Zanzibari Swahili in Tanzania

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

Swahili can refer to both an ethnic group and to Swahili-speaking people. It is one of Tanzania's official languages. The name, Swahili, means coastal dwellers, and is the name given to several people groups along the east coast of Africa. Originally Swahilis were mainly composed of Bantu-speaking people, but because of their coastal dwellings and trade with people of the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf, they have been influenced by, and in some cases, have intermarried with Arabic people. Swahilis historically have been a merchant class, trading spices, slaves, ivory, gold, and grain. They are mainly urban dwellers who adhere to a literate, Islamic civilization.

But there is a very ugly side to the Swahili coast, especially in Zanzibar. In the 19th century, Zanzibar was east Africa's main slave-trading port with as many as 50,000 slaves passing through each year. Zanzibar was a place of prosperity for some, but slavery and misery for others.

In time, the Swahili language gained a couple of dialects, including one that developed in Zanzibar. In today's world, people who speak the version of Swahili from Zanzibar are called Zanzibari Swahili. They consider themselves to be the ones who speak the best form of Swahili.

Where Are they Located?

Most live in Tanzania or Kenya.

What Are Their Lives Like?

In recent years Zanzibari Swahili speakers have demonstrated an interest in Western culture. For Instance, in addition to attending Islamic schools, most children also attend non-religious schools to acquire a Western-style education. Also, modern medicine is now replacing traditional folk remedies. Opening up to Western culture may provide an opportunity for Swahilis to hear the gospel message.

What Are Their Beliefs?

As coastal merchants, the Zanzibari Swahilis face toward Africa and toward Arabia and Asia. Their culture has observed very strict Muslim practices, especially with the seclusion of women and the religious schools for boys.

What Are Their Needs?

Zanzibari Swahili speakers need discernment to understand that Islam has failed them, and a spiritual hunger to seek and find Jesus Christ.

Prayer Points

Pray for spiritual hunger that will drive Zanzibari Swahili speakers to seek answers from Jesus Christ.
Pray for a willingness to read the Bible, and sit at the feet of Jesus.
Pray for a Disciple-Making Movement to emerge among Zanzibari Swahili speakers in Tanzania.

Scripture Prayers for the Swahili, Zanzibari in Tanzania.


Profile Source:   Keith Carey  

People Name General Swahili, Zanzibari
People Name in Country Swahili, Zanzibari
Natural Name Zanzibari Swahili
Pronunciation ZAEN-zuh-bar-ee
Alternate Names Hadimu; Unguja; Zanzibari
Population this Country 790,000
Population all Countries 840,000
Total Countries 2
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
Pioneer Workers Needed 16
People ID 16087
ROP3 Code 111148
ROP25 Code 309087
ROP25 Name Zanzibari
Country Tanzania
Region Africa, East and Southern
Continent Africa
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Widespread. Formerly Zanzibar, coastal areas.   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Country Tanzania
Region Africa, East and Southern
Continent Africa
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Widespread. Formerly Zanzibar, coastal areas..   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Map of Swahili, Zanzibari in Tanzania
Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.00 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
0.00 %
100.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Swahili
Language Code swh   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Swahili
Language Code swh   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Swahili

Primary Language:  Swahili

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (1868-1968)
Bible-New Testament Yes  (1879-1989)
Bible-Complete Yes  (1890-2017)
FCBH NT ( Online
YouVersion NT ( Online
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name Source
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching Global Recordings Network
Audio Recordings Love letter to you from scripture Father's Love Letter
Audio Recordings Online Audio Scripture Talking Bibles
Audio Recordings Oral Bible stories Story Runners
Audio Recordings Story of Jesus audio Jesus Film Project
Film / Video God's Love Story General / Other
Film / Video God's Story video God's Story
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Swahili Jesus Film Project
Film / Video LUMO film of Gospels Bible Media Group/LUMO
Film / Video Magdalena video Jesus Film Project
Film / Video My Last Day video, anime Jesus Film Project
Film / Video Rock International: King of Glory Rock International
Film / Video Story of Jesus for Children Jesus Film Project
Film / Video The Hope Video Mars Hill Media
Film / Video Walking with Jesus video Jesus Film Project
Film / Video World Christian Videos World Christian Videos
General Bible for Children Bible for Children
General Biblical answers to your questions Got Questions Ministry
General Faith Comes By Hearing - Bible in text or audio or video Faith Comes by Hearing
General Faith Comes By Hearing - Bible in text or audio or video Faith Comes by Hearing
General Four Spiritual Laws Campus Crusade for Christ
General Scripture Earth Gospel resources links Scripture Earth
General Walk with the Prophets and meet the Messiah Al Massira
General YouVersion Bible versions in text and/or audio YouVersion Bibles
General Zume Resources Zume Project
Photo Source Anonymous 
Map Source People Group location: Joshua Project, Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.  
Profile Source Keith Carey 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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