Swahili time begins

9 December 2015 11:05

Swahili time begins when daybreak begins to become perceptible. This is alfajiri, the pre dawn, when birds start to sing and people get up. By hour one, saa moja, the morning, asubuhi, is established. In Kianga on the outskirts of Mtwara, people will turn to greet one another as they are returning from the field with a hoe.

Six hours later, at saa sita, it is noon. By now in Olosiva it's hot. Mchana, afternoon, begins.

Some time in the late afternoon the light begins to change character, and to fade. This is alasiri, pre dusk. Near the equator the shift happens quickly: in the country, people finish what they are doing in time to be near home. They go indoors. By saa kumi na mbili, hour twelve, it is dark. Usiku – night – begins.

At nightfall, Swahili time starts to count the hours of darkness from zero. Day and night are roughly the same length. During most of the night, people are sleeping. After about twelve hours, the first light appears.


Thanks to James Wolstencroft (@gonolek) for hosting a live audio stream at his house in Olosiva outside Arusha, Tanzania.

Farm 510 Olosiva