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

* Scripture Prayers for the Swahili, Zanzibari in Tanzania.

* 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.


Profile Source:   Keith Carey  

Additional Info
Global Prayer Digest: 2010-01-02
People Name General Swahili, Zanzibari
People Name in Country Swahili, Zanzibari
Natural Name Zanzibari Swahili
Pronunciation ZAEN-zuh-bar-ee
Population this Country 14,000
Population all Countries 69,000
Total Countries 2
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
Alternate Names Hadimu; Unguja; Zanzibari
People ID 16087
ROP3 Code 111148
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

No people group map currently available. Use the above button to submit a map.

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)
Bible-NT Audio Online
Bible-NT Text Online
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching (Global Recordings Network)
Audio Recordings Father's Love Letter
Audio Recordings Online New Testament - Interconfessional (Faith Comes By Hearing)
Audio Recordings Online Scripture (Talking Bibles)
Audio Recordings Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video God's Love Story
Film / Video God's Story Video
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Swahili
Film / Video LUMO film of Gospels
Film / Video Magdalena (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video My Last Day (Jesus Film Project Anime)
Film / Video Story of Jesus for Children (JF Project)
Film / Video The Hope Video
Film / Video Walk with Jesus (Africa, JF Project)
General Four Spiritual Laws
General Gospel resources links (Scripture Earth)
General Got Questions Ministry
General Walk with the Prophets and meet the Messiah
Mobile App Download audio Bible app as APK file from Faith Comes By Hearing
Text / Printed Matter Bible Gateway Scripture
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 %
Christian Segments Percent
Other Christian
Roman Catholic
Photo Source Anonymous 
Profile Source Keith Carey  
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Read more


Welcome. I’m a virtual assistant and will try to answer questions about Joshua Project, unreached people groups, the Great Commission and more. How can I help you?

For further help try our FAQ, Definitions or Contact Us pages.