Africa in the Middle Ages

Thriving Civilizations in the Sahara Desert

Muslims Conquer North Africa

Approx. 630 AD

Thriving Civilizations in the Sahara Desert

750 AD - 1500 AD

From 750-1500 AD, the Sahara Desert was filled with thriving civilizations. Muslim kings ruled cities, and Obas ruled rainforest civilizations. Swahili people became rich through trade.

Traders in North Africa crossed the desert in caravans, with as many as 10,000 camels with goods. At the southern edge, goods were moved to donkeys and human porters to be carried south. Some goods were gold, ivory, ebony, and slaves from the West African Kingdoms such as Ghana, Mali, Songhai were sold in North Africa and the Middle East for salt and copper, mined in the Sahara. Later, European traders came for gold, ebony, and slaves.

African Hunter Gatherer Societies

Approx. 800 AD - Approx. 1500 AD

African Societies, 800–1500
• From 800 to 1500 there are a variety of African societies
-hunter-gatherers

Empires Develop

Approx. 800 AD - Approx. 1500 AD

Societies and Empires of Africa, 800–1500
Empires develop in northern, western, and southern Africa. Trade helps spread Islam and makes some African empires very wealthy.

Scholars bring Islam to Timbuktu

Approx. 900 AD

Devout Muslims Make Pilgramige to Mecca

Approx. 1000 AD

In 1000s, devout Berber Muslims make hajj, pilgrimage, to Mecca

Almoravids Spread Islam

Approx. 1050 AD

Around 1050, Almoravids begin to spread Islam through conquest

East Africans Send Abassadors To China

Approx. 1071 AD

East Africans produced valuable goods, such as leather, frankincense, leopard skins, ivory, iron, copper, and gold. They sold these to Indian Ocean traders. From around 1071, they sent ambassadors to trade with China, and, from 1418, welcomed Chinese merchant ships to East Africa’s ports.

Almohads Take Over

Approx. 1100 AD - Approx. 1200 AD

Almohads Take Over
• In mid 1100s, Almohads—group of Berber Muslims—overthrow Almoravids
• Almohads strictly obey teachings of Qur’an and Islamic law
• By 1148 they control most of Morocco, keep Marrakech as their capital
• Almohad Empire lasts 100 years; unites Maghrib under one rule

Kingdoms are ruled by Obas

Approx. 1250 AD - Approx. 1800 AD

From around 1250 to 1800, a number of different kingdoms made up what is now southwest Nigeria, in West Africa. Each of these was ruled by an oba. The obas were both religious and political leaders. Their subjects, the Yoruba people, lived as farmers, and built city-states surrounded by massive walls of earth.

East Africans Welcome Chinese Merchants

Approx. 1418 AD

East Africans produced valuable goods, such as leather, frankincense, leopard skins, ivory, iron, copper, and gold. They sold these to Indian Ocean traders. From around 1071, they sent ambassadors to trade with China, and, from 1418, welcomed Chinese merchant ships to East Africa’s ports.

Africa is Ruled by Europeans

Approx. 1900 AD

The power of the obas and other African rulers was weakened by the arrival of Europeans. Portuguese, Dutch, and British traders took back news to their countries of the riches of Africa. Explorers were encouraged to travel there and, by 1900, almost all of Africa was ruled by European powers.