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Culture: 'Chetezo' a must-have for all coastal married women.

When a bride is about to get married, one thing she must take to her new house is a 'chetezo'. In English, it is known as a thurible or a censer, and is used to burn 'udi' (incense), which is burnt to produce a sweet smell.

The chetezo is mostly used in religious ceremonies during sermons. But at the Kenyan coast, the chetezo and udi perform magic in the homes of many.

Fatuma Ali is a 'kungwi' (bride adviser). She is called in during wedding preparations, where she sits with the bride and advises her on bedroom tips. One of the tips she gives out is how to use the chetezo.

'The chetezo should only be used by a married woman to refresh herself and her house, so that her husband can always feel welcomed,' she told the Star.

Fatuma described how she the chetezo should be used for effectiveness. You first take the chetezo, put hot charcoal in it and then put udi, which burns up and produces a sweet fragrance that remains in the room for hours.

This will ensure the house is filled with sweet-smelling smoke in such a way that when you enter the room, you feel a warm, welcoming smell. In this case, it acts as an air freshener.

The bride is also advised to pass the smoke around her body so that she smells nice, which would be a show of inviting her husband, which is also a foreplay.

'The chetezo can also be used to freshen up clothes so that they smell nice. You hold the cloth on top of the chetezo and it captures the smoke being released,' she said.


There are different types of chetezos, some made of clay and others metal. Charcoal can be used to burn up the udi so that it produces the smoke, but there are those that use electricity.

Coastal people tend to use the clay ones, which are usually decorated so that they can also be used in decorating the room, just like a flower vessel. 'Things have been made easier these days as you do not have to go through the stress of lighting up charcoal; you just plug in a cable and you have your chetezo working,' Fatuma said.

Although there is an electric variety, people still go for the clay ones, which also bring out the aspect of the traditional Kenyan culture in the house. There are also jua kali ones that go for Sh150-Sh300.


Touring a market in Mombasa famously known as marikiti, the Star came across a shop where different chetezos are sold, from metallic ones that use charcoal to those that use electricity.

Shopowner Suleiman Hussein said he sells them ranging from Sh500-Sh3,000 depending on the quality. 'The chetezo helps to burn the udi, which brings a good smell in one's house. This initiates romance in a married couple,' he said.

Hussein said this can be used as a substitute of perfumes, as the smoke would be passed on clothes and also on one's body. The smoke also helps the room become warmer.

It is said that the sweet smelling smoke is hard to fade away if passed on clothes, and that is why this would be the best method to use, more than perfumes.

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Publication:The Star (Nairobi, Kenya)
Date:May 5, 2018
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