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Swahili Time

Tanzanian baby and big sister

People in Tanzania have two ways of telling time. Many follow the same system of telling time that people use in the United States. They call it “English time.”

But some Tanzanians go by “Swahili time.” Tanzania is near the equator, so days and nights are about 12 hours long all year around. In Swahili time, days start at 6 a.m. English time (sunrise), and nights begin at 6 p.m. English time (sunset). So at 7 a.m. English time, it is 1 a.m. Swahli time.

The first time in each pair below is “English time.” The second tells what time it would be in Swahili time.

6 a.m. 12 a.m. (sunrise)
8 a.m. 2 a.m. (2 hours after sunrise)
12 p.m., noon. 6 a.m. (6 hours after sunrise)
3 p.m. 9 a.m. (9 hours after sunrise)
6 p.m. 12 p.m. (sunset)
7 p.m. 1 p.m. (1 hour after sunset)
12 a.m., midnight. 6 p.m. (6 hours after sunset)

To Think About
• Why are days and nights about 12 hours each in locations close to the equator?
• Farther from the equator, the times of sunrise and sunset vary between winter and summer months. Why would it be harder to use Swahili time in places far from the equator?
• People who live by Swahili time think it is strange that the day starts at 12 a.m. in English time. So midnight is morning, even though people are in bed. What do you think?

Try This
At 9 a.m. English time, it would be 3 a.m. in Swahili time. Children in Tanzania might be going to school. Answer the questions below, then pray for the children and for what activity they might be doing at that time.

At 11 a.m. English time, it is 5 a.m. Swahili time. What might children in Tanzania be doing at that time?

At 1 p.m. English time, what time would it be in Swahili time?
At 4 p.m. English time, what time is it in Swahili time?
At 2 p.m. Swahili time, what time would it be in English time?


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