East Africa and the Indian Ocean, 1000-1500 CE

Economic Events

Localization of cloth production (2)


Pearson attributes this to a "technology transfer", possibly indicating that Indian traders brought cloth-making to East Africa.

Beginning of significant East African gold trade (3)


Mogadishu founded (4)


Centers of trade shift from ports of the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea (1)

1000 - 1150

Development of direct route from India to East Africa through Maldives (5)


Importance of Mogadishu as East African port nearest Red Sea trade routes

1150 - 1505

East African slaves, ivory, crystal, ambergris sold in Qays (6)


Although trade in these commodities probably had a long history by this date, it is signficant that slaves were being traded in Red Sea ports already in the12th century and in India in the 13th.

Habashi slaves sent to India in early 13th c. (7)


Heavy emigration from Hadramaut to East Africa (8)


A significant wave of emigres from Hadramaut could be attributed to war, famine, or drought in their homeland.

Zanzibar is center of import for beads, textiles

1200 - 1350

Height of Kilwa as trade emporium (4)

1250 - 1330

Presence of Gujaratis in East Africa from 14 c. (11)


Evidence of Kilwa's commercial domination of Zanzibar and Sofala (9)


Sharp decline of East African textile trade in 14 c. (10)


This decline is attributed to an increase in competition from India, especially in textiles treated with dyes unavailable in East Africa.

Sofala is important entrepot for ivory, gold

1350 - 1500

Height of Mombasa's commercial dominance

1450 - 1505

Beginning of the decline of Kilwa (12)


Civil wars in the African interior (around the Zambezi river) would have disrupted the gold trade upon which Kilwa's strength depended.

Sultan of Sofala levies import tax (14)


This shows that Kilwa no longer had control over the commercial activities of Sofala.

Influx of gold from Americas

1500 - 1600

Spanish discovery of gold in the Americas increased competition in the gold trade, lessening the demand for East African gold.

Decrease in volume of gold exported from East African ports (3)


Political and Religious Events

Establishment of Ali Ibn Hasan in Kilwa (15)


This is the beginning of the Shirazi period in East Africa in which Muslims of Persian origin held power in several ports.

Establishment of Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt (1)


Takeover of Kilwa by Al-Hasan bin Talut (15)


Under bin Talut, Kilwa was transformed into a commercial center.

Establishment and growth of Mutapa Empire (13, 17)


The Kingdom of Mutapa was centered around the Zambezi river and was important in gold and ivory trade from the interior.

Death of ruler of Great Zimbabwe, civil wars break out (12)


Civil wars in the interior disrupted the gold trading routes to the coastline ports.

Portuguese defeat of Sofala (16)


Mafia, Zanzibar forced to pay tribute to Portugal (16)


Portuguese capture Mombasa and Kilwa (16)