Swahili is the 7th most widely spoken languages in the world, with 100 million speakers. It is Kenyas national language alongside English and here is the roughest of all guides you will ever read on this site.
Swahili is a vast language of East coast of Africa, that stretches from the South of Somalia to the North of Mozambique, via the islands of Pate, Lamu, Pemba, Zanzibar and Mafia. Swahili also extends inland to Uganda, Congo, Burundi, Zambia and Malawi.
For those trying out Swahili for the first time, worry not for it is one of the easiest African languages to learn as doesn’t contain any unpronounceable sounds.
Swahili has only 5 vowels pronounced as below:
A, E, I, O, U .
A, a [a] pronounced like the “A” in FAR.
E ,e [e] pronounced like the “E” in BED,EGGI ,
i [i] pronounced like the “I” in KIT, SICKO ,
o [o] pronounced like the “O” in OFF,ODD.U ,
u [u] pronounced like the “OO” in TOO, COOL.
98% of the people you find in Diani speak swahili and it is great to learn a few useful words whenever you are in Diani or anywhere else in East Africa. As a matter of fact, the people along Diani Beach and the greater Mombasa area are native speakers of swahili. Therefore, Diani Beach is one of the best places to learn swahili in its purest form.
We will start with a few basic words, just remember to pronounce the vowels correctly as shown above and the consonants as you do in English.
The two basic kinds of greeting are based on habari, “news”, and jambo, “matter”.
Habari bwana —————- hello sir
habari, bibi ——————– hello madam
The standard reply to habari is:
mzuri —————————-I’m fine
habari yako, bwana? ————-hello, sir?
mzuri —————————— fine
mzuri, tu ————————— just fine (tu means just)
mzuri sana———————— very fine (sana means very)
Jambo would be loosely translated to “howdy”.
However, Jambo greetings change according to gender and number of persons as follows.
hujambo, bwana ———————— hello, sir?
sijambo, bibi —————————- I’m fine, madam
Greetings to more than one person
hamjambo ——————– hello
hatujambo ————————— we’re fine, madam
For tourists the shortened form is commonly used so just say JAMBO to everyone and they will happily say Jambo right back at you.
Like in most parts of the world, breakfast is a very key meal here. Often, breakfast stalls and small hotels serve early morning delicacies that are washed down with chai – Tea, everybody loves tea here. For those who would like to taste something local and sweet, here are a few delicasies that you should try while you are staying in Diani Beach.
Vitumbua (Vee-Toom-boo-ah)Mouthwatering VitumbuaVitumbua are sweet breakfast bitings that are almost always had with cup of milk tea and best while still warm. Street vendors and local restaurants will serve it in the mornings and sometimes in the evening but almost always as an accompaniment for tea. Vitumbua are circular with a diameter of about 4inches and dark brown in colour, very soft on the inside. Well made vitumbua are fluffy and very sweet, they literally melt in your mouth.
Whats in It
This dish is made from rice flour, coconut, yeast and cardamon and salad oil.
These are more popular than Vitumbua are sold practically everywhere along the East Africa coast from Lamu to Dar-esalaam. These sweet snacks are made of a dough similar to that of doughnuts and are flavoured with ginger or cardamon. These delicious Mahamri are eaten with tea or with stews and curries. A lot of people eat their mahamri with pigeon peas cooked in coconut paste and washed down with a cup of tea for breakfast .
Mahamri are circular or triangular in shape and are brown in color. According to many, the best mahamri can only be had while its hot and it is common for Mahamri to be sold straight from the frying pan. After all, it only take 3 minutes to cook.
Whats in it
The sweetness in the mahamri comes from- Mahamri: Flour, Sugar, Yeast, Coconut milk, a bit of sugar then cardamon/ginger to flavour. The dough is then fried in liquid cooking fat.
This round flat-bread is the most popular unleavened bread in East Africa. It is great for breakfast with some tea but is also popular for lunch and dinner when served with stews. For breakfast, Chapatis are best served with milk tea/ginger tea or at lunch/dinner with curry or stews.
Chapatis are originally from East Asia and found their way to East Africa through Indian traders and immigrants who came to the coast in the 19th century and were adopted into the local cuisine since then.
Chapatis are cooked on a heavy-shallow pan on with a little oil and are not deep fried like the mahamri.
Whats in it
Wheat flour, water or milk, sugar, a little salt to taste and vegetable/ sunflower cooking oil.Three different ways to enjoy your breakfast .