Home Travel guides The Urban Dictionary of Malindi Town

The Urban Dictionary of Malindi Town

by Archie

Just like many other towns, Malindi also has its own ‘language’ characterized by artistically crafted words, some of which are borrowed from the Arabs, Mijikenda tribes, and the Swahili language. Familiarize yourself with the following words as you may be hearing them quite frequently from the locals during your visits to Malindi:

Greetings and words of courtesy

Word: As-Salaam-Alaikum

Meaning: An Arabic greeting that translates to ‘Peace be unto you’. It is the most commonly used greeting in not only Malindi, but also other coastal towns in Kenya.

A response to this would be “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam”

Word: Salama

Meaning: A simple greeting that simply asks a person if they are well.

Believe it or not, this is a complete one-word sentence and an appropriate response to it would be “Salmin”.

Word: Sijui wewe?

Meaning: How about you? Mostly used when you want to know how the other person is fairing on after they’ve greeted you.

Example: I’m doing fine, thank you. Sijui wewe?

Word: Mashallah!

Meaning: An Arabic expression that means ‘God has willed it’ and is used to complement a compliment.

Example: Malindi is such a magnificent place. Mashallah!

Word: Inshallah!

Meaning: If God wills it. Used when you state what your future plans are.

Example: We will all spend our afternoon at the beach tomorrow, Inshallah!

Word: Shukran

Meaning: Thank you!

Example: I never thought you would accept my bargain for such a priceless piece of artefact. Shukran!

Other words


Word: Surwa

Meaning: A small additional amount of food that is given to customers (free of charge) in local hotels.

Example: I love going to that hotel because I’m always given surwa on request.

Word: Unga

Meaning: Any kind of drug that is in powder form.

Example: Many boys drop out of school because they start using unga from as early as they turn twelve.



Word: Teja (plural: Mateja)

Meaning: A person who is hooked to drugs and uses unga frequently.

Example: I am very worried that my daughter may turn into a teja if I don’t take her to a rehabilitation centre early enough.

Word: Kusi

Meaning: A low-income season.

Example: There aren’t usually as many tourists in this town between January and March. It’s a kusi season.

Word: Mahaba

Meaning: Love or the act of showing love.

Example: I’ll take you to Watamu this Valentine’s Day because it is the city of mahaba.

This simple short dictionary will make your interaction with the locals quite easier and better on your next visit to Malindi. Always feel free to use the words while talking to them and who knows, your vacation in Malindi may just give your Swahili language the boost it requires!

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