Karibu, Mgeni? / Welcome, Guest?: a Swahili poem about Hospitality

ZP_The Flag of Zanzibar

ZP_The Flag of Zanzibar

Author Unknown:

A Swahili poem about Hospitality, based on the proverb

Mgeni siku mbili, ya tatu mpe jembe /

If a guest has stayed two days, on the third hand him a hoe


Mgeni siku ya kwanza  . The first day give the guest

mpe mchele na panza   .  rice with flying fish

mtilie kifuani   .  embrace him,

mkaribishe mgeni  .  introduce him to your family.

Mgeni siku ya pili  .  The second day 

mpe ziwa na samli   .   give him milk and butter. 

mahaba yakizidia   .   If love can increase  

mzidie mgeni.  .   give more to the guest.  

Mgeni siku ya tatu    . The third day  

jumbani hamuna kitu    .  there is nothing left    

Mna zibaba zitatu           .  but three bags of rice

pika ule na mgeni           .  boil it and eat.   

Mgeni siku ya nne          .  The fourth day 

mpe jembe akalime           . give him a hoe to farm.

Akirudi muagane            .  When he comes back say

enda kwao mgeni                             .   Goodbye, go home, dear guest. 

Mgeni siku ya tano                           .   The fifth day

mwembamba kama sindano                .    the guest is needle-thin

Hauishi musengenyano                        .    He does not listen to advice,

asengenyao mgeni                               .    the guest is well warned.  

Mgeni siku ya sita                                       .   The sixth day,    

mkila mkajificha                                            .    hide in a corner

mwingine vipembeni                                        .   while you eat,

afichwaye yeye mgeni                                        .   out of sight from the guest.

Mgeni siku ana ya sabaa                                     .     The seventh day

si mgeni a na baa                                                     .   a guest now is a monster  

Hatta moto mapaani                                             .   and has put fire   

akatia yeye mgeni.                                               .     to the roof.  

Mgeni siku ya nane                                                .   The eighth day  

njo ndani tuonane                                                  .    the guest comes in to greet us.

Atapotokea nje                                                      .  When he comes outside

tuagane mgeni                                                        .    we take leave.

Mgeni siku ya kenda                                             .  The ninth day:

enenda mwana kwenenda!                                                .  go now, son, go now

Usirudi nyuma                                                                         .   and don’t come back

usirudi mgeni                                                                                 .   don’t return, oh guest.

Mgeni siku ya kumi                                               .    The tenth day, chase him away,  

kwa mateke na magumi                             .   with kicks and blows. 

Hapana afukuzwaye                                                       .  There is no other such a one    

yeye mgeni.                                                                            . who is chased away this way.

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Hospitality poem: courtesy of Albert Scheven and Dr. Peter Ojiambo, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Swahili or Kiswahili is a Bantu language of East Africa spoken by various ethnic groups in several contiguous states.  Fewer than 10 million people speak Swahili as their mother tongue but more than 60 million use it as a ‘ lingua franca ‘ for commerce and transnational communication.  It is an official language in five countries:  Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.  Written Swahili once used the Arabic script but now the Latin alphabet is standard.  There have been many Swahili dialects;  modern Swahili is based on the dialect used in Mji Mkongwe (the name of the old-town quarter in Zanzibar City, Zanzibar, Tanzania).

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