The Swahili people are made up of around 500,000 people who also go by the name of waswahili. This culture has been around for thousands of years dating back to at least 100AD when a Greek Traveller wrote about the inhabitants and culture he found when he visited a place in East Africa. Swahili people can be found in a small coastal strip in Kenya down to dares salaam. They can also be found in several Indian Ocean Islands, Lamu, Tanzania, Mombasa and even in North America, Europe and the Middle East. Also, between the coasts of Mogadishu and Sofala exist many Swahili towns which included Mogadishu, Pate, Malindi, Zanzibar and Kilwa.
The language that is primarily spoken by the Swahili is called Kiswahili or Bantu. This language has origins from the Arabic Language but is considered Bantu because of the suffixes and roots of the language. Only five million people speak this language as their first language but around one hundred and forty million people use the language to communicate. Many Swahili people use their original language as a second language and use English as a first to communicate with others in school, work or other places. For example, in the informal greetings. Habari means “hi” or hello. Jioni is Swahili for “evening”. So Habari yajioni means “good evening”.
The Swahili culture is very modest, so a big issue that comes up is with tourist or travellers that come into their communities. Many drink alcohol and dress inappropriately and this has caused some issues within the culture. Many men have taken up smoking pot which has also been a recent issue the culture have had to address. The cultural heritage of the Swahili people is cherished with local taara music (inspired strongly by Arabic music) performed during weddings and concerts in the Swahili. Almost all Swahili people are Muslim and practice the Islamic religion.
Swahili Muslims practice the five pillars of faith that are universal to the Islamic religion worldwide. There are also Swahili people that believe in spirits, men wear amulets around their necks to protect them from these spirits. Prophets and teachers of the religion are the only ones within the culture to become medicine men. Children are expected to attend religious classes called madrassa where they learn the Arabic language, study Quran and learn about their religion.
Swahili favour spicy, flavourful dishes which take inspiration from both African and middle eastern cuisine. One of their primary stable ingredients is rice, which you will find in many traditional meals. Vegetable-based dishes and sweet teas are also hugely popular and due to their adherence to Islam, the Swahili people do not eat pork or drink alcohol.
As with most people and societies, the Swahili people have their own myths, legends and folklore. Many of them are short stories based on Mohammed’s life and adventures, tying back to the Islamic faith which is prevalent and Swahili’s and are often intended to help guide locals to live more fulfilled lives.
The typical Swahili family home could include several generations living under one roof, including children, parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents, nieces, nephews and in- laws. This strict family focus is integral to Swahili culture. Whilst Swahili people live in a number of different ways, permanent housing built from stone in village like settlements remain common and popular. These areas help to create a sense of community and encourage interaction.
For a couple thousand years, the Swahili people have acted as a third party between Africa and the other parts of the world. In the 1900s they played a huge role in the trade of ivory and slavery. These days, many people still rely on the trading industry as well as fishing and farming industries.
In conclusion, craftsmanship and other artistic things are very common in the culture. Men spending time creating hand-carved furniture such as doors and tables while women hand-paint intricate designs on these crafts as well.