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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Who Are The Swahili?

The Swahili see themselves as neither African nor Asian, but as having their own unique civilization. 


Swahili is the culture of many groups uniquely blended together. 


Swahili was given its name by the Arabs in the 16th century, the Swahili words "Watu wa Pwani or people of the coast.” For centuries, Swahili’s were merchants between the interior of Africa to the coast, dealing mainly in ivory, and slaves from Africa and in textiles and beads from Asia. Swahili identity is unique. The Swahili see themselves as either African or Asian, but as having their own unique civilization.

Lamu has hosted major Muslim religious festivals since the 19th century, and has become a significant center for the study of Islamic and Swahili cultures. In the 16th century the Omani influences on Swahili culture are significant. The Omani introduced many Arabic words into the Swahili language, perpetuated the belief that their social status and way of life was superior to that of the Swahili, therefore Arab ancestry became a marker of status. Later, Arab merchants who came in the 19th and 20th centuries married female African slaves.

In time, the Arabs and the slaves adopted the Swahili language and became "Swahili" themselves, although the differences in family linage are always recognized. Non-Muslim local inhabitants were named, "The People of the Coast", given to them by the rulers of the Sultanate of Zanzibar, who looked down on the local inhabitants and gave them this offensive name; the Swahili rarely use this name.

A number of people believe there are four groups of Swahili people; people who claim per Arab lineage, parents are original Swahili people, children born in a family where Arabs intermarried with Swahili people, and people who were born elsewhere but integrated into the Swahili culture.  


By the Swahili shore by murky1Lamu Old Town is located on Kenya's Coast Province in the Lamu District. Lamu has hosted major Muslim religious festivals since the 19th century, and has become a significant center for the study of Islamic and Swahili cultures. 

Swahili Lamu Old Town has continuously been inhabited for over 700 years, for this reason, Lamu Old Town is an UNESCO World Heritage site. Lamu Old Town is the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa, retaining its traditional functions. 

Lamu Museum and Lamu Fort develop and strengthen programs on Swahili culture in universities and colleges in Lamu in order to ensure diffusion of the Swahili culture. Lamu is one of the best East African representatives of the unique Swahili culture, resulting from interaction between the Bantu, Arabs, Persians, Indians and Europeans.

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