Kenyalogy - Kenya Safari Web: History: The Swahili coast
Kenyalogy Kenyalogy - Kenya Safari Web - By Javier Yanes

Kenyalogy
All the Web
        Online Kenya travel guide founded in 2000
 
        Home | About Kenyalogy/Contact | Links | Site Map | Advertising | Español Español
 
  You are here: Home > History > The Swahili coast
 
  START HERE
  Planning your safari
  Visas & money
  Time & weather
  What to pack
  Sanitary info
  Useful facts
  FAQs about Kenya
  ON SAFARI
  Moving around
  Accommodation
  Health
  Safety
  Food
  Shopping
  Photo & video tips
  WHERE & WHAT
  Parks & reserves
  Wildlife
  Towns
  Beaches
  Historic places
  TO KNOW MORE
  Country basics
  Geography
  History
  Population
  Language
  Culture
  Economy
  MAGAZINE
  Special features
  Kenyalogy's 'Top 10s'
  Photo galleries
  And more...

  DOWNLOADS
  GPS waypoints
  Learn Swahili
  Kenyalogy in ebook
 
 


  Advertising

 
 
History

The Swahili coast (500 A.D.-1498)

Arab geographers knew the coast of East Africa as the land of Zinj, a word referring to the black coloured natives' skin. Around the year 500 A.D., the first Arab traders docked at this corner of the Indian Ocean and launched their long colonization process during which they introduced their culture, their mosques, their religion, their bazaars, ...

From the 9th century, cities like Pate, Lamu and Malindi were founded, giving rise to a new civlization which was Bantu-Arab in origin but developed its own personality, including a new language. Swahili or Kiswahili was born as a blend of the Bantu grammar and the Arab vocabulary, and was initially written with Arab characters. The word 'Swahili' appears to be a derivation of the plural of the Arab term 'Sahel', meaning 'coast'. Centuries later, adapted to the Latin alphabet, it would become the most widespread language in East Africa.

Traders found here fertile grounds for their business, exploiting the wealth of this virgin territory. It was then when the Arabs started organising their caravans to the inner lands, where they captured natives to be sold as slaves, giving birth to a form of trade that would thrive for centuries. The routes so defined by the Arab tradesmen would remain as the only paths inland, that would even be used by the first European explorers who would arrive hundreds of years later.

The maritime routes of this nascent commerce linked the East African coast with the Indies. Textiles and other manufactured products brought by sailors from the Arab countries, from India or China were exchanged for iron, ivory, gold or slaves, promoting this region to a flourishing development that would persist without interference until the arrival of the Portuguese ships. These commercial flows were also used by the Persians, who arrived in the coast pushed by the monsoon winds in their lateen 'dhows'. In the 14th century, the Persian traders founded the city of Mombasa. The Chinese and the Malaysians visited these shores as well, using the routes established in this golden age of East africa.

The slave trade was the cause of the dissemination of African natives throughout the Indian Ocean shoreline and its areas of influence. In Mesopotamia and even in South China there were African slaves since 800 years ago. On the other hand, the presence of the new settlers left a perdurable trace in the Kenyan coast: today, some 40,000 descendants of those first Arab traders still inhabit this region. Conversely, the influence of the East Indies was scarcely significant in those days, regardless the fact that over the past two thousand years there were small settlings in the coast. Currently, most of the Kenyan Indian community, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Goans, has its origin in the days of the British East Africa, hundreds of years later.

 


Home | About Kenyalogy/Contact | Site map | Advertising | Privacy & disclaimer
© Kenyalogy 2000-2012. All rights reserved.

 

 
Cradle of Mankind
 
First migrations
 
 
Swahili coast
 
Portuguese empire
 
Omani domination
 
Mountains of the Moon
 
Inland peoples
 
Kenya exploration
 
Partition of East Africa
 
Protectorates & Lunatic Express
 
 
Settlers, hunters & sportsmen
 
African nationalism
 
Mau-Mau & end of the Colony
 
Uhuru, Jamhuri, Harambee
 
Nyayo
 
End of a century
 
Moi's decline & Constitution

Advertising