This is one of many greetings you’ll hear on the streets of Zanzibar, or any Swahili-speaking place for that matter. It means, “hello, friend.”
It is customary here for a business owner or worker and a customer to greet each other two to four times before entering into business. A Soup Nazi environment, this is not.
Other greetings include “Mambo, vipi” (how’s it going?) and “karibu/karibune” (welcome), to which you’d answer “poa” (good) and “Asante” (thank you), respectively.
Swahili is a really interesting language. My knowledge of Swahili before coming to Tanzania was limited to the same basic knowledge that most Americans have: it’s the most foreign-sounding, strange language spoken somewhere in Africa. What I didn’t know was that it spans several countries (Tanzania, Kenya, and Mozambique at the very least), and is a mix of Bantu, Arabic, English, and German.
It’s not all that difficult either, at least in theory, and I’m possessed with a desire to learn at least a beginner’s level of Swahili. And, I bet you didn’t know it, but each of you speaks a little bit of Swahili already. At least, you do if you’ve seen The Lion King.
“Rafiki” is Swahili for friend, and “Simba” means lion.