Swahil – baron la croix – Jan 12

the swahili civilization is a p interesting study for most of the year, prevailing winds in the western indian ocean blow consistently to the south west; this reverses during monsoon season facilitating an easy return trip to asia for traders from india, persia, and arabia. thus since time before history sailors have plied the indian ocean bearing goods for trade, often establishing small settlements and colonies. Indonesian sailors arrived in Madagascar between 100 and 300 AD, seeding the entire coast of east africa with bananas. Chinese sailors began trading in east africa during the 600s. During the seventh century, mariners from arabian introduced east africa to Islam. The cultural and economic connections between east africa and arabia + persia would only grow over the coming centuries. Muslim mariners eventually established trading settlements in east africa during the 900s, predominately based on islands or peninsulas which developed into city-states supplied by local traders from mainland east africa. The city-states of east africa were politically independent yet socially coherent; they competing for trade with intense rivalry, but none of these city-states ever took up arms against another. In the early 1400s the legendary Chinese admiral Zheng He visited swahili, establishing Ming embassies in Mogadishu, Malindi, Mombasa, and Kilwa; Malindi sent a delegation to Beijing in 1415 and gifted the emperor a giraffe. Posted Image The Swahili city-states along the coast of east africa became thriving metropoles; however, the (mostly) arab traders who controlled politics and trade were still based out of their homelands across the sea. The great dhows would come every spring and depart again for asia in autumn, year in and year out, for ten centuries. Needless to say, life in these cities continued during the off-season. Porters, servants, workers all were drawn to these cities from across the eastern world, though the bulk of the population hailed from the african mainland. However, the influence of the foreign elite created a culture of chauvinism against indigenous africans and non-Muslims. interestingly the growth of chauvinism and the rise of the east asian slave trade in some ways parallels the developments of racism and slavery in north america. something to think about/ which i may delve into in the future? but not now. one of the advantages of siting your cities on inaccessable offshore islands is that you can mount raids for slaves against inland/coastal mainlanders with little fear of retaliation. one major aspect that differentiates the east african slave trade from that in north america was the lack of widespread plantation agriculture in east africa (AT THE TIME, looking at you portugal, founder of one of the most brutal slave empires in history) (anyways, arab/persian chauvinism ignited a weird trend in which bascially all well-to-do swahili trace their lineage back to arabia or persia. the population was overwhelming black african, even among the elite) Ambergris, ebony, ivory, furs, gold, pearls, slaves, and spices: the great wealth of the island city-states drew the foreign elite from their homes in asia to the sources of their incomes. The mercantile families of oman, yemen, and shiraz relocated to mombasa and zanzibar, etc. A unique Swahili culture emerged, its name taken from the arabic word sahil, or shore. The people of the shore were prosperous as fuck, building elaborate mosques, public bathes, and grandeous mansions from coral stone. Meanwhile, in the gutters, their circular houses of mud and thatch demonstrated the syncretistic nature of Swahili culture. The poor made dishes and pots of clay, while the elite ate off of imported porceline from China and glassware from Holland. Then, in 1498 Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope. In 1502 on his second expedition, he landed in Kilwa: Quote

Kilwa is large and is of good buildings of stone and mortar with terraces, and the houses have much wood works. The city comes down to the shore, and is entirely surrounded by a wall and towers, within which there may be 12,000 inhabitants. The country all round is very luxuriant with many trees and gardens of all sorts of vegetables, citrons, lemons, and the best sweet oranges that were ever seen, surgar-cane, figs, pomegranates, and a great abundance of flocks, especially sheep, which have fat in the tail, which is almost the size of the body, and very savory. The streets of the city are narrow, as the houses are very high, of three and four stories, and one can run along the tops of them upon the terraces, as the houses are very close together; and in the port there were many ships.

Three years later, Portuguese viceroy Francisco de Almeida sailed a fleet of warships to Kilwa and reduced the great coral houses to rubble with cannonfire; the city would never recover. Over the next three or four centuries, Swahili society continued to prosper, albeit in a weakened and ever-declining state, until finally succumbing during the colonial scramble for africa. e: this has been my first ever ” efforrt post”, after seven years of posting

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