The Swahili Coast

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Retelling the Story


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Who Are the Swahili People? by John Middleton
The half-million people known as Swahili live along the coastline of East Africa from Somalia to Mozambique. Their language is taught in the United States as a basic "African" language, but few if any Swahili ever crossed the Atlantic as slaves: they themselves exported slaves across the Indian Ocean to Arabia and the East. (Continue...)

Sheik Badawi on Swahili Identity
Along the Swahili Coast, Gates meets with Sheik Said Hassan Badawi, a respected Lamu elder and Muslim scholar who claims pure Arab lineage. The sheik believes that the Swahili people are descendants of Arab men who took African concubines. Ali Salim, the sheik's grandson, translates. (Watch video...)

Mombasa Man on Swahili Identity
At Mombasa, Gates encounters a tour guide who offers a complex definition of the Swahili people. (Watch video...)

Ummi Hammid, Descendant of Slave Trader
On the island of Zanzibar, journalist Ummi Mahsouda Alley Hammid, a direct descendant of notorious black slave trader Tippu Tip, rationalizes that the Arab system of slavery was purely business and that it was different from American slavery.(Watch video...)

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Who Are the Swahili People?
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Sheik Badawi on Swahili Identity
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Mombasa Man on Swahili Identity
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Ummi Hammid, Descendant of Slave Trader