There is nothing like a spot of linguistic gymnastics to help you learn a new language, and if you are planning on climbing Kilimanjaro in the near future, now is the time to learn a few Swahili phrases to help you get the most out of your Tanzanian adventure.
Don’t get me wrong, all Kilimanjaro Company Mountain Guides speak a good level of English, but if you want to get to know your porters and your chef (the guys that make your journey even more enjoyable!), there are a few phrases you can use to make them smile as they hike up this mighty mountain with 20kg of your kit on their backs…
Jambo: The first word you should hear when you meet your Kilimanjaro Climbing Crew is JAMBO! It simply means Hello or Hi, but the locals say it with such gusto that you feel like they are really pleased to see you!
Karibu: The second Swahili word you are likely to hear after touching down in Tanzania is KARIBU or KARIBU SANA, which means ‘You are welcome’ or ‘You are very welcome’.
Asante or Asante Sana: The Swahili way to say ‘Thank you’ or ‘Thank you very much’
Habari or Habari Gani: Simply means, ‘How are you?’ You will hear this often throughout your Kilimanjaro Expedition.
Mambo: A word normally reserved for us ‘tourists’ Mambo means ‘How are things’
Poa! A common answer to Mambo or Habari, Poa means ‘cool’ or ‘I’m cool’
Hakuna Matata: If you have seen the Disney movie the Lion King, you should know this one! It means ‘Don’t worry’ or ‘No worries’.
Pole Pole (pronounced poley poley): You will hear this about 200 times a day during your Kilimanjaro climb. It means ‘slowly-slowly’ and this is the best piece of advice you can get when climbing Kili – believe me!
Maji: The elixir of life, Maji means ‘Water’ – drink at least 3 litres per day during your climb!
Mambo Kwa Yesu: Said to me by a porter during our last Kilimanjaro expedition, it means ‘Go with god!’ This one guarantees to make strangers smile, so use it!
Poa Kichizi Kama Ndizi Kwenye Friji: Now this one is important… It means, ‘Crazy Cool like a Banana in the Fridge’! An everyday essential on Mount Kilimanjaro – don’t say I didn’t warn you!