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East Africa & World Upto the 19th Century

Contacts between East Africa and the Outside World up to 19th century

The East coast of Africa received visitors from all over the world long before the birth of christ. They came from places such as Arabia, Persia, India, Greece, Rome, Portugal, China, Indonesia and Egypt. The map on the next page shows towns that they visited in the East African coast.


East African coast
. Use the scroll bar to view the map

Establishment and Impact of Omani rule in the coast.

The Arabs replaced the Portuguese who had ruled the East coast of Africa for about 200 years. The Omani Arabs wanted to control the East African coast for the following reasons;

1. Trade with people of East Africa

2. To spread their religion Islam

3. East African Coast was Strategically positioned

4. Religious persecutions in Omani

5. Good climate for Agriculture in East Africa

6. Good natural harbors

An arab dhow



By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

1. Name the different Arab families that were ruling the East African Coast

2. Explain at least five reasons for the establishment of Omani rule along the East African Coast

3. Discuss the effects of Omani rule on the East African Coast

Initially the Omani Arabs administered the region through Arab families namely:

1. Mombasa by Mazrui family

2.Lamu by Nabahami family

3.Zanzibar by Abusaidi family

However the Omani Arabs were not able to control the region due to various reasons

1. Civil war in Oman

2. Persian threats of invasion

3.Rebellion from the Coastal towns

4.The harsh rule of the Omani rulers

5.Dual responsibilities of controlling Oman and East African Coast

6.Disunity among the ruling families

The Oman Arabs were controlling Oman and the East African Coast at the same time. This proved difficult, hence they had to entrust local Arab families to administer the East African Coast. These local Arab families were:

1. Mazrui family to control Mombasa

2. Nabahan family to control Lamu

Old Lamu

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Video clip of old Lamu

The Mazrui family took advantage of the long distance of East African Coast and Oman, and claimed autonomy of Mombasa. The rebellion was led by Mohammad Ibn Uthman. The Mazrui family allied with the Miji Kenda to revolt against Omani rule. They also forced other Coastal towns to pay homage to them. These were Malindi, Pate and Pemba

Malindi, Pate and Pemba

The Mazrui rebellion was later crashed resulting in the assassination of Ibn Uthman.The Oman Arabs with the help of Abusaidy's family managed to bring the East Coast of Africa under their control. They moved the capital from Muscat in Oman to Zanzibar in 1840. Seyyid Said became the Sultan of Zanzibar.The capital was consequently moved from Muscat in Oman to Zanzibar in 1840. Seyyid Said became the sultan of Zanzibar.

Seyyid Seyyid


Seyyid Said and the development of plantation agriculture

Now listen to this conversation between Seyyid Said and an Imam in Zanzibar

From the conversation, you have heard that Seyyid Said decided to move his capital to Zanzibar so that he could have better control of the East African coast.

Due to the fertile soils and the adequate rainfall favorable for large scale farming, he established plantation agriculture

A coconut plantation

He also introduced growing of crops using plantation. The crops were cloves, coconuts, maize, millet, rice, beans, sim sim and sorghum. Mangoes, citrus fruits and cashew nuts were also grown

Cassava plantation

Since plantation agriculture depended on intensive labour, use of slaves became necessary. Increase in internal demand for labour due to intensive agriculture made importation of slaves necessary thus leading to slave trade.

Slaves who had been captured




He also encouraged settlers from Oman to come and acquire land in Zanzibar for crop growing.

Effects of Omani Rule

The Oman rule affected the people of East Africa in the following ways:

1. increase in slave trade. Slaves were needed to work in the crop plantations in East Africa and as domestic servants in Arabia

2. depopulation because of the slave trade

Slave trade


3. Introduction of new architectural designs e.g. mosques and other buildings. The movie provided shows Fort Jesus, an example of the architectural design.

4. Increased warfare as a result of slave raids

4. Decline of traditional industries e.g. pottery, weaving, etc

5. Introduction of new crops e.g. cloves, rice, spices, sugarcane, mangoes

6. opening of East African Coast to the outside world. This improved trade both internally and internationally

7. growth of coastal towns e.g. Mombasa, Malindi, Zanzibar and Lamu

Coastal towns



8. Introduction of new religion Islam and Swahili culture

Islamic men's cloth







The clip shows the various faces of Fort Jesus..

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