Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Islam - Trans-Saharan Trading Routes

Trans-Arabian Routes of the Pre-Islamic Period

Muslim Trade Route


Between 750-1350 A.D. Christian traders used the silk road. Egyptians bought expensive silk and spices. They traded between East Asia Europe. The monsoon winds carried Arab ships from East Asia to Europe, which benefited a lot of muslims. War armaments. Sugar, paper,spices, were trading with Turkish, Jewish and African descent trades of that descent. They traveled through the hot desert. They traveled on camels through desert when they were on land. Luxurious spices silks were looked as they were looked as the most desired goods. Silk was most prized by Byzantine empire. The Red Sea emerged and created a pathway to trade with the Mediterranean sea.

Money was weighed with glass weights. Traded money to be able to get all the finest silks and spices. This one of the earliest Islamic trade networks. Pilgrimages routes was used and migrations of local tribes was one of the bad things that happened. Expensive fabrics were traded with these countries with gold.

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The Trans-Saharan Caravan Trade


The trans-Saharan caravan trade began to take place on a regular basis during the fourth century, as an expanded version of the pre-existing intra- and interregional trade among peoples of the forest, savanna, Sahel, and Sahara. While Ghana was an integral part of the early trans-Saharan trade, neither it nor any other Western Sudan state was built by, or specifically for, the trans-Saharan trade. Fundamentally important to the success of the Empire of Ghana between the eighth and twelfth centuries, this trading system reached its peak during the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries, during the heydays of the Mali and Songhai Empires.


There were seven primary north-south routes, six principal forest routes, and two west-east routes. During the 500-1590 period, routes rose and declined in importance depending on the empire in power and the amount of security it could maintain for traders and trade routes.

North-South Routes

To obtain gold from the Bambuk goldfields—particularly during the ascendency of Ghana and the competing state of Takrur—traders from Fez and Marrakesh in Morocco traveled what is sometimes called the Audaghost Trail through Sijilmasa and Wadan to Azukki or Audaghost and from there to Kumbi Saleh in Ghana, or to Takrur. For gold from the Bure fields, especially when the Empire of Mali was at its height, merchants traveled from Fez through Sijilmasa, Taghaza (or Tuat) and Tichitt-Walata, to Timbuktu and Djenné. Another route to gold from the Bure fields led from Algiers through Wargla, In Salah, and Arawan to Timbuktu. For gold from the Lobi-Pourra fields traders left Qayrawan in Tunisia and traveled through Wargla, In Salah, Tadmekka, and Timbuktu to Gao, a route particularly active during the Songhai Empire. From Tripoli, caravans traveled through Ghadames, Ghat, and Takedda or Agades to the Hausa cities of Katsina or Kano. Another route began in Tripoli and passed through Fezzan, Bilma, and Kanem to the Bornu city of Bauchi. Finally, from Cyrenaicain or Aujila in eastern Libya a route led through Wadai to Bornu. Not counting Cairo, Egypt, there were five major starting or ending points for the trade in the north (from which some gold and other products were regularly transported into the Mediterranean and Europe): Marrakesh, Fez, Algiers, Qayrawan, and Tripoli. There were also five major rendezvous stations where merchants gathered money, camels, drivers, guides, water, provisions, and trade goods for the journey south: Sijilmasa, In Salah, Wargla, Ghadames, and Aujila.

West-East Routes

There were two routes from Timbuktu or Gao to Egypt. One went through Takedda, Agades, Bilma, and Tibesti to Cairo. The other ran through Takedda, Ghat, Fezzan, and Aujila to Cairo. Also called the Gao or Mecca Road, this second route was the preferred route and was also used by West African Muslims on pilgrimages to Mecca.

Southern Routes

From the end points of the camelcaravan routes, trade goods were carried farther south to the forest regions by donkeys, human porters, or canoes. One route from Kumbi Saleh went through Diara, down the Senegal and Faleme Rivers to the Bambuk goldfields. Another led from Kumbi Saleh to Kangaba, down the Niger to the Bure goldfields. From Djenn´e one could travel through Bobo, Dyulasso, Kong, and Begho to Kumasi (in the modern nation of Ghana). From Kano a road led through Zaria and Old Oyo to Benin. Another road went from Katsina through Kano and Bauci to Wukari.

Economic and Social Consequences

The establishment of regular trade routes stimulated the development of various monetary systems in the Western Sudan, which used cowrie shells (from the Maldive Islands), strips of cotton cloth, minted gold dinars from North Africa, standard weights of gold dust, kola nuts, glass beads, and salt as currency. Trade also created a need among the indigenous kafu to control the centers of strategic productivity. For example, the Empire of Ghana extended its territory as far north as Audaghost in an attempt to secure direct access to salt production, while it simultaneously maintained direct linkages to the Bambuk goldfields across the Senegal River. Mali went even further north, capturing Taghaza for its salt mines and incorporating Bure, in the Niani region, for direct access to its gold. Songhai seized Takedda in the desert, mainly for its salt and copper, so the Songhai rulership could maintain direct control of salt and gold production at opposite ends of its territories.

Trade and State Building

Trans-Saharan trade also provided strong motivation for the formation of large Sudanic states and empires to protect traders and trade routes, which in turn brought in the necessary wealth to conduct wars of population and territorial expansion, to acquire horses and superior iron weaponry, to send thousands of soldiers into battle, and to outfit and maintain garrisons of soldiers in conquered provinces. The need for places where business could be transacted promoted increased urbanization in the Sudanic and Sahelian areas, from villages to walled cities and commercial centers with populations in excess of one hundred thousand residents. The rise of trade strongly promoted the specialization of clans and the establishment of clan “monopolies” in particular crafts, crucially important in iron smelting and smithing. Finally, the trans-Saharan trade brought the Sudanic states and their access to gold to the attention of the world outside the insular West African region.

Trade Commodities

Salt, gold, and slaves were the essential commodities throughout the 500-1590 period. Cloth also became an important trade good. A viable cloth-production industry began around the eleventh century in Djenné, Takrur, Timbuktu, and Gao and lasted well into the eighteenth century. By the thirteenth century, Timbuktu was reported to have more than twenty-six tailor shops with approximately one hundred apprentices in training at each one. The first cloth was made for local and intraregional consumption only, but production gradually became large enough and skilled enough to create textiles for regular export. The Western Sudan also imported European and Moroccan cloth and clothing, especially from the eleventh century onward. These textiles were generally for the elite—including resident foreign merchants, rulers, and highly placed administrative staff—rather than the local population. Modern archaeological excavations in the region have uncovered remains of silk clothing, presumably from commercial contacts with China or the Mongol Empire through the Maghrib. By the fifteenth century, the Portuguese were bringing in large quantities of cloth to pay for the slaves and gold. Copper from southern Morocco and the Byzantine Empire was also imported to the Sahel and the Western Sudan, as were silver, tin, lead, perfumes, bracelets, books, stone and coral beads, glass jewelry, and drinking implements. In addition to gold, slaves, and cloth, the Western Sudan exported animal hides, civet musk, spices, ambergris, kola nuts, and shea butter (used for cooking oil, lamp lighting, and soap manufacture). Kola nuts became one of the primary sources of income for Mali and Songhai. Dyula-Wangara traders carried them from their forest source to the savanna and Sahel in pouches of wet leaves to keep them fresh. They did not become an important product of international trade until the nineteenth century, but they were widely traded in the Western Sudan from the twelfth century onward. Known by several different names—“the nut,” “bitter fruit,” “carob of the Sudan,” and goro—kola nuts became important enough to be given as special presents by one ruler to another and to his honored guests. Kola nuts were frequently used in rituals, ceremonies, and celebrations. They were chewed to relieve thirst in desert caravans, and they were such a popular stimulant that their use by West Africans sometimes approximated addiction.

Pattern of Trade

By the eleventh century a typical caravan included one thousand camels. It might, for example, set out from Sijilmasa loaded with salt from Taghaza, foodstuffs, cloth, perfumes, and other goods from the Maghrib. Its next stop was Wadan, an oasis in the present-day nation of Mauritania, where some of the goods were sold and new items purchased; then the caravan went to Walata or Tichitt on the southern edge of the Sahara, and finally it went on to Timbuktu. From there the salt and other products would likely be taken by canoe to Niani or Djenné, where the salt was broken into smaller pieces and carried into the forest areas via the slave porters and donkeys of the Dyula-Wangara. These itinerant merchants traded the salt and other items from the north for forest gold, kola nuts, animal hides, and other products and then returned to Djenné, Niani, and Timbuktu. The number of camels on a return journey to Sijilmasa was typically less than half the number that arrived in Timbuktu because gold and other forest products were less bulky and much lighter in weight than the blocks of salt.

The Dyula-Wangara Trading Network

Only a small group of people in each state participated in longdistance trade in the Western Sudan. The bulk of the population was fishermen, herdsmen, agriculturalists, and hunter-soldiers. One group that was essential to the trade process was the itinerant Mande-speaking traders known as the Dyula or the Wangara, who from at least the eighth century operated trade routes along the upper Niger River from Timbuktu and across the Senegal. During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, they traveled into the Akan forests, as gold trade shifted from the upper Gambia and Casamance area of Bambuk to Bure. After the arrival of Europeans along the coast of West Africa, their routes took them southward from Niani to Worodugu along the Côte d’ivoire and the Gambia Valley to the western Atlantic coast, to the Portuguese fortress at Elmina and other European trading posts; they also traveled eastward into Hausaland. In fact, they attempted to dominate the role of commercial middleman throughout the region, linking Guinea, the northeast, and the northwest along the Djenné-Be’o-Bonduku route, establishing routes across the Gambia and Casamance Rivers, and connecting Bondu, Kedougou, Futa Djallon, Niokholo, and Dantilia. Leo Africanus, who visited the Songhai Empire in 1513-1515, described these itinerant merchants selling their wares throughout West Africa, and German explorer Heinrich Earth found them living and trading among the Hausa at Katsina in the nineteenth century. The Portuguese reported that Dyula-Wangara trading activities between the coast and the Sahel were so important that Europeans who hoped to have successful commercial ventures in the region should accommodate their plans to the habits of those indigenous traders or risk unnecessary disruptions in the flow of trade goods.

Insular Clan

The Dyula-Wangara have been described as a rather insular, endogamous clan of occupational merchants who characteristically married within their own group and traveled as whole families along established commercial routes. Their small to large donkey caravans carried books, slaves, cotton cloth, iron bars, kola nuts, gold, salt, perfumes, beads, cowries, and copper, among other items. They apparently enjoyed a special status in a broad area of West Africa and were allowed to travel even through war zones without fear of harm from either side of the combatants. The Dyula-Wangara were recognizable by several other names in West Africa, including Marka among the Bambara, Yarse among the Mossi-Dagomba between Djenné and the Ashanti region, and Malinke-Mori in Guinea and the Ivory Coast region. By the seventeenth century, they were also called Kong, Bobo-Dyulasso, Buna, Bonduku, Black Volta Gonja, Diakhanke, and “Mary Bucks” (marabouts) after towns and settlements they founded with those names.

African Jews

From the twelfth century onward, significant numbers of Jews residing in Morocco helped to finance and expand the trans-Saharan trade. They migrated from southern Morocco, especially Wadi Dara, into the Sahel. By the fifteenth century, Jews made up roughly half the population of Sijilmasa in southeastern Morocco, the central city for the trans-Saharan trade going to Ghana and the rest of the Western Sudan. Becoming well known as merchants, financiers, goldsmiths, and silversmiths, they invested in long-distance trade along the principal routes from Sijilmasa to Walata through Taghaza. In addition to organizing caravans, they operated sections of the continuous traders’ market in Sijilmasa, and they exported goods to Europe, Egypt, and other areas. Jewish goldsmiths and silversmiths also resided in Walata and Audaghost, and the oral traditions of Mauritania credit them with introducing goldsmithing in the Sahel and savanna. Gold from the Sahel was regularly exported north in twisted threads and coils that were fashioned by Jewish goldsmiths or smiths they had taught.

  • Adu Boahen, with J. F. Ade. Ajayi and Michae Tidy, Topics in West African History, second edition (Harlow, U.K.: Longman, 1986).
  • Robert O. Collins, Western African History (Princeton: Wiener, 1990)
  • J. Devisse, “Trade and Trade Routes in West Africa,” in Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century, edited by M. El Fasi and I. Hrbek, volume 3 of General History of Africa (London: Heinemann / Berkeley: University of California Press / Paris: UNESCO, 1988), pp. 367-435.
  • Raymond Mauny, Tableau géographique de l ‘Ouest africain au Moyen Age, d’après les sources écrites, la tradition et I’archéologie (Dakar: IFAN, 1961).

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Trans-Saharan trade
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Trans-Saharan trade requires travel across the Sahara between sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa. While existing from prehistoric times, the peak of trade extended from the 8th century until the early 17th century. The Sahara once had a very different environment. In Libya and Algeria, from at least 7000 BC, there was pastoralism, the herding of sheep, goats, large settlements, and pottery. Cattle were introduced to the Central Sahara (Ahaggar) from 4000 to 3500 BC. Remarkable rock paintings (dated 3500 to 2500 BC) in places that are currently very dry, portray flora and fauna that are not present in the modern desert environment.[1]

As a desert, Sahara is now a hostile expanse that separates the Mediterranean economy from the economy of the Niger basin. As Fernand Braudel points out, crossing such a zone, especially without mechanized transport, is worthwhile only when exceptional circumstances cause the expected gain to outweigh the cost and the danger.[2]

Trade from around 300 CE[3] was conducted by caravans of camels. According to Ibn Battuta, the explorer who accompanied one of the caravans, the average size per caravan was 1,000 camels, but some caravans were as large as 12,000.[4][5] The caravans would be guided by highly-paid Berbers, who knew the desert and could ensure safe passage from their fellow desert nomads. The survival of a caravan was precarious and would rely on careful co-ordination. Runners would be sent ahead to oases so that water could be shipped out to the caravan when it was still several days away, as the caravans could not easily carry enough with them to make the full journey. In the mid-14th century, Ibn Battuta crossed the desert from Sijilmasa via the salt mines at Taghaza to the oasis of Oualata. A guide was sent ahead and water was brought on a journey of four days from Oualata to meet the caravan.[6]

Culture and religion were also exchanged on the Trans-Saharan Trade Route. Then colonies eventually adopted the language and the religion of the country and became absorbed into the Muslim world.[7]

Early trans-Saharan Trade

A building in Oualata, southeast Mauritania
The Bilma oasis in northeast Niger, with the Kaouar escarpment in the background

Ancient trade spanned the northeastern corner of the Sahara in the Naqadan era. Predynastic Egyptians in the Naqada I period traded with Nubia to the south, the oases of the Western Desert to the west, and the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean to the east. Many trading routes went from oasis to oasis to resupply on both food and water. These oases were very important.[8] They also imported obsidian from Ethiopia to shape blades and other objects.[9]

The overland route through the Wadi Hammamat from the Nile to the Red Sea was known as early as predynastic times;[10] drawings depicting Egyptian reed boats have been found along the path dating to 4000 BC.[11] Ancient cities dating to the First Dynasty of Egypt arose along both its Nile and Red Sea junctions,[citation needed] testifying to the route's ancient popularity. It became a major route from Thebes to the Red Sea port of Elim, where travelers then moved on to either Asia, Arabia or the Horn of Africa.[citation needed] Records exist documenting knowledge of the route among Senusret I, Seti, Ramesses IV and also, later, the Roman Empire, especially for mining.

The Darb el-Arbain trade route, passing through Kharga in the south and Asyut in the north, was used from as early as the Old Kingdom for the transport and trade of goldivoryspiceswheat, animals and plants.[12] Later, Ancient Romans would protect the route by lining it with varied forts and small outposts, some guarding large settlements complete with cultivation.[citation needed] Described by Herodotus as a road "traversed ... in forty days", it became by his time an important land route facilitating trade between Nubia and Egypt,[13] and subsequently became known as the Forty Days Road. From Kobbei, 40 kilometres (25 mi) north of al-Fashir, the route passed through the desert to Bir Natrum, another oasis and salt mine, to Wadi Howar before proceeding to Egypt.[14] The Darb el-Arbain trade route was the easternmost of the central routes.

The westernmost of the three central routes was the Ghadames Road, which ran from the Niger River at Gao north to Ghat and Ghadames before terminating at Tripoli. Next was the easiest of the three routes: the Garamantean Road, named after the former rulers of the land it passed through and also called the Bilma Trail. The Garamantean Road passed south of the desert near Murzuk before turning north to pass between the Alhaggar and Tibesti Mountains before reaching the oasis at Kawar. From Kawar, caravans would pass over the great sand dunes of Bilma, where rock salt was mined in great quantities for trade, before reaching the savanna north of Lake Chad. This was the shortest of the routes, and the primary exchanges were slaves and ivory from the south for salt.

The western routes were the Walata Road, from the Sénégal River, and the Taghaza Trail, from the Niger River, which had their northern termini at the great trading center of Sijilmasa, situated in Morocco just north of the desert.[14] The growth of the city of Aoudaghost, founded in the 5th century BCE, was stimulated by its position at the southern end of a trans Saharan trade route.[15]

To the east, three ancient routes connected the south to the Mediterranean. The herdsmen of the Fezzan of Libya, known as the Garamantes, controlled these routes as early as 1500 BC. From their capital of Germa in the Wadi Ajal, the Garamantean Empire raided north to the sea and south into the Sahel. By the 4th century BC, the independent city-states of Phoenicia had expanded their control to the territory and routes once held by the Garamantes.[14] Shillington states that existing contact with the Mediterranean received added incentive with the growth of the port city of Carthage. Founded c. 800 BCE, Carthage became one terminus for West African gold, ivory, and slaves. West Africa received salt, cloth, beads, and metal goods. Shillington proceeds to identify this trade route as the source for West African iron smelting.[16] Trade continued into Roman times. Although there are Classical references to direct travel from the Mediterranean to West Africa (Daniels, p. 22f), most of this trade was conducted through middlemen, inhabiting the area and aware of passages through the drying lands.[17] The Legio III Augusta subsequently secured these routes on behalf of Rome by the 1st century AD, safeguarding the southern border of the empire for two and half centuries.[14]

The Garamantes also engaged in the trans-Saharan slave trade. The Garamantes used slaves in their own communities to construct and maintain underground irrigation systems known as the foggara.[18] Early records of trans-Saharan slave trade come from ancient Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century BC, who records the Garementes enslaving cave-dwelling Ethiopians.[19][20] Two records of Romans accompanying the Garamentes on slave raiding expeditions are recorded - the first in 86 CE and the second a few years later to Lake Chad.[19][20] Initial sources of slaves were the Toubou people, but by the 1st century CE, the Garmentes were obtaining slaves from modern day Niger and Chad.[20]

In the early Roman Empire, the city of Lepcis established a slave market to buy and sell slaves from the African interior.[19] The empire imposed customs tax on the trade of slaves.[19] In 5th century AD, Roman Carthage was trading in black slaves brought across the Sahara.[20] Black slaves seem to have been valued in the Mediterranean as household slaves for their exotic appearance.[20] Some historians argue that the scale of slave trade in this period may have been higher than medieval times due to high demand of slaves in the Roman Empire.[20]

Introduction of the camel

Modern-day camel caravan near the Ahaggar Mountains in the central Sahara, 2006

Herodotus had spoken of the Garamantes hunting the Ethiopian Troglodytes with their chariots; this account was associated with depictions of horses drawing chariots in contemporary cave art in southern Morocco and the Fezzan, giving origin to a theory that the Garamantes, or some other Saran people, had created chariot routes to provide Rome and Carthage with gold and ivory. However, it has been argued that no horse skeletons have been found dating from this early period in the region, and chariots would have been unlikely vehicles for trading purposes due to their small capacity.[21]

The earliest evidence for domesticated camels in the region dates from the 3rd century. Used by the Berber people, they enabled more regular contact across the entire width of the Sahara, but regular trade routes did not develop until the beginnings of the Islamic conversion of West Africa in the 7th and 8th centuries.[21] Two main trade routes developed. The first ran through the western desert from modern Morocco to the Niger Bend, the second from modern Tunisia to the Lake Chad area. These stretches were relatively short and had the essential network of occasional oases that established the routing as inexorably as pins in a map. Further east of the Fezzan with its trade route through the valley of Kaouar to Lake Chad, Libya was impassable due to its lack of oases and fierce sandstorms.[22] A route from the Niger Bend to Egypt was abandoned in the 10th century due to its dangers.[citation needed]

Spread of Islam

Several trade routes became established , perhaps the most important terminating in Sijilmasa (Morocco) and Ifriqiya to the north. There, and in other North African cities, Berber traders had increased contact with Islam, encouraging conversions, and by the 8th century, Muslims were traveling to Ghana. Many in Ghana converted to Islam, and it is likely that the Empire's trade was privileged as a result. Around 1050, Ghana lost Aoudaghost to the Almoravids, but new goldmines around Bure reduced trade through the city, instead benefiting the Malinke of the south, who later founded the Mali Empire.

Saharan trade routes circa 1400, with the modern territory of Niger highlighted

Unlike Ghana, Mali was a Muslim kingdom since its foundation, and under it, the gold–salt trade continued. Other, less important trade goods were slaves, kola nuts from the south and slave beads and cowry shells from the north (for use as currency). It was under Mali that the great cities of the Niger bend—including Gao and Djenné—prospered, with Timbuktu in particular becoming known across Europe for its great wealth. Important trading centers in southern West Africa developed at the transitional zone between the forest and the savanna; examples include Begho and Bono Manso (in present-day Ghana) and Bondoukou (in present-day Côte d'Ivoire). Western trade routes continued to be important, with Ouadane, Oualata and Chinguetti being the major trade centres in what is now Mauritania, while the Tuareg towns of Assodé and later Agadez grew around a more easterly route in what is now Niger.

The eastern trans-Saharan route led to the development of the long-lived Kanem–Bornu Empire as well as the Ghana, Mali, and Songhai empires, centred on the Lake Chad area. This trade route was somewhat less efficient and only rose to great prominence when there was turmoil in the west such as during the Almohad conquests.

The trans-Saharan slave trade, established in Antiquity,[20] continued during the Middle Ages. The slaves brought from across the Sahara were mainly used by wealthy families as domestic servants,[23] and concubines.[24] Some served in the military forces of Egypt and Morocco.[24] For example, the 17th century sultan Mawlay Ismail, himself was the son of slave, and relied on an army of black slaves for support. The West African states imported highly trained slave soldiers.[24] It has been estimated that from the 10th to the 19th century some 6,000 to 7,000 enslaved people were transported north each year.[25][failed verification] Perhaps as many as nine million enslaved people were exported along the trans-Saharan caravan route.[26]

Saharan triangle trade

The rise of the Ghana Empire, in what is now MaliSenegal, and southern Mauritania, was concomitant with the increase in trans-Saharan trade. Northern economies were short of gold but at times controlled salt mines such as Taghaza in the Sahara, whereas West African countries like Wangara had plenty of gold but needed salt. Taghaza, a trading and mining outpost where Ibn Battuta recorded the buildings were made of salt, rose to preeminence in the salt trade under the hegemony of the Almoravid Empire.[27] The salt was mined by slaves and purchased with manufactured goods from Sijilmasa.[27] Miners cut thin rectangular slabs of salt directly out of the desert floor, and caravan merchants transported them south, charging a transportation fee of almost 80% of the salt's value.[27] The salt was traded at the market of Timbuktu almost weight for weight with gold.[27] The gold, in the form of bricks, bars, blank coins, and gold dust went to Sijilmasa, from which it went out to Mediterranean ports and in which it was struck into Almoravid dinars.[27]

Spread of Islam

The spread of Islam to sub-Saharan African was linked to trans-Saharan trade. Islam spread via trade routes, and Africans converting to Islam increased trade and commerce.[28]

Historians give many reasons for the spread of Islam facilitating trade. Islam established common values and rules upon which trade was conducted.[28] It created a network of believers who trust each other and therefore trade with each other even if they do not personally know each other.[29] Such trade networks existed before Islam but on a much smaller scale. The spread of Islam increased the number of nodes in the network and decreased its vulnerability.[30] The use of Arabic as a common language of trade and the increase of literacy through Qur'anic schools, also facilitated commerce.[31]

Muslim merchants conducting commerce also gradually spread Islam along their trade network. Social interactions with Muslim merchants led many Africans to convert to Islam, and many merchants married local women and raised their children as Muslim.[31]

Islam spread into Western Sudan by the end of the 10th century, into Chad by the 11th century, and into Hausa lands in 12th and 13th centuries. By 1200, many ruling elites in Western Africa had converted to Islam, and from 1200 to 1500 saw a significant conversion to Islam in Africa.[32]

Decline of trans-Saharan trade

The Portuguese journeys around the West African coast opened up new avenues for trade between Europe and West Africa. By the early 16th century, European trading bases, the factories established on the coast since 1445, and trade with the wealthier Europeans became of prime importance to West Africa. North Africa had declined in both political and economic importance, while the Saharan crossing remained long and treacherous. However, the major blow to trans-Saharan trade was the Battle of Tondibi of 1591–92. In a major military expedition organized by the Saadian sultan Ahmad al-Mansur, Morocco sent troops across the Sahara and attacked Timbuktu, Gao and some other important trading centres, destroying buildings and property and exiling prominent citizens. This disruption to trade led to a dramatic decline in the importance of these cities and the resulting animosity reduced trade considerably.

Although much reduced, trans-Saharan trade continued. But trade routes to the West African coast became increasingly easy, particularly after the French invasion of the Sahel in the 1890s and subsequent construction of railways to the interior. A railway line from Dakar to Algiers via the Niger bend was planned but never constructed. With the independence of nations in the region in the 1960s, the north–south routes were severed by national boundaries. National governments were hostile to Tuareg nationalism and so made few efforts to maintain or support trans-Saharan trade, and the Tuareg Rebellion of the 1990s and Algerian Civil War further disrupted routes, with many roads closed.

Azalai salt caravan from Agadez to Bilma, 1985

Traditional caravan routes are largely void of camels, but the shorter Azalai routes from Agadez to Bilma and Timbuktu to Taoudenni are still regularly—if lightly—used. Some members of the Tuareg still use the traditional trade routes, often traveling 2,400 km (1,500 mi) and six months out of every year by camel across the Sahara trading in salt carried from the desert interior to communities on the desert edges.[33]

The future of trans-Saharan trade

The African Union and African Development Bank support the Trans-Sahara Highway from Algiers to Lagos via Tamanrasset which aims to stimulate trans-Saharan trade. The route is paved except for a 120 mi (200 km) section in northern Niger, but border restrictions still hamper traffic. Only a few trucks carry trans-Saharan trade, particularly fuel and salt. Three other highways across the Sahara are proposed: for further details see Trans-African Highways. Building the highways is difficult because of sandstorms.

See also


  1. ^ Shillington, Kevin (1995) [1989]. History of Africa (Second ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 32ISBN 0-333-59957-8.
  2. ^ Braudel, Fernand (1984). The Perspective of the World. Civilization and Capitalism. Vol III. New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-015317-2.(Published in French in 1979).
  3. ^ "The Ghana Empire (article)"Khan Academy. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  4. ^ Rouge, David (21 February 2007). "Saharan salt caravans ply ancient route"Reuters.
  5. ^ "An African Pilgrim-King and a World-Traveler: Mansa Musa and Ibn Battuta".
  6. ^ Gibb, H.A.R.; Beckingham, C.F. trans. and eds. (1994). The Travels of Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, A.D. 1325–1354 (Volume 4). London: Hakluyt Society. pp. 948–49. ISBN 978-0-904180-37-4.
  7. ^ Bovill, E.W. (1968). Golden Trade of the Moors. Oxford University Press.
  8. ^ Shaw, Ian (2002). The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 61ISBN 0-500-05074-0.
  9. ^ Aston, Barbara G.; Harrell, James A.; Shaw, Ian (2000). "Stone". In Nicholson, Paul T.; Shaw, Ian (eds.). Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology. Cambridge. pp. 5–77 [pp. 46–47]. ISBN 0-521-45257-0. Also note: Aston, Barbara G. (1994). Ancient Egyptian Stone Vessels. Studien zur Archäologie und Geschichte Altägyptens. 5. Heidelberg. pp. 23–26. ISBN 3-927552-12-7. (See on-line posts: [1] and [2].)
  10. ^ "Trade in Ancient Egypt"World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  11. ^ "Ship - History of ships"Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  12. ^ Jobbins, Jenny (13–19 November 2003). "The 40 days' nightmare". Al-Ahram. Cairo, Egypt. Issue No. 664.
  13. ^ Smith, Stuart Tyson"Nubia: History". University of California Santa Barbara, Department of Anthropology. Retrieved January 21, 2009.
  14. Jump up to:a b c d Burr, J. Millard; Collins, Robert O. (2006). Darfur: The Long Road to Disaster. Princeton: Markus Wiener. pp. 6–7. ISBN 1-55876-405-4.
  15. ^ Lydon, Ghislaine (2009), "On Trans-Saharan Trails", Cambridge University Press, pp. 387–400, doi:10.1017/cbo9780511575457.010ISBN 978-0-511-57545-7 Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ Shillington (1995). p. 46.
  17. ^ Daniels, Charles (1970). The Garamantes of Southern Libya. North Harrow, Middlesex: Oleander. p. 22ISBN 0-902675-04-4.
  18. ^ David Mattingly. "The Garamantes and the Origins of Saharan Trade". Trade in the Ancient Sahara and BeyondCambridge University Press. pp. 27–28.
  19. Jump up to:a b c d Keith R. Bradley. "Apuleius and the sub-Saharan slave trade". Apuleius and Antonine Rome: Historical Essays. p. 177.
  20. Jump up to:a b c d e f g Andrew Wilson. "Saharan Exports to the Roman World". Trade in the Ancient Sahara and BeyondCambridge University Press. pp. 192–3.
  21. Jump up to:a b Masonen, Pekka (1997). "Trans-Saharan Trade and the West African Discovery of the Mediterranean World". In Sabour, M'hammad; Vikør, Knut S. (eds.). Ethnic Encounter and Culture Change. Bergen. pp. 116–142. ISBN 1-85065-311-9. Archived from the original on 1998-12-06.
  22. ^ Lewicki, T. (1994). "The Role of the Sahara and Saharians in Relationships between North and South". UNESCO General History of Africa. Volume 3. University of California Press. ISBN 92-3-601709-6. Retrieved 2021-05-06. [page needed]
  23. ^ "Ibn Battuta's Trip: Part Twelve – Journey to West Africa (1351–1353)". Archived from the original on June 9, 2010.
  24. Jump up to:a b c Ralph A. Austen. Trans-Saharan Africa in World HistoryOxford University Press. p. 31.
  25. ^ Fage, J. D. (2001). A History of Africa (4th ed.). Routledge. p. 256. ISBN 0-415-25247-4.
  26. ^ "The impact of the slave trade on Africa".
  27. Jump up to:a b c d e Messier, Ronald A., author. The last civilized place : Sijilmasa and its Saharan destinyISBN 978-1-4773-1135-6OCLC 945745222.
  28. Jump up to:a b Toyin Falola, Matthew M. Heaton. A History of Nigeria. pp. 32–33.
  29. ^ Anne Haour. "What made Islamic Trade Distinctive, as Compared to Pre-Islamic Trade?". Trade in the Ancient Sahara and BeyondCambridge University Press. pp. 82–83.
  30. ^ Anne Haour. "What made Islamic Trade Distinctive, as Compared to Pre-Islamic Trade?". Trade in the Ancient Sahara and BeyondCambridge University Press. pp. 95–96.
  31. Jump up to:a b Christoph Strobel (11 February 2015). The Global Atlantic: 1400 to 1900Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 9781317525523.
  32. ^ Patricia Pearson. "The World of Atlantic before the "Atlantic World"". In Toyin Falola, Kevin David Roberts (ed.). The Atlantic World, 1450-2000Indiana University Press. pp. 10–11.
  33. ^ "Desert Odyssey". Africa. Episode 2. 2001. National Geographic Channel.This episode follows a Tuareg tribe across the Sahara for six months by camel.

Further reading