Sunrise in Tanzania’s capital, in the local Swahili language, the first hour of daylight marks one o’clock.
“It is always been this way,it’s something we inherited from our fathers.I’ve always seen people reading it as one o’clock instead of seven.I teach the same thing to my child since this is the way my parents taught them to me.”
Swahili teacher Lusunga Benela helps orient foreign students and workers.
“In Swahili we have 12 hours of daytime and 12 hours of night time.When the sunset we begin to count from one, two, three, four... And we go on like that until day breaks again.”
It is a system, experts say that is made possible by Tanzania’s proximity to the equator.Swahili time is not exclusive to Tanzania, Swahili spoken by millions of people around East Africa.But Tanzania unlike its neighbors, has designated Swahili as a sole official language and tries to promote it as a source of national pride.Government offices open at two in the morning or what alien bangles called eight a.m.. Swahili time has remained dominant over the so called English time introduced in the colonial period, but there are signs of change.
“I set the time on my phone differently from the way I say it, so I look like I’m moving with the modern world.If I set my watch at 10 instead of 4 and say it’s 10 o’clock then people won’t see me as old-fashioned.”
The coexistence does create some confusion.
“A customer will tell you to pick him up at five o’clock and he means five in the evening, I will go pick him up at eleven in the morning, because five means eleven to me.”
But local say Swahili time is here to stay.
Mohammed Yusuf for VOA News Dar es Salaam.