Time in Swahili-Speaking Countries

In the United States, we’re used to seeing a clock look a certain way. Even if the numbers of the clock are gone, we know what time it is.

In Swahili-speaking countries, the clock used looks totally different. Where the six would normally be, there’s instead a twelve. The clock is arranged in 12-hour cycles according to sunrise and sunset. Therefore, there are 12 hours of daytime and 12 hours of nighttime.

7am starts the beginning of the day- the sunrise. On the Swahili clock, it is one in the morning. 7pm ends the day with the sunset. In Swahili time, it is one in the evening. The old-school version  sets 6 am as the beginning of the day and 6 pm as the end of the day, but both versions are correct. Looking at the numbers on the clock, the Swahili clock is the opposite way of telling time.

If you think about it, the Swahili clock makes even more sense than the English one! The morning starts with one o’clock, and the night starts with one o’clock. Instead of staying up late and going to bed at 3 in the morning, you’d stay up late and go to bed at 4 at night.

This schedule shows how it works:


English Swahili Time Swahili
6:00 a.m. 12:00 in the morning Saa Kumi na mbili asubuhi
7:00 a.m. 1:00 in the morning Saa moja asubuhi
8:00 a.m. 2:00 in the morning Saa mbili asubuhi
9:00 a.m. 3:00 in the morning Saa tatu asubuhi
10:00 a.m. 4:00 in the morning Saa nne asubuhi
11:00 a.m. 5:00 in the morning Saa tano asubuhi
12:00 p.m. (Noon) 6:00 in the afternoon Saa sita alasiri
1:00 p.m. 7:00 in the afternoon Saa saba alasiri
2:00 p.m. 8:00 in the afternoon Saa nane alasiri
3:00 p.m. 9:00 in the afternoon Saa tisa alasiri
4:00 p.m. 10:00 in the evening Saa kumi jioni
5:00 p.m. 11:00 in the evening Saa kumi na moja jioni
6:00 p.m. 12:00 in the evening Saa kumi na mbili jioni  / Thenashara
7:00 p.m. 1:00 in the evening Saa moja jioni
8:00 p.m. 2:00 in the night Saa mbili usiku
9:00 p.m. 3:00 in the night Saa tatu usiku
10:00 p.m. 4:00 in the night Saa nne usiku
11:00 p.m. 5:00 in the night Saa tano usiku
12:00 a.m. (Midnight) 6:00 in the night Saa sita usiku
1:00 a.m. 7:00 in the night Saa saba usiku
2:00 a.m. 8:00 in the night Saa nane usiku
3:00 a.m. 9:00 in the night Saa tisa usiku
4:00 a.m. 10:00 in the morning Saa kumi asubuhi
5:00 a.m. 11:00 in the morning Saa kumi na moja asubuhi


Learning a different language and learning a different culture are intertwined. If you take a class with the Global Language Network, you’ll learn language and culture.

Registration for the summer semester is now open! Check out our schedule here– we’re offering 2 Swahili classes!

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