Jambo, Rafiki

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.


One response to “Jambo, Rafiki

  1. Hakuna matata! (no worries) Thanks, GM!

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