The features of life along the coast (1000 – 1500 A.D)

Ways of life/characteristics of the coast

  • The coast was characterized by many groups of people e.g. Bantu, Cushites, Arabs, Persians, Greeks, Egyptians e.t.c.
  • Politically most of these people settled in coastal towns e.g. Malindi, Zanzibar, Lamu, and Mafia with each town having its own ruler who was either a Sultan or Sheikh.
  • There were inter-marriages between the people of the coast and Arabs giving a rise to a new race of people called the Swahili people.
  • The Swahili people had their own culture i.e. the A fro – Arab culture / Swahili culture with their own language called Kiswahili
  • Arabic ways of life e.g. dressing, seating cross legged and people used to wear Kanzus, Veils, and turbans and also build flat topped houses.
  • Many people were converted to Islam and it became the dominant form of worship and it replaced traditional beliefs e.g. mosques and Quaranic Schools were built.
  • Arabic was the official language used in administration, courts of law and religious circles while Kiswahili was the business language.
  • Trade was another main feature of the coast. They traded with people of the interior of East Africa e.g. Nyamwezi e.t.c.
  • There existed two classes of people at the coast i.e.  the wealthy class lived in luxury houses while the poor slept in mud houses
  • The legal system at the coast was based on the Sharia law and the Koran e.g. Islamic titles came into use e.g. Muhtasib in charge of police, Khadi in charge of the judiciary.
  • The coast was also characterized with rivalry among the various coastal settlements e.g. Mombasa against Malindi and Kilwa against Sofala
  • The coastal people also carried out some agriculture. Crops like millet, rice and wheat were grown.
  • The coastal people also domesticated animals like goats, sheep, chicken and cows.
  • The coastal towns were under foreign rule for the first time i.e. Arabs imposed themselves as rulers of the coast.