Home HISTORY FORM 2 Imports to East Africa

Imports to East Africa

  • From India-Cotton clothes, beads and iron implements
  • From Maldives Islands-Cowries shells which were used as money and also as ornaments
  • From China -Silk clothes, porcelain
  • From Arab and Persia -Swords, daggers (weapons), glassware and Persian rugs.
  • From East Indies (Malaysia or Spice Islands) – Spices
  • From Burma and Thailand – Stone ware i.e. pots and jars

Means of transport.

The foreigners travelled in dhows which were driven with the help of Monsoon winds. The
North East Monsoons (Winter Monsoons) blew between the months of November and April and
brought the traders to Eastern Africa, South East Monsoons (Sumer Monsoons) which blew
between the month of May and October took them back to their homes.

The Social and Economic Effects of the Contacts between the People of
Africa, The Middle and Far East.

The rise of Coastal City states.

By the 13th C, trade along the Coast of East Africa was strengthened and gave rise to city states.
Many Arabs settled in the area for commercial purposes. The settlements grew into towns/cities:
Kilwa, Mombasa, Zanzibar, Pemba, Malindi, Mogadishu, Lamu, Sofala, Pate and Kismayu.


The Arabs, mainly intermarried with Africans within their Coastal settlements.The outcome of
this racial mingling was the emergence of the Swahili people

The Growth/Emergence of the Kiswahili Language.

This resulted from the mixture of Bantu and Arabic words.

Introduction of New Arts and Crafts.

Buildings along the Coast eg. Houses, palaces, mosques were built in Arabic and Persian styles
(using stones)

Introduction of Islam.

The Arab traders brought their religion with them.Therefore several coastal Africans were
converted to the Islam faith.The Africans copied Arabic styles of dressing – men dressed in
kanzu and women in baibui.

The Coastal Towns (Cosatal City States) 1000 AD-1500 AD

The coming of the Asian traders to East Africa especially Arabs led to the development of
Coastal towns such as Mogadishu, Merka, Brava, Kismayu, Lamu, Pate, Malindi, Mombasa,
Zanzibar, Pemba, Mafia, Kilwa and Sofala.

Political control.

There was never a single united empire on the coast, no „Zenji Empire‟ as sometimes
believed.Each town retained its own rulers though many were dominated at different times by
the most powerful settlements. Many had ruling families descending from Persia or Arabian

The Leading Coastal Towns.

It was the first to gain wealth and importance due to its position in the North, This
enabled it to control the sea route to the South and to dominate the trade from the rest of East

  • It is said to have been founded in the 11th Century by a group of people from Persian
  • It became an important Islamic centre.
  • It gradually declined as towns such as Kilwa and Mombasa gained importance.
  • For many centuries it became important because it controlled most of the trade along the
  • Its greatness reached the highest peak in the 13th Century when it gained control over
    gold trade from Sofala. it built huge beautiful stone buildings eg. The Husuni Kubwa Palace and
    Friday Mosque.
  • It also became an important Islamic Centre. Kilwa was the first coastal state to mint its
    own coins. It declined at about 1490 A.D.


  • It is believed to be the first coastal stop in East African coast to be settled by foreigners.
  • It was free from Kilwa and had Arab rulers who were able to establish strong control over
    the people.
  • Having powerful rulers, it became an important trading centre and in the 15th Century it
    began to mint its own coins.


  • Mombasa was an export centre for Ivory and slaves before 15th Century.
  • Its importance and wealth was a result of its trade with India
  • The rulers were Swahili and the African element in its culture was strong.


  • It was an important market centre for exporting iron which came from mainland Kenya.
  • It accepted Islam religion and the rule of Sultans. The people copied new ways of
    Government administration from Arabs.


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