rulers.  Stone Town, the capital, has traditional houses, narrow walkways, a Sultan’s (ruler’s) palace, and many mosques. 

Ngorongoro Conservation Area – Northern Tanzania

This area includes the world’s largest crater.  Almost every wildlife species in East Africa is found here.  This even includes the black rhino.  Several native tribes live here. 

The Selous – Tanzania

This is Africa’s largest reserve.  There are swamps, rivers and wetlands so you can even take a safari by boat.  Walking safaris and also night drives are both popular, too.  You can see elephant, cheetah, black rhino, African hunting dog, hippo, giraffe and crocodile.

Mafia Island – East Coast of Tanzania on the Indian Ocean

Mafia Island receives only 1000 visitors a year!  It has a rich history and a strong Swahili culture that is not influenced by tourism.  Much of the island and its beaches are a marine park.  It is a great place for deep-sea fishing, diving and snorkeling.  You can see whales, sharks, turtles and other marine species.

Uganda

Ssese Islands – Uganda

There are 84 islands with powdery-white sandy beaches on Lake Victoria. It is a place to enjoy the sunsets, a bonfire on the beach and relaxation.

Jinja – Uganda

You can raft the Nile River or take a more peaceful river trip and float down the river.  On the longest river in the world, there is something for everyone.

Kampala – Uganda

The largest city in Uganda is Kampala. Like many cities in Africa its population is growing fast. Kampala has well over 1 million people. 40 years ago it only had one-quarter of this amount.

You can spot stilted thatched huts in tropical gardens or quaint English farmhouses just about an hour’s drive from the capital.  Lake Victoria has attractive beaches for you to explore.

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Common Swahili Children’s Names – Swahili Culture for kids

Boys’ Names

 

Baakin, Maalik, Azaan, Jaafar, Kitunzi, Rafiki, Taalib, Zahir, Akbar, Akili, Amani, Asani, Baraka, Chacha, Dajan, Hamdaan, Jasiri, Jelani, Kasim, Khalifa, Kinago, Lali, Malik, Nyuni, Rasul

 

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Girls’ Names

 

Sanaa, Nia, Taabu, Aisha, Akilah, Bahati, Saada, Shani, Ajia, Saadiya, Safiya, Zakiya, Zari, Habeedah, Amani, Bahiya, Basma, Bishara, Chane, Dada, Dhakiya, Imani, Jahi, Jasira, Kadija

 

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Swahili Language and Alphabet (alfabeti ya kiswahili) – Swahili Culture for kids

Swahili is one of the Bantu languages (of which there are many including Zulu, Xhosa and Shona). It is spoken widely throughout East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and north Mozambique). It is the official language of only Tanzania.  The name for Swahili is Kiswahili and means coastal language.  It is hard to find out the number of Swahili speakers as estimates range from 50-100 million people.

The language began in the first century A.D. to use in trade. The language was influenced by Arabic. About one in every three words is Arabic.  When the Cushitic herdsman were joined by the Bantu tribes and other groups who came to the East African coast like Arab, Hindi, Portuguese and Indonesian traders, they mixed into a new culture, people and language and became the Swahili tribe.  Eventually, they spread along the entire East African coast and formed different cultural groups who spoke dialects of the Swahili language.  Today the Swahili tribe lives in many of the coastal towns in Kenya and Tanzania and on the Indian Ocean island of Lamu, Pemba and Zanibar. There are approximately 1.5-2 million speakers.

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swahili alphabet

In Kenya, Swahili is the national language, but official correspondence is still handled in English. In Uganda, the national language is English but Swahili is spoken by a large number of speakers especially those in the military.

Swahili is one of the languages that is featured in some world radio stations such as the BBC, Radio Cairo (Egypt), the Voice of America (USA), Radio Deutschewelle (Germany), Radio Moscow International (Russia), Radio Japan International, Radio China International, Radio Sudan and Radio South Africa. The Swahili language is also in songs, theaters, movies and television programs. For example, the song lyrics Liberian Girl by Michael Jackson has Swahili has the phrases, Nakupenda pia, nakutaka. The Disney movie The Lion King features several Swahili words, for example simba (lion) and rafiki (friend) as the names of two main characters. The Swahili phrase hakuna matata (no troubles or no problems) is also used in that movie.

The Swahili language is also taught in many parts of the world.  The alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet of 26 letters.  There are additional letter combinations.

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Swahili Traditional Music and Instruments – Swahili Culture for kids

Dance, music and musical instruments all play a role in the Swahili culture.  The different regions have different dances, songs and instruments.  However, many of the traditional instruments are percussion and include variations of the following:

 

The Taarab is a popular genre of music descended from Islamic roots, using instruments from Africa (percussion), Europe (guitar), Arab Middle East (oud and qanun) and East Asia (taishokoto). It is sung poetry and is used at weddings and other traditional occasions.

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Swahili History – Swahili Culture for kids

Between 1000-1800 A.D., many different people migrated to Africa and the eastern part of this country. The Bantu from the Congo or the Niger Delta Basin were the first to arrive, followed by the Luo from Bahr el Ghazel in Southern Sudan and then the Ngoni from Southern Africa.

The Bantu-speaking groups include the Baganda, Banyoro, Batoro in Uganda, Kikuyu, Akamba, Meru, Embu, Taita, Giryama, Digo in Kenya and Pokomo, Chagga, Yao,  Segeju, Zaramo in Tanzania, as well as many other smaller groups.

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The migrations of these different people of East Africa help to explain their culture and customs. The Bantu are believed to have moved in four groups.  These groups were the Interlacustrine Bantu, Central Bantu, Highland Bantu and Southern Tanzania Bantu. The groups moved to the Eastern parts of Africa for many reasons.  Some moved as the tribes moved.  Some moved because of the weather conditions or to find food.  Some moved for protection from the wild animals.  The different groups of people moved toward the eastern part of Africa and their populations have grown to spread the Swahili language and culture.  That is one reason why it is hard to know the exact numbers of people who speak the Swahili language or the number of people who observe the Swahili culture.

Parts of Africa are spread out or separated by large areas of desert, mountain or waterways.  Many people in Africa do not live in a large city so their populations can’t be counted so easily.  What historians do know is that the culture of the Swahili people is rich in history and value of family, religion, arts and crafts, architecture, music and dance and language and poetry.

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Swahili Arts and Crafts – Swahili Culture for kids

Swahili arts and crafts are shown in the design of carpets and rugs, porcelain and jewelry.  Swahili do not use designs of living things because of their Moslem beliefs.  Instead, you will see geometric patterns. A special type of architecture is used for their homes and mosques.  Poetry and music are important parts of their culture.  Swahili music known as Taarab has poetic lyrics.

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Swahili Traditional Clothing and Today’s Clothing – Swahili Culture for kids

The traditional clothing for a Swahili man is a long robe and a small, rounded hat with embroidery or bright colors.  Women dress in long dresses, skirts or draped cloth and have their head covered with a cloth or fabric.  Many of the clothing colors are bright and striped. When not wearing traditional clothing for a celebration or festival and always during important and religious occasions, western style clothing is worn.

 

 

 

Men wear pants and shirts and women a different style of dress.  However, on Fridays, which is the official day of prayer for Muslims, they wear traditional clothing.  The kanga is a rectangular piece of cloth that represents Swahili culture. The cloth is hand-made with extreme care. The kanga is used as a sling to carry babies.  It can also be used to carry melons and other foods on your head when you are walking a distance and you have to carry a heavy load.  The kanga can also be used as a kitchen apron.

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About Swahili Culture – Swahili Culture for kids

Language and Geography

The Swahili language or Kiswahili is a Bantu language spoken by various ethnic groups who live along the large stretches of the Mozambique Channel coastline from northern Kenya to northern Mozambique.  Closely related languages and dialects are spoken in the Comoros Islands and Somalia.  The language was first written with the Arabic script.  Today, Swahili is written in a Latin alphabet that was introduced by Christian missionaries and other people of the world who ruled over this area.

Region, Traditions

Many Swahili are Muslim today because Islam was brought to the East African coast around 1012 AD when traders from the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula came to this part of Africa. The Islam traditions influence the food, clothing and way of life for the Swahili people. Swahili children attend Madrassa, which are religious classes to study the Koran and learn the Arabic language.  Swahili marriages are usually arranged by parents. That means the parents who have a daughter choose the groom for her.  Nowadays, she may decide not to marry this person and select her own groom.  The weddings last several days with ceremonies and activities for everyone.  Only men are allowed in the mosque for the wedding vows.

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