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Swahili Coast Sahara Sahel Ethiopia Rainforest Great Lakes Great Lakes Savanna Swahili Southern Africa

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Perched on the edge of the Indian Ocean against a sun-drenched backdrop of fertile lands, the Swahili Coast is among Africa's most distinct regions. Its culture is an unusual mix of African, Arab and Indian influences. It boasts one of Africa's oldest and richest trading histories, encompassing countries ranging from Arabian principalities to imperial China. In ancient times, Greeks, Arabs, Romans came to the shores of East Africa looking for slaves; later, the Portuguese followed, in search of spices, ivory, crops and fish from inland Africa. The region's culture is a by-product of the traditional trading cycle, which brought Omani ships south from the Arabian peninsula on monsoon winds between November and March, and sent them home again on northerly winds in July and September. Between monsoon periods, Omani traders lived among the coast's Bantu-speaking tribes. Swahili, the area's dominant language, reflects this mix, combining African languages with some Omani and Indian words. Today, most people who call themselves Swahili are also Moslem and trace their roots back to Arab traders.


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