Mijikenda Cultural Tours

 Mijikenda Cultural Tour

The Mijikenda people occupy the coastline of Kenya and are made up of the Giriama, Duruma, Kauma, Chonyi, Jibana, Digo, Ribe, Rabai, and Kambe. Mijikenda refers to nine villages each living in a sacred forest known as Kaya.


Community:  Mijikenda community
Duration: 7 days
Accommodation: Community family stay
Meals: local Swahili dishes
Dates of travel: Flexible dates
Minimum pax: Individual and groups accepted


Day 1: Nairobi – South Coast
Early morning drive from Nairobi to Mombasa, arriving in the host community in the evening to meet a group of mixed women & men traditional dancers. Then you will meet with your family in their house to enjoy their favorite meal and overnight stay.

Day 2: Community Orientation tour
Enjoy unique delicious breakfast with your host family. Thereafter, you will be in the hands of professional local guides who will guide you through the culture. You will learn more about greetings and family set ups, social lifestyles of your host community, any question you have on what you see will be accurately answered by your guides.

Day 3: Swahili food
Feeding on Swahili meals is an experience you will never want to miss in life. Today, Swahili ladies will take you through the preparation of Swahili dishes and you will actively participate in cooking.

Day 4: A visit to Kaya forests
Kaya has since been crowned as UN world heritage site and today you will have an exciting firsthand experience as you walk through the spiritual Kaya to learn more about the Mijikenda and their spiritual attachment to the Kaya forests.

Day 5: Swahili Life
When you travelled as a group, you will have to divide yourselves into two groups depending on your gender. You will be fully immersed in local Swahili way of life on this day and adopt gender roles. Men will join the local Swahili men in farming, fishing or harvesting coconut and palm wine. Ladies on the other hand, will engage themselves in weaving and performing other domestic chores with the host family.

Day 6: Beach Day Out
A visit to Mombasa can never be complete without a day at the beautiful southern coast beaches. You will have a half day at one of the beaches and later in the afternoon you will be treated with traditional rejoicing dances while going through the fading traditions and cultures of the Mijikenda people, due to the effects of modernity, including the emergence of Islamic religion which today has become a common religion among the Mijikenda people.

Day 7: Departure
We hope you have had a great stay with your local host family and it is time to say goodbye.

You will have your breakfast and share your last moments with your host family before leaving for Nairobi or jetting back home.

 Mijikenda History

Mijikenda tribe was also referred to as the “Nyika tribe” in the past, a near-derogatory term implying bush people. Mijikenda" literally means nine homes or nine homesteads (in Swahili), referring to the common ancestry of the Mijikenda people. The nine Mijikenda sub-tribes are believed to be nine different homes of the same tribe. Each sub-tribe speaks its own dialect of the Mijikenda language.

Among the nine Mijikenda sub-tribes, the Giriama and the Digo are the most well known, most populous, and therefore, most dominant along the Kenyan coast. The other seven sub-tribes are the Chonyi, Duruma, Jibana, Kambe, Kauma, Rabai and Ribe.

Mijikenda oral history traces the origin of the tribe to the southern regions of Somalia. It is believed that the Mijikenda people escaped constant attacks from the Oromo and other Cushitic tribes, and settled in the coastal ridges that were easier to defend.

Mijikenda have had close interactions with the Persian, Arab, and Portuguese traders who frequented their home territory along the Kenyan coast. This interaction and subsequent intermarriage with the Arabs gave birth to the Swahili culture and language. As a result, the Swahili language - Kiswahili - bears a close lexical similarity with all dialects of the Mijikenda people.

The Mijikenda culture revolves around clans and age-sets. A Mijikenda clan consists of several family groups with a common patriarchal ancestor. Traditionally, each clan lived in one fortified village built in a cleared area of the forested ridges. A person's age-set determined their role and social standing within the clan and elaborate rituals were often held for members graduating from one age-set to another.

Each Mijikenda clan had their own sacred place known as Kaya, a shrine for prayer, sacrifices and other religious rituals. These Kayas were located deep in the forests and it was considered taboo to cut the trees and vegetation around them. The Kaya elders, often members of the oldest age-set, were deemed to posses supernatural powers including the ability to make rain. Due to the Kaya taboo, the forest regions around the Mijikenda Kayas remained untouched for many years, thus preserving several rare or endangered plant species. However, in more recent years, people have started destroying these Kaya forests to make way for agriculture, buildings and tourism activities. This forced the government and conservation agencies to institute measures for protecting the biological diversity found in the Kayas by declaring them national monuments.

Like other Kenyan tribes today, Mijikenda people have assimilated to modern cultural practices, resulting in the disappearance of many of their traditional customs. Most Mijikenda people are now either Christians or Muslims; however, some still practice their traditional culture or a mixture of Christianity or Islam with their traditional religion. Islam is more widespread among the Digo than in the other Mijikenda sub-tribes.




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