The Swahili community is one of the largest ethnic community in the Kenyan Coast. It is among the 43 tribes that constitute the people of Kenya. The Swahili play a huge role in the economy and culture of the country at large. Here are some interesting facts about them.
They have mixed origins
Perhaps one of the most fascinating facts about the Swahili community is how it came to be. As opposed to other tribes such as the Luo or Kalenjin who all have a common origin, the Swahili story is different. The Swahili tribe formed when the original Bantu inhabitants of the Kenyan coast intermarried with the Cushitic and Arabic people that came to the Coast to trade. After a while, other traders from different continents including Persians and Portuguese also came to the coast and intermarried with the locals eventually, there was a new generation of multiple ethnicities, and they made up the Swahili tribe.
They are mainly Muslims
As much as they had many influences, the Arabic affected the most on the Swahili people. As a result, they took up most of their practises including religion. Almost all Swahili individuals subscribe to the Islamic teachings and beliefs. This can be seen in ceremonies such as weddings, child naming etc.
They are very artistic
The Swahili people are very talented in the art sector. They have a great grasp of drawing and painting and this is witnessed on things like house designs, crafts and even application of henna. The latter is done on women for decorations and it is a kind of temporary tattoo. Swahili and other Muslim women across the country have their hands and feet decorated with henna during their weddings. Some non-Muslim brides do the same.
They are the founders of the Swahili language
The Swahili language came about as a merger of Bantu and Arabic languages. Through the language, the two main ancestors of the Swahili tribe could easily communicate. The language later spread into the interior of the country and further West of the coast because of trade. Eventually, Kiswahili became the national language of Kenya.
They are existent in Tanzania and Mozambique
Swahili people can be found in large numbers on the coast of Zanzibar Tanzania and a little in Mozambique. The spread came as a result of pre-colonial trade where the Swahili migrated south from Kenya down what was then referred to as the Swahili Coast. Kiswahili also happens to be the national language of Tanzania.
They are avid traders
The Swahili were able to hold on to the trading culture long after the country’s independence and they have many shops established across the coast of Kenya. The Swahili also help with the sourcing of fish from the Indian Ocean into Kenya’s hinterlands in exchange for goods that are not common at the coast.
They have a rich culture
The Swahili hold colourful ceremonies when celebrating or mourning. Great feasts that are common with them usually accompany these events. Some of the common Swahili dishes include Pilau, Wali wa Mnazi, Biriyani and desserts like mahamri. They are also great musicians being the pioneers of Taarab and Chakacha music in Kenya.