Swahili in Arabic script—memorial plate at the Askari Monument, Dar es Salaam (1927)
Women from Comoros in traditional dress.
Although originally written with the Arabic script, Swahili is now written in a Latin alphabet introduced by Christian missionaries and colonial administrators. The text shown here is the Catholic version of the Lord's Prayer.
Swahili Arabic script on a one-pysar coin from Zanzibar c. 1299 AH (1882 CE)
Swahili in Arabic script on the clothes of a girl in German East Africa (ca. early 1900s)
Swahili Arabic script on a carved wooden door (open) at Lamu in Kenya
Loxodonta africana elephants frolic in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, 2012.
Swahili Arabic script on wooden door in Fort Jesus, Mombasa in Kenya

Swahili, also known by its native name Kiswahili, is a Bantu language and the native language of the Swahili people native primarily to Tanzania.

- Swahili language

The modern Swahili people speak the Swahili language as a mother tongue, which belongs to the Bantu branch of the Niger-Congo family.

- Swahili people
Swahili in Arabic script—memorial plate at the Askari Monument, Dar es Salaam (1927)

6 related topics



Country in Eastern Africa.

Country in Eastern Africa.

The Turkana boy, a 1.6-million-year-old hominid fossil belonging to Homo erectus.
A traditional Swahili carved wooden door in Lamu.
Portuguese presence in Kenya lasted from 1498 until 1730. Mombasa was under Portuguese rule from 1593 to 1698 and again from 1728 to 1729.
British East Africa in 1909
The Kenya–Uganda Railway near Mombasa, about 1899.
A statue of Dedan Kimathi, a Kenyan rebel leader with the Mau Mau who fought against the British colonial system in the 1950s.
The first president and founding father of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta.
Daniel arap Moi, Kenya's second President, and George W. Bush, 2001
Uhuru Kenyatta in 2014.
A map of Kenya.
A Köppen climate classification map of Kenya.
Kenya's third president, Mwai Kibaki
The Supreme Court of Kenya building.
President Barack Obama in Nairobi, July 2015
Emblem of the Kenya Defence Forces
Kenya's 47 counties.
A proportional representation of Kenya exports, 2019
Kenya, Trends in the Human Development Index 1970–2010.
Amboseli National Park
Tsavo East National Park
Tea farm near Kericho, Kericho County.
Agricultural countryside in Kenya
The Kenya Commercial Bank office at KENCOM House (right) in Nairobi.
Workers at Olkaria Geothermal Power Plant
The official logo of Vision 2030.
Lake Turkana borders Turkana County
Lions Family Portrait Masai Mara
Maasai people. The Maasai live in both Kenya and Tanzania.
Child labour in Kenya
A Bantu Kikuyu woman in traditional attire
Holy Ghost Roman Catholic Cathedral in Mombasa.
Outpatient Department of AIC Kapsowar Hospital in Kapsowar.
Table showing different grades of clinical officers, medical officers, and medical practitioners in Kenya's public service
School children in a classroom.
An MSc student at Kenyatta University in Nairobi.
A Maasai girl at school.
Kenyan boys and girls performing a traditional dance
Nation Media House, which hosts the Nation Media Group
Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o.
Popular Kenyan musician Jua Cali.
Jepkosgei Kipyego and Jepkemoi Cheruiyot at the 2012 London Olympics
Kenyan Olympic and world record holder in the 800 meters, David Rudisha.
Ugali and sukuma wiki, staples of Kenyan cuisine

However, scholars have suggested that claims of Arab or Persian origin of city-states were attempts by the Swahili to legitimise themselves both locally and internationally.

Kenya has close ties with its fellow Swahili-speaking neighbours in the African Great Lakes region.


Country in East Africa within the African Great Lakes region.

Country in East Africa within the African Great Lakes region.

A 1.8-million-year-old stone chopping tool discovered at Olduvai Gorge and on display at the British Museum.
A 1572 depiction of the portuguese city of Kilwa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Battle during the Maji Maji Rebellion against German colonial rule in 1905.
The Arusha Declaration Monument
Wildebeest migration in the Serengeti
Tanzania map of Köppen climate classification
The Masai giraffe is Tanzania's national animal
The semi-autonomous Zanzibar Archipelago
Regions of Tanzania
Tanzanian ambassador to Russia Jaka Mwambi presenting his credentials to the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev
Tanzanian Embassy in West End, Washington, D.C., USA
FIB Tanzanian special forces during training
A proportional representation of Tanzania exports, 2019
Historical development of real GDP per capita in Tanzania, since 1950
Tea fields in Tukuyu
Nyerere Bridge in Kigamboni, Dar es Salaam
The snowcapped Uhuru Peak
One of the main trunk roads
Zanzibar harbour
Domestic expenditure on research in Southern Africa as a percentage of GDP, 2012 or closest year. Source: UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030 (2015), Figure 20.3
A Tanzanian woman cooks Pilau rice dish wearing traditional Kanga.
Farmers using a rice harvester to harvest rice in Igunga District, Tanzania
Example of a World Food Programme parcel
Researchers (HC) in Southern Africa per million inhabitants, 2013 or closest year
Scientific publications per million inhabitants in SADC countries in 2014. Source: UNESCO Science Report (2015), data from Thomson Reuters' Web of Science, Science Citation Index Expanded
The Hadza live as hunter-gatherers.
A carved door with Arabic calligraphy in Zanzibar
Nkrumah Hall at the University of Dar es Salaam
Development of life expectancy
Tanzanian woman harvest tea leaves
Judith Wambura (Lady Jaydee) is a popular Bongo Flava recording singer.
A Tingatinga painting
National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
St Joseph's Catholic cathedral, Zanzibar

The country does not have a de jure official language, although the national language is Swahili.

Between 65 and 90 per cent of the Arab-Swahili population of Zanzibar was enslaved.


Insular autonomous region of Tanzania.

Insular autonomous region of Tanzania.

The castle in Zanzibar
Omani Sultan of Zanzibar
Zanzibari slave trader Tippu Tip
The Harem and Tower Harbour of Zanzibar (p.234), London Missionary Society
A Zanj slave gang in Zanzibar (1889)
The post office in Zanzibar was initially managed by the postal service of British India. Before dedicated Zanzibar stamps could be manufactured, Indian stamps were locally overprinted. This item is from a pre-printed Indian envelope or postcard, overprinted at the offices of the Zanzibar Gazette, which had the only printing press in the territory.
A street scene in Zanzibar during the early 20th century
President Abeid Karume
A street scene in Stone Town
Produce vendors at a market
The main mosque and Christ Church Anglican cathedral in Stone Town
Hindu temple in Stone Town
12 January 2004: President Karume of Zanzibar enters Amani Stadium for the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Zanzibar's 1964 revolution.
An aerial view of Stone Town in Zanzibar
A dolphin in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Zanzibar
Papilio demodocus in Zanzibar, Nungwi
Prophylaxis poster in Zanzibar, 2008
Seaweed farming in Jambiani
Aquaculture of red algae (Eucheuma), Jambiani
Tourism is one of the main sectors of the economy.
Market stall in Zanzibar's Stone Town
Tourists in boat chasing dolphins in the Indian Ocean near Zanzibar
A narrow pedestrian alleyway in Stone Town, Zanzibar
A train operating on the railway between Bububu and Stone Town in Zanzibar, circa 1905
Several times a day fast ferry services between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar
Zanzibar Harbour
Azam Sealink1 ferry
Zanzibar Airport Terminal I
A view of the clock tower in House of Wonders through Islamic styled door in the Stone City
ZIFF, 2013
Institute of Marine Sciences, UDSM
Aerial view of Amaan Stadium in Zanzibar
Stone Town
Stone Town with Sultan's Palace
House of Wonders undergoing refurbishment
Cloves have played a significant role in Zanzibar's historic economy.
The red colobus of Zanzibar (Procolobus kirkii), taken at Jozani Fores
Zanzibar East Coast beach
Red-knobbed starfish (Protoreaster linckii) on the beach in Nungwi, northern Zanzibar
A Zanzibar beach
Cannons overlooking the water at Forodhani Gardens park, in Stone Town
alt=A five-star resort on the northern part of Zanzibar|A five-star resort on the northern part of Zanzibar

These towns grew in wealth as the Swahili people served as intermediaries and facilitators to merchants and traders.

Although a Bantu language, the Swahili language as a consequence today includes some borrowed elements, particularly loanwords from Arabic, though this was mostly a 19th-century phenomenon with the growth of Omani hegemony.


Coastal city in southeastern Kenya along the Indian Ocean.

Coastal city in southeastern Kenya along the Indian Ocean.

Mombasa was under Portuguese rule from 1593 to 1698 and again from 1728 to 1729. Portuguese presence in Kenya lasted from 1498 until 1730.
Mombasa City Coat of Arms
C. 1953 – A newly constructed East African Railways 60 class Garratt locomotive being unloaded at Mombasa, Kenya. The locomotive is seen here fitted with numberplate 5608, but it was renumbered 6002 at about the time it entered service.
Map of Mombasa's extent.
Renovated Mama Ngina Drive
Tudor, Mombasa
Moonlight view from Mombasa
Old Town across Mombasa Harbour
Seafront of Nyali Beach, north coast (from the Voyager Resort).
Diani Beach
Among the many sellers and vendors along Mombasa's beaches, this man walked up and down all day hoping for tourists looking for camel rides.
Downtown Mombasa
Biashara Street, Mombasa
The Market Hall in Mombasa, Kenya, where especially spices are sold.
A logo of Mombasa Cement Ltd (MCL), a large cement company in Mombasa that provides thousands of jobs to locals.
Moi International Airport
Mombasa Terminus
Nairobi-Mombasa Highway
Mombasa port
Mombasa ferry
Holy Ghost Cathedral, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa
Lord Shiva Temple in Mombasa, Hindu Union of Mombasa
Shree Cutch Satsang Swaminarayan Temple
Askari monument Mombasa
Mombasa CBD Building
Mombasa beach sunrise
Port of Mombasa
View of the old town
New Dwarikadham Hindu temple in Nyali
The Mombasa tusks, on Moi Avenue

These legends can be read as an acknowledgment of the Bantu-speaking origins of the Swahili people.

In 1502, the sultanate became independent from Kilwa Kisiwani and was renamed as Mvita (in Swahili) or Manbasa (Arabic).


Country located in Southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west, and Eswatini (Swaziland) and South Africa to the southwest.

Country located in Southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west, and Eswatini (Swaziland) and South Africa to the southwest.

Mozambican dhow
Arab-Swahili slave traders and their captives on the Ruvuma River
The Island of Mozambique is a small coral island at the mouth of Mossuril Bay on the Nacala coast of northern Mozambique, first explored by Europeans in the late 15th century.
View of the Central Avenue in Lourenço Marques, now Maputo, ca. 1905
Portuguese language printing and typesetting class, 1930
Portuguese troops during the Portuguese Colonial War, some loading FN FAL and G3
A land mine victim in Mozambique
The geopolitical situation in 1975, nations friendly to the FRELIMO are shown in orange
A US helicopter flying over the flooded Limpopo River during the 2000 Mozambique flood
Satellite image
Mozambique map of Köppen climate classification zones
Incumbent President Filipe Nyusi
Maputo City Hall
A section of the crowd at its final campaign rally for the 2014 election
Mozambique's embassy in Washington, D.C.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets members of Indian community in Mozambique, 7 July 2016
Historical development of real GDP per capita in Mozambique, since 1960
A proportional representation of Mozambique's exports
Traditional sailboat in Ilha de Moçambique
European tourists on the beach, in Inhambane, Mozambique
Vilanculos beach Mozambique
Carrying goods on head in Mozambique
Steam locomotive at Inhambane, 2009
National Mozambican airline, LAM Mozambique
Woman fetching water during the dry season from a polluted source in Machaze District of the Central Manica Province
Ethnic map of Mozambique
Population pyramid 2016
The increase in the number of HIV positive Mozambicans on Antiretroviral treatment, 2003–14
Woman with traditional mask in Mozambique
Island of Mozambique, 2016
Headquarters of Rádio Moçambique in KaMpfumo district of Maputo (photo 2009)
Lebombo Mountains
Gorongosa National Park
Island of Mozambique
Monte Binga
Ponta do Ouro
Pupils in front of their school in Nampula, Mozambique
School children in the classroom

Between the 7th and 11th centuries, a series of Swahili port towns developed there, which contributed to the development of a distinct Swahili culture and language.

Other groups include Makonde, Yao, Swahili, Tonga, Chopi, and Nguni (including Zulu).


Country in the Horn of Africa.

Country in the Horn of Africa.

Neolithic rock art at the Laas Geel complex depicting a long-horned cow.
Men from Punt carrying Gifts, Tomb of Rekhmire.
The Beden is a fast, ancient Somali single or double-masted maritime ship.
The Silk Road extending from China to southern Europe, Arabia, Somalia, Egypt, Persia, India, and Java.
The Ajuran Sultanate maintained commercial ties with the Ming dynasty and other kingdoms.
Gunpowder wedding of a Prince of Luuq, one of the main cities in the Sultanate of Geledi.
One of the forts of the Majeerteen Sultanate in Hafun.
Mogadishu, capital of Italian Somaliland, with the Catholic Cathedral at the center and the Arch monument in honor of King Umberto I of Italy.
An avenue in downtown Mogadishu in 1963.
Major General Mohamed Siad Barre, Chairman of the Supreme Revolutionary Council, meeting with President of Romania Nicolae Ceauşescu.
Exhumed skeletal remains of victims of the Isaaq genocide found from a mass grave site located in Berbera, Somaliland.
Map of the sites related to the Isaaq genocide
Prior to the civil war, Mogadishu was known as the "White pearl of the Indian Ocean".
Map showing the ICU at the peak of its influence.
Sharif Sheikh Ahmed
Political and military situation in Somalia as of 2020
Structure of the Federal Parliament of Somalia.
A map of Somalia's regions.
The Cal Madow mountain range in Somaliland features the nation's highest peak, Shimbiris.
The Jubba River
Somalia's coral reefs, ecological parks and protected areas
The coast south of Mogadishu
Somalia map of Köppen climate classification.
A camel in the northern mountains.
Mohamed Osman Jawari, Former Speaker of the Federal Parliament
Former President of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opening the new terminal of Aden Abdulle International Airport in Mogadishu, Somalia. (25 January 2015)
Turkish embassy in Mogadishu
Instructors from the European Union Training Mission in Somalia (EUTM) take Somali soldiers through training drills at Jazeera Training Camp in Mogadishu.
Air Somalia Tupolev Tu-154 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Somalia today has several private airlines
A proportional representation of Somalia exports, 2019
Shoppers in Hamarwayne market in Mogadishu
The Port of Bosaso
500 Somali shilling banknote
Oil blocks in Puntland
The Hormuud Telecom building in Mogadishu
Ancient cave paintings near Hargeisa
The Aden Adde International Airport
Population per age group
The Kaddare writing script
The Mosque of Islamic Solidarity in Mogadishu is the largest mosque in the Horn region
Life expectancy in Somalia, 1950 to 2019
A Somali boy receiving a polio vaccination.
Mogadishu University's main campus in Mogadishu.
Various types of popular Somali dishes
Abdi Bile, Somalia's most decorated athlete and holder of the most national records.
The Citadel of Gondershe
2022 Somalia 1 oz Silver coin Leopard (100 shillings)

Mogadishu, the center of a thriving textile industry known as toob benadir (specialized for the markets in Egypt, among other places ), together with Merca and Barawa, also served as a transit stop for Swahili merchants from Mombasa and Malindi and for the gold trade from Kilwa.

Other minority languages include Bravanese, a variant of the Bantu Swahili language that is spoken along the coast by the Bravanese people, as well as Kibajuni, a Swahili dialect that is the mother tongue of the Bajuni minority ethnic group.