They live along the Indian Ocean coast. Their number is estimated at 10,000. They are the 35th ethnic group in Kenya. Their language is of course the Swahili and their culture a mixture of Bantu and Arab with Islam as a leitmotiv. The word Swahili comes from the Arab ‘sawahi ” which means the coast. The first Arab arrived around the 9th century. Ever since then they take advantage of the monsoon winds, to come and fill up their dhows with goods.
Only the products have changed, the copra has now replaced the once highly profitable slave and ivory trades. Over several centuries they have mixed with the local people to the point of creating a distinct group with its own beliefs and traditions. They now take an active part in the development of the coast not only in trade but in agriculture and small industries.