Starting from the beginning of the nineteenth century, the level of influence on trade routes strongly controlled by Arab and Asiatic merchants in the Western Indian Ocean was high. And the reasons perhaps could be found in the endogenous characterisations of what was sadly destined to become what we tend to identify as a ‘backward’ reality. As we all know, Islam in East Africa – as elsewhere – was not monolithic, encompassing as it did so many regional variations and changes over times. Nevertheless, it provided a framework; and within this framework, Muslim merchants, often culturally shocked by the animism of East Africa, were more likely to emphasise their Muslim identity; moreover, their minority status and their geographical isolation led to the creation of Muslim enclaves which served as bases for extensive islamization and created an ideological support for resistance to economic and political competition as, for example, in Zanzibar(3). Near the coast of equatorial Africa, separated from the continent by a canal some 50 kilometres long, is the island of Zanzibar. It is the largest of the coral islands of the eastern coast of Africa and forms part of a coral reef that extends from the near island of Pemba (al-Khudra), which means the Green, or Emerald island, to the north, as far as the island of Mafia to the south. It constitutes a type of extraneous coastline to the continent. The city of Zanzibar is situated to the west of the island and its port, one of the best of East Africa, allows deep anchorage for the docking of the ships. Zanzibar has always been strategically and commercially important due to two fundamental points: its proximity to the continent and the monsoon winds. The regular recurrence of the latter allowed continuous contacts with India, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf; while the closeness of Zanzibar to the coast placed it in an ideal position for commerce between the interior of the African continent and the Indian Ocean.
|Number of pages||6|
|Publication status||Published - 2002|