Swahili Time

For those of you who don’t know, the calendar, the clock, and the days of the week are all significantly different than they are in the rest of the world. Here, and everywhere else in the Muslim world days, weeks, months and years are all run from a different system. The Islamic calendar starts with the day of the prophet’s initial reception of the Qur’an (or perhaps its completion, I forget) and so as such is about 670 years younger than our own. It’s somewhere in the 1430’s here I believe.

The first day of the week is on Saturday, as the holy day here is Friday where you see many more don traditional Islamic garb. It’s pretty easy to remember as well, cause in Kiswahili the days are named Jumamosi, Jumapili, Jumatatu, Jumanne, Jumatano, Alhamis, and Ijumaa; and if you look at the first five days, they closely resemble the first five cardinal numbers, moja, mbili, tatu, nne, tano. I find it interesting even if you don’t.

Then there’s the lovely and much more understandable clock. The first hour of the day and the first hour of darkness are both one o’clock here. So, 7am and 7pm in the rest of the world, are actually one o’clock (in the morning) and one o’clock (in the evening) in Swahili-speaking countries; continuing on, noon is six o’clock (in the middle of the day) while midnight is six o’clock (in the late night). It makes sense once you get used to it, and actually there’s a pretty easy trick – just look across the clock or take away six hours from whatever time the clock reads (because the clocks still display Western time).

I’m fascinated by quite a few things here still, time being one of them. I’ll have to take awhile to write about the conversations from the last two nights in the next day or so, because they were some of the craziest conversations I’ve ever had. As a precursor, and almost an advertisement for the coming installment or episode, here’s the cast and the topics…

Cast:

  • Eddie Kassim Mohamed – 34 years-old, the only married one of the bunch, currently living in between Zanzibar and London; currently looking for work
  • Shinuna Kassim Mohamed – 31 years-old, educated in Tanzania and Scotland and currently the major breadwinner in her home working as a manager for Zanzibar’s leading mobile communications company
  • Greg Huntoon – 30 years-old, travelling American (shh, don’t tell anyone) educated in California, lived in California almost exclusively except for a few months here and there around the globe; self-employed art director/graphic designer
  • Zahor Kassim Mohamed, 27 years-old, currently on summer holiday from a master’s program in Bergen, Norway
  • Marshed Kassim Mohamed, 22 years-old, currently on summer holiday from undergraduate studies at the University of Dar-es-Salaam, owner of the world’s loudest voice and about to test the limits of new anti-terrorism laws in the UK by simplying applying for a visa to visit his sister in London in two weeks

The Topics

Topics were wide and varied, from the war in Iraq to the view of Islamic peoples around the world to the hot topics of infidelity and gay marriage. Whether this makes it out before I leave or not, trust me, it’ll be a good read because it was one of the funniest, most enlightening, and most eye-opening conversations for all involved. God bless the neighbors who’ve had to listen to the 5 children downstairs roll and riot without Mama Maryam home for the past few days. It has been loud, the languages have been many, and no one has been spared.

Until then folks, I hope you have a great day…

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