The Lost Cities and Amazing Heritage of Kenya | Summary and Q&A

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October 20, 2022
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Gresham College
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The Lost Cities and Amazing Heritage of Kenya

TL;DR

Kenya's Swahili Confederation had a rich and cosmopolitan civilization along its East African coast, with cities like Mogadishu, Malindi, and Mombasa. The Portuguese invasion in the 16th century led to destruction and a decline in these cities.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What caused the downfall of the Swahili cities?

The Portuguese invasion in the 16th century, along with the disruption of the Indian Ocean trade, led to the destruction and decline of the Swahili cities. The Portuguese seized control of the trade routes and burned down many of the cities.

Q: Were there any trading relationships with regions like Timbuktu or across the Sahara?

The main trading relationships for the Swahili cities were with Great Zimbabwe in South Africa, where they traded in gold, ivory, and Chinese ceramics. However, there is no evidence of direct trading relationships with Timbuktu or across the Sahara.

Q: How were laws administered in the Swahili cities?

The laws in the Swahili cities were based on Sharia, Islamic law. The Quran served as the basis for the legal system. However, the specific interpretation of Sharia may have varied depending on the learned Imams in the region.

Q: Have there been any genetic studies on the people along the East African coast?

Yes, genetic studies have been conducted on the people along the East African coast. Some studies have found genetic markers that indicate Chinese ancestry among the population on islands like Pate opposite Lamu.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The Swahili cities along the East African coast were part of the Swahili Confederation, a cosmopolitan civilization that extended from Somalia to Mozambique.

  • The Swahili cities had a diverse population, including Berbers, Sudanese, Zanj (Africans), and Arab, Persian, and Indian traders.

  • European colonization, particularly the Portuguese invasion in the 16th century, led to the destruction and decline of these cities.

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