Summer Study Abroad:

I am a co-instructor for the University of Oregon's Intensive Swahili in Zanzibar Program. This program is open to ALL college students, NO experience in Swahili is required, and students will earn 16 units of academic credit for the 8 week program.

You can see the program application HERE and read more about the program HERE.

We will be taking a break Summer 2019,

but please consider joining us in Zanzibar in Summer 2020! 

Program Overview & Highlights

The Zanzibar program offers students an opportunity to learn the most widely spoken language in Africa: Swahili! Students will study the language at an accelerated pace through daily classes and full immersion into Swahili culture, history, politics and religion on the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar. The program can accommodate all levels of Swahili speakers (from first year to fourth year), and no prior experience is required. During this 8-week program, students will earn 16 academic credits from the University of Oregon, and the scheduling is ideal for students on the quarter system.

•The city of Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located on the tropical Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar, off the coast of East Africa. Zanzibar is a part of Tanzania, and is only about 30 miles off shore from the African continent.

•Dr. Mokaya Bosire, UO faculty member in Linguistics, and native speaker of Swahili, or Dr. Melissa Graboyes, UO faculty member in the Clark Honors College, will be on site for the entire program to assist students with academic and practical matters. Mokaya and Melissa will be responsible for teaching the Swahili Culture and History course, and overseeing the Honors College colloquium.

•The Zanzibar program is open to undergraduate and graduate students at the first, second, third, or fourth year level of Swahili. Students are taught in a small group setting by native speakers at the State University of Zanzibar, and participate in weekly field trips. 

•Students will have ample opportunity to fully explore the island through daylong excursions to beautiful beaches, historic ruins, spice farms, and a national forest, which is home to the endangered red colubus monkey. 

•The 8-week program features multiple excursions led by the UO faculty members, both on Zanzibar and on the Tanzanian mainland.

•The program runs during the Zanzibar International Film Festival, and students will have access to a variety of films and lectures, presentations and exhibits that go along with this event.


Academic Information

Students will complete one full year of Swahili coursework (12 quarter credits) at the first, second, third, or fourth year level. Classroom instruction will be enhanced with weekly field trips and home stays, allowing students to have a truly immersive experience. Students will earn the equivalent of one year of language in Swahili through 20 hours per week of classroom instruction. Students who have completed first year Swahili before arrival in Zanzibar can complete the UO foreign language requirement for the B.A. degree during this summer program.

The Swahili courses are taught by faculty members from the Institute of KiSwahili and Foreign Languages at the State University of Zanzibar. All of these instructors are native speakers with years of experience teaching Swahili to foreigners. Daily classes will be held in historic Stone Town from 8 am-12 pm. 

Students will also participate in a 4-unit course on Swahili History and Culture, taught by Dr. Mokaya Bosire and Dr. Melissa Graboyes. This class, AFR 388 (or HC 431 for Honors College students), is a upper-division class that fulfills the group Social Science requirement and the multicultural requirement for International Cultures. This course will meet two afternoons a week.



Home stays will give students the opportunity to experience daily Zanzibari life and be surrounded by the Swahili language. Housing will be provided with local Zanzibari families who live in and around historic Stone Town. Each student will have her own room inside the house, and will be offered three meals a day. Families have been specially chosen by the State University of Zanzibar and often have years of experience hosting international students.

More about Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a tropical island just 50 miles from the coast of Tanzania in East Africa. It is best considered as an international melting pot—having over the past two thousand years drawn people from the Middle East, India, and mainland Africa in addition to having extensive contact with China, Europe and the United States. The monsoon winds have long linked this small island to the rest of the Indian Ocean world helping to carry new people, religions, ideas, and leading to an international vibrancy. Being part of such a vast geography of networks meant that Zanzibar has long been a place of cultural diffusion and mixing. It continues to be a place where new ideas and practices are introduced, adopted, and adapted.Stone Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, full of narrow alleys and labyrinth pathways to explore and get lost in. Walking the streets of historic Stone Town today, it’s not unusual to find a woman covered from head to toe in black garment called a buibui, an Indian woman dressed in a sari, and a European tourist walking down the same narrow street. It’s this diversity that gives Zanzibar such energy, and provides students such a rich culture to come to know.

Zanzibar has a population of roughly 600,000 people, of which 30% live in the capital city of Zanzibar town. Outside of Zanzibar Town, the island is largely rural and involved in the cultivation of food and spices such as cloves, cardamom, vanilla and pepper. The island is about 50 miles wide and 25 miles long, and a majority of residents are Sunni Muslims. During the months of July and August, Zanzibar’s temperatures are mild and typically range from 70-85 degrees and consist of sunny days with clear blue skies.

Although Zanzibar is an international travel destination, it remains an ideal location to study Swahili and learn about Swahili Coast history and culture. A large majority of residents continue to speak Swahili as their primary language (despite often knowing English, Arabic, and other languages) and Zanzibar is continued to be one of the birthplaces of Swahili. In East Africa, it’s often said the island is the best place to learn “proper” or “pure” Swahili.

Books and Literature about Zanzibar

There are many great books about Zanzibar, some written by Zanzibaris, some academic texts, and some fiction. A few recommendations:

•Laura Fair, Pastimes and Politics: Culture, Community and Identity in Post-abolition Urban Zanzibar, 1890-1945

•Laura Fair, Historia ya Jamii ya Zanzibar na Nyimbo za Siti Binti Saad (in Swahili!)

•Jonathan Glassman, War of Words, War of Stones: Racial Thought and Violence in Colonial Zanzibar

•Eric Gilbert, Dhows & Colonial Economy in Zanzibar, 1860-1970

•Abdul Sheriff, Slaves, Spices and Ivory in Zanzibar; Zanzibar Under Colonial Rule; History & Conservation of Zanzibar Stone Town

•William Bissell, Urban Design, Chaos, and Colonial Power in Zanzibar

•Kjersti Larsen, Where Humans and Spirits Meet: The Politics of Rituals and Identified Spirits in Zanzibar

•Emily Reute, Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar

•Abdulrazak Gurnah, Desertion

Food, Drinks, and Eating

Zanzibari food--which is generally fast, cheap and healthy--should be one of the highlights of your trip. If you are an intrepid eater, here are some food recommendations that should not be missed: 

•“Mixi” Soup is aptly named, since it is a soup made up of mixture of items. It starts with a tangy yellow broth (urojo) that comes from pounded unripe papaya, and into the broth is added a whole host of treats: fried cassava bits, fresh grated coconut, potato cutlets, meat (sometimes), and fried balls that’ll remind you of falafels. Sounds strange,it’s but delicious, and more importantly--addictive! It’s sold all over town, oftentimes by women from their home during the morning hours. It’s also sold at night at Forodhani. Look for places where there are plastic bowls and spoons, and you will find it...Costs anywhere from 1000-1500 Tsh ($1) per bowl.

•Halwa is a sweet that is prepared across the Middle East, and also in Zanzibar, although in a form that may surprise some. In Zanzibar, halwa is thick and soft and sticky. It can be bought in the market in a variety of sizes and a finger-full is best paired with strong black coffee.

•Aforementioned strong black coffee. Get it from one of the guys who walk around town hawking it, or look for a more established location in Sokoni (near the mosque), at Jaws Corner, near Mnazi Mmoja Hospital, or at Forodhani. Normally it is 50 Tsh per cup, but near the sokoni mosque it will be 100 Tsh. Still worth the price and the walk, and the vendor has a great sense of humor.

•Sugar cane juice is available, is delicious, and as long as you aren’t worried about cavities, it’s even better than a Coke.

•Baked and fried sweets in the form of kisheti (donuts), kashata (nut candies), mandazi (donuts), biscuits, cookies and sweet bananas with coconut milk. Easier to find in the morning, although some small stores will have large containers with these items available all day. I think the best donuts are to be found in the morning across the street from Mnazi Mmoja hospital.

•For those that are looking for something healthier, fresh unripe mangos with chili powder, cucumbers, and young coconuts (dafu) are all good and good for you!

•Octopus (pweza) soup is said to give a particular type of “strength” (nguvu) to men, although women might also enjoy it. It should be spicy! For those who just need a snack, in the evenings, bites of grilled octopus are sold for 100 Tsh per toothpick bite.

•The foods that makes up the staple diet in Zanzibar are also delicious. Make sure to sample maharage (beans that are often cooked with fresh coconut milk), rice, and fresh greens (mboga/mchicha). The rice dishes biriyani and pilau are considered more special occasion food, but can also be found at restaurants around town.

That’s not the say that there aren’t plenty of more formal eating establishments that aren’t also worth your time. Some favorites:

•It is hard to find a better lunch than at Luis Yoghurt Parlor, on Hurumzi Street, right near the large mosque. The proprietor--Blanche’s--homemade yoghurts, lassis and juices are excellent, and make sure to order the whole wheat chappatis to go with your main dish. It’s the perfect sized meal, healthy, and will leave you with just enough space for a coffee at Msumbi. A good value, and you’ll get an earful about life in Stone Town. There’s also now a facebook page for the Yoghurt Parlour here.

Stone Town Cafe has excellent fresh Turkish style coffee that’s best to share with a friend unless you’re prepared to be hyper-caffeinated. Opens early. Also has a changing pad in the bathroom and is baby/kid friendly.

•Stone Town Cafe and Archipelago are owned by the same couple, and the Sticky Date Pudding at either place is easily the most satisfying dessert on the island.