Swahili Time

Swahili Time Clock


No, this is not a game of ‘What’s Wrong With This Picture’.  What you are looking at is a clock with numbers that have been moved to tell Swahili time.    

Back in my beginning Swahili class I found out that the Swahili people of Tanzania tell time differently.  At the time, which was about a year and a half ago, the concept blew my mind and I had a difficult time figuring out how to tell time in Swahili.  It is actually very simple and makes perfect sense when you understand it.  

The Kamusi Project says the following about Swahili time:  

What is Swahili time? Swahili speakers count time differently than most other people. In Swahili Time, 1 o’clock in the morning is the first hour after sunrise (what everyone else calls 7:00 a.m.), and 1 o’clock at night is the first hour after sunset (what the rest of the world calls 7:00 p.m.).  Why? Because most Swahili speakers live close to the equator, and on the equator the sun rises and sets at the same time every day of the year. Unlike countries far from the equator, where sunrise in June might occur at 4:30 a.m and sunrise in December might be at 8:30 a.m., the sunrise in the Swahili speaking world is so consistent that you can set your clock by it – so people do.  

You can even buy the Swahili Time Clock pictured above here.  The proceeds go toward supporting the Kamusi Project’s Swahili-English online dictionary.   

So when I land in Dar es Salaam this Wednesday at 8:10pm, in Swahili I would say it was 2:10pm (saa mbili na kumi jioni or two ten in the evening).  

Interesting, huh?


4 thoughts on “Swahili Time

  1. hey (or hi in swahili) Nila!!!!

    OMG hows Tanzania?!?!?! I saw ur mom yesterday and she told me u were there!! I wish i could go to Africa!! That would be a blast!! 🙂 I love ur blog..facebook is nothing compared to this lol!! hows ur swahili coming along? well i got to go!! i’ll talk 2 u soon!!!

    Anjana 🙂

  2. Hi Nila

    I’m a friend of your mom and she gave me the details of your blog. I love reading it. I would love to meet you when you are in Tampa next time. All the best and keep up the good work 🙂


  3. I also lived in Tanzania for a few years. I loved it. The people were the most friendliest – I have ever encountered.

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