Photo Courtesy: http://www.lamupaintersfestival.org

Just like any other place, the Coast too has it’s good, bad and ugly. Sure enough, what’s below is only part of the story and not the full picture. There are several other personalities and several other perceptions. So kindly read this without being judgmental. There’s always another side of the coin 😉

1. The man rich in culture: He is the typical ‘Coasterian’ from head to toe. He is proud of his culture and traditions and would never trade it for anything else. He is always in a kanzu and kofia or otherwise a kikoi and shirt. His shoes would always be the makubadhi just like his coffee would never be espresso, latte or cappuccino. He would even ask, with eyebrows raised, “Why on earth would I drink that when there is kahawa tungu?” (In Kiswahili of course). So nah, the sugarcoating of these fancy names don’t move him in the least bit. You wouldn’t miss him in traditional events like the lamu cultural festival or mawlid and zefe. His house preference would always be the Swahili traditional homes so definitely, his wife choice would be a woman who knows enough about udi and asmini and a lot about samaki wa kupaka, mkate wa mofa and matobosha. He probably works as a fisherman or in the traditional businesses that have been existence since his forefathers. In the evenings he’d be seated at the baraza with friends chit-chatting or playing backgammon. His accent is not ‘Westernized’ so the ‘T’ in Fatma comes out mildly as it should be. If you are a visitor at the Coast, this is the guy you meet and see ‘the Coast’ all over him.

2. The Maalim: The man with the longest beard? 😀 His clothe of choice would always be the white sparkling kanzu. He is the sheikh; the ustadh. People trust him and value his opinions. He holds some knowledge in religion and preaches. The community treats him like the village elder and thus, involve him in many of their problems. He is respected and honoured. He is definitely the man to go to when in trouble.

3. The Mganga? Before you meet him, you will come across his poster or a piece of wood on an electricity pole advertising his ‘skills.’ Oh, he promises a lot of things; to cure your ailment, to get you a good job, to know if your wife is cheating. The only thing he won’t promise you is heaven. You’d find his home in a dark town in a dark village in the darkest spot of the mtaa. Creepy? I thought so too.

4. The lazy bone: He has no idea what is happening in his life or those around him. He is pretty much non-existent. He is jobless and is not ready to look for one. His wife/mother/woman of the house ends up spoon-feeding him because he’ll never bother provide or bring something to the table. In the evenings you’d find him at the baraza with his two kilos of miraa. He is so comfy and you’d wonder how they can be that relaxed without a penny.

5. The shy guy: He is genuinely shy. Not the social media guys who claim to be shy because this one definitely is. He is raised with high Islamic and traditional morals, he’d blush if a girl said hi. He is more often than not a loner or with few selected friends. You never have to worry about his behaviour in front of your parents because he knows his limits.

6. The sea-lover: It would be so wrong to be born at the Coast and not love the sea right? He cherishes the sea than anything else. It’s the place he goes to early in the morning for a jog, or at lunch hour to eat or when is stressed, when happy, when he is bored, when everything and nothing happens…you’d find him there. The sea is his home.

7. The odds beater: He is the man who proves against the stereotype that Coast folks only await for the mangoes to drop. He is ambitious and passionate in whatever field he has taken. He may be very well educated but he may also be not. However he is still very successful.

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8. The slippy mouth: He knows all the insults in the world. Everything in his conversations and talks must include an insult even when it’s totally out of context. Doesn’t matter if he is joking, laughing, greeting, teasing a friend,angry or frustrated; an insult will definitely appear somewhere in his sentences. Most probably he grew up with the habit or adopted it. He doesn’t care what you’ll think of it but you better be prepared when talking to him; your ears will beg for mercy. Oh and by the way, he’s also very loud in his speech so you’ll hear the insult even when miles apart.

9. Mommy’s boy: Most of the times, a boy like him comes from the upper class but sometimes from the lower class too. He’s been pampered all his life and been given all he ever needed. He barely knows how to survive on his own and depends highly on his mum/parents to sort things out for him. He loves his mum genuinely though, we can’t argue about that.

10. The gentleman: He may be similar to the shy guy but not necessarily. He is charming, a man of his words and most of all, humble and gentle to the people around him. He is a principled man and knows how to deal with people. Husband material? Most often than not.

11. The man of four wives: He will say he has a big heart which is spacious enough to accommodate four ladies 😀 Cliche much 😀 Never debate polygamy with him because you’ll fail miserably. He finds solace in his women and is proud of himself. Wonder all you want, he still made it through with his wives 😀 or maybe he didn’t but he still doesn’t regret his ‘venture’ into polygamy.

12. The pious one: Born in a family with good morals, raised well enough, ventured into religious education and has succeeded in being a scholar. In other scenarios, he pushed himself single-handedly into piety-hood. May be young but holds an ocean of knowledge in him. May be a hafidh too (memorizer of the qur’an) and people around him value his wisdom. He may or may not be a preacher but his opinions are still highly respected due to his level of piety.

13. The drug-addict: The most unfortunate scenarios of them all. He probably started early with small stuff like sheesha and miraa before graduating to marijuana and the likes. He may be from a broken family or is a neglected kid and sometimes, he is just a spoilt brat. He met other birds with the same colours and now they flock together terrorizing the community around them. This kind of story most often than not ends miserably or terribly except if he is lucky enough and got a hand to pull him out and into rehabilitation. May God protect us from such scenarios.

Oh well, we still love the Coast don’t we? With everything in it and every kind of personality we still love it here more because no place will ever feel like home more. Hey Coastal men, found yourself up there? 😀


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By: Imran Abdallah Saeed via https://mylitcorner.wordpress.com

I finished watching the fourth season of 24 the other day.
As if I wasn’t already a big fan of the series, this season just went above and beyond to hook me in even further. Jack. Bauer. What’s not to like about this guy?

The narrative around which the show 24 usually revolves is that a lot can happen in a single day. And boy doesn’t a lot happen in Jack’s life in those 24 hours. His hobbies during the day include kicking butt and running around a lot without, seemingly, stopping once to catch his second wind. He kicks off with staging a store robbery, then single-handedly storms a compound chokeful of terrorists to rescue a government official, then saunters off to the headquarters of an arms dealership to gather intel where he wards off an army of mercenaries, then leads a black-ops mission to retrieve an informant from the Chinese embassy, all while looking as fresh as a November chrysanthemum (I don’t know what that word means either).

And he does all this while constantly being pressured and second-guessed by his bosses who include quite possibly the most incompetent US president ever depicted on a TV or cinema screen.

He is hands-down the embodiment of all our fantasies of resilience and invincibility. Jason Bourne and wimpy James Bond have nothing on him at all.

Perhaps it’s just as well that Jack Bauer is not a very complicated man. He has no philosophies to preach or grand prophecies to narrate to his audience. His dialogue does not include confounding parabole with deep life lessons a la Master Yoda. When a character is that ‘simple’ but fights for his country and innocent people, everyone can relate to him.

His adversaries, on the other hand, are the ones with complicated philosophies and big words, which is why they are so blindly committed to their causes they are willing to die for them. In this season, true to form of most TV and cinema presentations in the recent decade, and of particular interest to this article, Jack’s adversaries happen to be…well…“Muslim” terrorists.

When the first few episodes of season four came out, there was such a huge uproar over the portrayal of Muslims in the show that the Muslim Council of Britain lodged a formal complaint, and it’s hard not to see why. The show depicts a Turkish Muslim family so modern and assimilated in a foreign culture that the mother doesn’t wear a hijab, and the teenage son begins dating a non-Muslim local girl. Which is a big problem because frowny daddy has plans to turn continental US into a radioactive wasteland and his son’s girlfriend jeopardizes that…I think? What follows is borderline sinister and truly heartbreaking.

Feirouz, the teenage son, is pressured by his parents to kill his American girlfriend, because ‘she saw the darn warehouse’ where the father and other terrorists have been hiding a kidnapped government official. Feirouz chickens out and tries to rush his girlfriend away to safety, but she dies in his hands as it dawns on him that his mother poisoned the girl’s drink. You’d expect Feirouz would break down in tears and cry a river, but somehow, he manages to pull himself together immediately and doesn’t seem that distressed. No biggy, mum and dad were right anyway. Then, in a curious turn of events, mother turns against father to protect Feirouz, husband shoots mother, proceeds to kill an uncle and is on the verge of killing Feirouz when Jack Bauer swoops in once again to put an end to the madness. Just a troubled, messed-up family from start to end.

When the complaints began flooding in, the show’s creators promised that Muslims would be cast in better light towards the middle of the season. When that anticipated moment finally came it manifested in an underwhelming, in my opinion, cameo of two scrawny Muslim gun-store owners who helped Jack Bauer fight that army of mercenaries, further propagating the idea that Muslims are always ready for a fight, whether it’s to actively start one or to simply join in.

Alright, so maybe that’s what 24 is all about, gritty scenes with bad guys and good guys gleefully exchanging bullets every chance they get, so maybe that was the best we could have hoped for, but then I remember watching another show, the X-files, where one episode follows two very normal looking (and to some extent timid) Muslim teenagers cruising through an American town in their car until they park besides a building. Then to my genuine, but premature, delight they begin reciting together, a dua so familiar, in accent-free Arabic, I almost joined in. I remember thinking check out these two poor guys shaking and praying, are they going for a job interview or something? I hope they get it, I really do. I felt stupid seconds later when they walked into the building and it went up in one of those colourful explosions Hollywood is famed for.

It put me off so terribly, I watched the rest of the episode with my hand half reaching for the remote, but still curious to see if there would be some redemption for the Muslim community to come later.

It’s really depressing, I tell you, watching a TV show depicting people who claim to share spiritual beliefs with you, speak flawless Arabic and recite verses of the book we recite every day and regard as our life-manual, only for them to later on draw out their AK47s from thin air or don a bomb vest. You look at those people, when they are presented to you initially, hoping to see elements of your own life reflected back to you, but nothing of the sort is forthcoming.

We, Muslims, are people too.

We make embarrassing mistakes, small and big, throughout our lives, like every other human being.

We have an unhealthy habit of crying too much when we lose someone close to us, like most human beings.

We have our moments of comic awkwardness.

Like when we cant decide what to do with our hands while greeting the elderly who are our non-Mahrams (those we are eligible to marry). Our norms dictate it’s more respectful to extend your arm, yet at the same time tell us we shouldn’t when it’s a non-Mahram. Biiig dilemma.

Or that famed three-part Eid hug moment, when visiting relatives and you can’t remember whether you’re supposed to start on the right side or the left, or whether to end it with a kiss on the cheek or not. And if we do finish it that way, then who goes first? And then, you have that scene where both of you try to do it together and end up going around in circles and your necks wrap around each other and give rise to a clumsy two-headed monster.

Or how about the curious glances we contend with when we shout “Allah Akbar” in public after hearing good news. ‘Allah Akbar’ means ‘God is Great’ by the way, not ‘Death to the West’, for anyone here as yet unaware of that fact. In my mind I sometimes imagine a scene where a traditional middle-eastern mother visits her son in the US or Europe where he’s been studying and recently started working, and when the son pulls up at the arrivals terminal in his shiny brand new car, the overjoyed mother breaks into a khaleejy dance singing, “Allahu Akbar, my son’s made it. Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar.”

The son jumps outside, fidgeting and smiling nervously and tries desperately to get her to stop, “Ma, mama, ya ummi! Here in the states we say, ‘Yay!’ and sort of jiggle our feet. Quick now, get in the car, before mysterious men in dark suits pull black bags over our heads and throw us in an FBI van, shukran.”

Are none of the above moments or similar worthy of joining the ranks of those classical “famous TV scenes”?

How much longer are we going to have to wait for that modern Muslim family sitcom the world so desperately needs right now?

I don’t know, something’s got to give. Am almost sure of it. That there will come a time in the future when someone in the upper echelons of the entertainment industry will look at the culture of a people who make up a quarter of the world’s population, see past the layers of stereotypes and into the humor and romance in it and finally produce a critically acclaimed, fan-adored show that really, actually captures the life of the modern Muslim.

Until that happens though, this angry “Muslim” on my TV screen, with his bloodshot eyes and his sharp tongue and his gun-trigger-seducing fingers, will remain as strange to me as the mission he dedicates his life –and death­ – to.

Photos Courtesy: lifeinmombasa.com, http://blog.jovago.com/, http://www.travelstart.co.ke/

There is a reason why people from all over the world keep saying, ‘Mombasa Raha’. Of course the statement is not over-rated, if anything, Mombasa can be the best place to take a break. And by Mombasa I am referring to the larger Mombasa of the old times that extends to Lamu, Malindi and Mambrui on the North and to Likoni on the South. We just have too many blessings to ignore. Here is why:

1. Mombasa has the most hospitable people: Oh yes! This is the place where you need direction and the person drops everything they have in hand to escort you to your destination. This is the place where people can welcome a total stranger who needs a bed into their homes. We have seen since ages ago, our grandparents allowing exchange students and tourists to live amongst us and within our premises and most of the times free of charge. Well maybe security issues have disadvantaged this tradition to go on as before but still, in some places in the Coast it still happens. This is the place you can comfortably talk to a stranger in a public vehicle and chat like you’ve known them forever. This is the place you greet anyone and they reply even when you don’t know each other. I mean, go to Nairobi and try saying hi to someone on the street and see how they will freak out like you are the psychopath who has been stalking them in forever. Especially if you have a beard! man you are doomed 😀 But we’ve been doing it here in forever. We have neighbours living close together as one family and sharing both the good and bad moments together. Well this may have changed with time but it still happens in some places especially during the month of Ramadhan where neighbours, friends and relatives take plates of food to one another which is commonly known as bembe and sometimes even eat together. The place just becomes too comforting and the unity makes your heart bloom with joy.

We also have people assisting you with fare in a public vehicle when you have lost your own. People defending you when you are being mistreated or taken for granted. I remember an incident where two young high school boys were boarding a matatu but unfortunately, the driver took off just after one had boarded; leaving the other one behind. So the one who had boarded told the conductor he needs to alight because he cant go without his mate. The young boy really looked confused and agitated. It seemed like he was going to boarding school which may be far and perhaps had his own reasons why he wanted his mate to be with him. But the stubborn conductor wouldn’t let him alight with the saying, ‘si atakufata nyuma tu’. The boy kept insisting as he helplessly stood near the vehicle door. The more the boy pleaded, the more the passengers got agitated as well. So they started telling off the conductor, ‘wewe acha mtoto ashuke bwana’ and they really seemed irritated by how the conductor was ‘bullying’ the boy by not allowing him to alight. So it went on until some ladies in the car said, ‘usipomshukisha basi sisi sote pia twashuka.’ When the conductor saw that the pressure was rising, he decided to let him alight. If you were in the car, you’d think all those people knew that young boy by the way they were complaining. So yes, definitely this is the place you will find the kindest and most hospitable people. They can sacrifice their own dinner or their savings to let you, the visitor eat very good food, be comfortable and to your full.

2. Food? Is that even a question? The best of recipes and foods come from here. From the delicious breakfast of mahamri and mbaazi, with tea or coffee commonly known as kahawa to the heavy lunch of wali wa nazi, samaki wa kupaka and fresh juice and ending it with dinner that could be anything really. The varieties of food are uncountable; giving you the utmost satisfaction by eating whatever you love most. Could be mishkaki, shawarma, biriani, pilau etc etc. The desserts are not any less mouth watering! To make things even more interesting for a visitor, there are cafes and ladies beside streets selling palatable food and bites at every corner in Mombasa and you may end up getting confused where and what exactly to eat. You can always ask those who travel out of Mombasa what they miss most, our Coastal food is always mentioned! Oh our mothers and ladies are just blessed with that kind of hand that can mix up anything and end up making a new invention; a superb recipe haha.

3. The Coastal beaches, hotels, historical sites and wild life parks
are just a wonderful place to relax your mind and have the peace of mind that you just need. The breezy Coastal beaches are filled with coconut trees that make it such a wonderful scene and some magnificent hotels are positioned right at the shore. What more would you need? You can always wake up early to watch the sunrise at the beach or the sunset.
The places to visit are many and it’s your choice to just make up your mind on which shore to explore on your sunny Sunday and yes, you can get an exciting ride on camels, donkeys and horses as well. Historical sites such as Fort Jesus and Jumba La Mtwana have so much meaning to the residents of Mombasa and they display the deep culture that has for long been an attraction for tourists.

4. The deep culture and beautiful people
in Mombasa make it an interesting place to be in. We have all sorts of tribes inter-marrying and associating with one another. As such, we have inherited so many cultural traditions all at once. The Swahili, Arabs, Bajunis, Indians, Mijikenda, Barawas, Somalis amongst many others have been able to adapt each others traditions and live peacefully together despite a few differences here and there. There are several festivals such as Lamu Cultural Festival, Lamu Food Festival, Shela Dhow Race among others. Don’t hesitate to join the festivity!

5. The outstanding evenings- In Mombasa, the afternoon is usually the nap time for many who are free and the evening comes with such merry. You will find men just after their evening prayer seating with their mates, drinking kahawa chungu sometimes with haluwa or tende as they play backgammon. As for the ladies, an evening in Mombasa is not complete without the delicious viazi karai, bajia with chatini and ukwaju, sambusa, vitumbua amongst many other bites or sometimes it would simply be eating of the famous mabuyu, achari and sunflower as they sit watching TV, listen to taarab or most commonly chat with fellow women in their lesos and deras in their homes. The mabuyu and achari from Mombasa are used as gifts internationally so I guess this is where we make them best I guess? As for the children, you wouldn’t miss seeing them jump and run about playing with their age mates. You won’t miss to see boys and young men playing football in different grounds. They would go to buy barafu or babu kachri (It consists of a thick tangy potato gravy, sprinkled with crushed potato crisps and khara sev (a fried crispy snack made from chickpea flour and spices and topped with a spicy chutney) to spice up their evenings too. Well, what is life without food anyway? Sometimes they go for outings and walks in places like light house, buy kachri (crips), sit by the beach or go for ice cream. To top it up, there is no annoying jam to slow down your day. Here, people are always in the celebrating mood. Any day any time is the time for an outing. Where else do people have such spectacular evenings filled with joy, merry and children’s laughter?

6. Among the best of house wives come from the Coast. Ladies are taught from a very young age how to cook, how to handle a home and children such that when they get married, they are experts in being exemplary house wives. Being a house wife is really underestimated yet the work the ladies do to ensure their homes are up to date can’t be ignored. They beautify themselves with piko and henna for their husbands, use vikuba which have different flowers like vilua, mawardi (roses), Asmini (Jasmine) sown together to perfume their hair and the most commonly known Udi to perfume their clothes, bodies and their rooms. They wouldn’t miss a couple of lesos in their wardrobes from the famous Abdallah Leso with powerful messages and sometimes with mafumbo and methali.

7. The traditional Coastal weddings are just another thing!! The setting, the food, the pretty ladies!! During weddings, ladies wear crowns, necklaces (shada la pesa) or any other designs made of money and sometimes gift it to the newly weds or their relatives. I previously wrote an entire article about Swahili weddings, you can always check it out!

8. Religious Upbringing:
As much as the Coast has different religions, the majority are the Muslims. Children are encouraged to go to madrasa at very young age, to participate in religious challenges as well as memorization of the holy book. We have Christians as well who have their own schedules for the young people and gladly, we have been able to inter-mingle with other religions without any problems. Such upbringing is to instill upright behaviour and humbleness in the children.

Mombasa and the Coast at large has been on the edge in the past few years. Things have changed, situations have changed and the people keep changing. With the coming of technology, many of the traditions, values and morals have been going downhill too. Nonetheless, today, let us just forget all the ills of Mombasa and appreciate the good and the multiple blessings we have. These are but a few, there are many more. I am not saying the above mentioned doesn’t happen elsewhere, I’m just saying this is ‘home sweet home’.

Photo Courtesy: Unknown

Hey you over there. Yes, you! This is kindly for you. I hope this letter brings my concern to your gentle heart. Please give it a minute or two, or perhaps a few minutes of your golden time. This is for everyone and for no one in particular. This letter is to my leader whom I hoped would hand me a ladder to my dreams; to the rich of Mombasa whom I wished would stretch their hand in the pursuit of supporting me; to my neighbour whom I believed to help me when in need. Don’t be mistaken, this is definitely for you just as it is for anyone else. THIS…is to whoever it may concern.

Mombasa. The place with the most beautiful sunset on earth; the area of undeniably eye catching blue waters and ever-green palm trees bowing down to you, a region of rich and deep culture which we inherited from diverse tribes and races; the place we forever will cherish. This is home sweet home.

This city has grown so much over the years and the changes can’t be defied. We have grown to be like the mysterious city where all we can see is the sickening mixture of success and failure; unity and selfishness; joy and grief. The Mombasa that the older generations knew of was the one that had a vision; a vision that was later diluted with the lethargic nature of the current generations. All we have now is a mishap of ideas within the community where everyone talks but no one acts. The great say, an idea is only when it is implemented. There are many ideas but the implementation remains a far-stretched theory. So where are we heading to when all we do is jog at the same spot year in year out?

We have now inherited a multi-cultural personality which would be to a great advantage if we could join our thoughts of religions and education system to be unified. Truly, love for your people is not bought-it is gained through community awareness and progress. So how much do we really lose if we put aside all our differences of social class, religion, tribe and whatever else that separates us from the ultimate success?

I have always been amused to hear of how the Mombasa we know of was during old times; how everyone was a brother to another even when there was no blood relation, whereby a neighbour could punish another neighbour’s child for some wrongdoing, how people would support each other in weddings and funerals; it all sounds like Mombasa was this one big family where everyone knew everyone but it didn’t just end at the knowing each other, it went further to deeply expose the brotherhood and unity that was there. All this harmony and peace was suddenly grabbed from us by the unknown and all we are left with are skeletons from the past.

The blessed month of Ramadhan; the month of mercy and forgiveness, has always displayed the golden hearts of our people in a platter. There is the great sense of unity and love as we join hands in this glorious month and it is so touching to see ourselves remember the poor, do charity in abundance, remember our neighbours for the first time in months, visit the sick, join hands to do community work and so much more. This doesn’t just define us as religious beings only; it defines us as a community. It shows our real potential and ability to do a great job to reap fruits for our people. It is out of the prayers that I have that I am hoping that this unity could be extended throughout the other eleven months; not just for our sake but for the betterment of our children too.

It is high time we embraced our fears and grief; it is due time we stopped stigmatizing the homeless child that lies on the dirty road with nothing but a piece of torn cloth to cover the body, the poor old frail man who owns nothing but the soul in him, the woman who wakes up before dawn and walks for miles in search for any random duty to make her ends meet, the man who struggles to push an overloaded rickshaw as he sweats profusely under the bright sun; this man who would probably just cough one day and spit blood and becomes his doomed end. It is important for us to tackle our egos and have a more gentle view on others. We need to appreciate every minor character in this tale of Mombasa; all these people we ignore and sometimes abuse, yet they are the growing power of our town.

Let’s turn our focus on the moral rot and impunity in our region; let us put our energy together in fighting all odd and immoral trends that make us walk face-down in shame. Let us fight for our once most peaceful environment. We have to bring back our love for each other, the harmony, the tranquility, our traditions, our language; that Coastal flavour that we can never find anywhere else.

Just as I want to be a Kenyan proud to be a Kenyan for what Kenya does for Kenyans, I want to be overly proud to be a Coasterian for what the Coast does for the Coasterians to gain ultimate success as a unified County. Let us all unite; be it Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Atheist; be it rich or poor; be it literate or illiterate. This is the time to join hands.

My bottom line is just; peace, love and unity once again for us all.

Yours faithfully,

Lubnah Abdulhalim.

(A citizen of Mombasa)

Photo Courtesy: Unknown

The Coastal wedding is not only an event of family gathering but also a deep cultural affair. It is one of the most prioritized events in the Swahili community which is one of the largest language groups in Coast and these cultural events can be very interesting. Once a man has come forward to the lady’s family to bring his proposal, then that is just the beginning of the Swahili weddings. The engagement event itself has a lot of merry and the lady’s family prepare with different kinds of foods and more to that; mashairi are recited to the bridegroom’s family to show the great joy that is joining the two families. Dowry is discussed whereby the two families negotiate on the amount of money, property or furniture to be paid to the bride.

Swahili weddings are quite similar to the Arab traditions of weddings since there is said to be a blood relation and connection between the two tribes. The Swahili elders are said to save money, utensils and even gold special for such an event in the family. This just shows to what extent this event is important to them.
A Swahili wedding is never complete without the numerous tasty foods served for the guests and most importantly, for the men of the two families which is known as ‘chakula cha mkono’ which is normally prepared by the bride’s family. The foods include mikate ya sinia, vitumbua, sambusa, kebabs, vilosa amongst others. And of course biriani being majority’s favourite doesn’t miss out for the lunch event. The recipes have not changed over the years and they really display the Swahili culture in depth.The families prepare themselves by making arrangements of the initial wedding day. The women apply the ‘piko’ and ‘henna’ at their arms and legs which are the most likeable adornment amongst the Swahili culture. Shopping for the bride are done immediately while the men share duties on the wedding program. The Swahili women have always been known for the colourful and glittery attires and jewellery that they wear during the event without forgetting the complicated hairstyles everyone prepares for uniquely.



Photo Courtesy: lifeinmombasa.com


Most of the times, the event occurs in a hall or sometimes at home grounds. Some families send invitations through cards while others send family members in small groups to invite other guests. This has always been according to the pockets of the family and how big or small a wedding is going to be. The hall is usually decorated in such an attractive way with colourful designs with a couch or comfortable seat placed on a stage for the bride and groom when they arrive.

The initial wedding event is the ‘nikah’ ceremony which is mostly done at the mosque whereby the bridegroom is asked for the consent of the marriage while the bride is represented by her father or brother or uncle in the father’s absence. The women are usually located in a place near the mosque whereby they hear the Imam or Kadhi asking for the consent. This is done according to the Islam religion since majority of the Swahili are known Muslims. Both the bride and the groom are asked to give their consent thrice to ensure that no one forced them in to agreeing. Halwa and kahawa sometimes with meat is usually served during this event.

After that, the men are served their food separately while women have their other events going on like a lunch party ‘the shinda’ whereby the women wear the same kind of clothes ‘sare’ to show solidarity amongst them, ‘kupamba’ and ‘kesha’ whereby the latter are commonly done during the night to wee hours of the morning. The Swahili weddings are commonly characterized with the ‘tarab’ songs and a lot of dancing and thus, usually, no men are allowed in the area.

The climax of the event is when the bride arrives at the hall where the merry is taking place. She is made to sit at a special seat or couch on a stage where everyone can see her. Not long after that, the bridegroom comes along. The guests and all family members have a photo session with the couple where lots of pictures are taken with the ones present. The bridegroom then takes away his wife after a long tiring night at the event.

The bride is advised and given tips on the new marriage life she is about to begin and the couple is usually regarded as newlyweds until the first child is born or after a certain period of time has passed. The bride is also given so many presents to start her life and mostly it includes house utensils, jewellery and clothes especially the leso which is very common amongst the Swahili.

The Mijikenda weddings also have quite some similarities with the wedding programs of the Swahili and thus, have an aura of the unity at the coast. If you haven’t been to one, then make an effort to get an invitation. For sure, it is an eye catching event; that you will always remember.