Afro-Arabs are Arabs of Sub-Saharan African descent. These include paternal Arab and indigenous black populations within mainly the Sudanese, Egyptians, Moroccans, Algerians, Sahrawis, Mauritanians, Yemenis and Tunisians - with considerably long established communities in Gulf states such as Oman,[1] Saudi Arabia,[2] Kuwait[3] and the United Arab Emirates.[4] There are also smaller communities of Afro-Arabs present among Palestinians, Jordanians, Iraqis and Libyans.

عرب أفارقة
Regions with significant populations
Middle East and North Africa, Gulf States, Yemen, Somalia, East African Swahili Coast, West African Sahel
Arabic, Teda, Hausa, Comorian, Swahili, Nubian, Coptic
Islam, Christianity (minority)
Related ethnic groups
Afro-Iraqis, Al-Akhdam


Afro-Arab man of the Congo (ca. 1942).

Eastern Arabia and Africa have been in contact, starting with the obsidian exchange networks of the 7th millennium. BCE. These networks were strengthened by the rise of Egyptian dynasties of the 4th millennia. Scientists have indicated the likely existence of settlements in Arabia, from the people of the horn of Africa, as early as 3rd and 2nd millennium and forward.[5]

The Afro-Arabian Tihama culture which originated in Africa, began in the 2nd millennium. This cultural complex is found in Adulis Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan, as well as Yemen and the Saudi coastal plains. In the 12th century Southern Arabs gained control of the Red Sea trade routes and established the first kingdom, Saba, in Yemen at around 800B.C. As a result, modern-day Eritrea and Ethiopia were gradually incorporated into the area of Arab influence. In 600 BCE the formation of the Ethio-Sabean state of Daamat on the Tigrean plateau arose. “The archaeological evidence suggests that this is likely to have been the result of small-scale colonization by several Arabian groups (including Sabeans) and acculturation of the indigenous population.”[6]

After several centuries of isolation, the kingdom of Aksum arose in 100 AC. Aksum survived for 800 years and occupied southern Arabia for part of this period. Utilitarian Aksumite pottery has been found in large quantities in deposits from the 5th and 6th centuries in the Yemen Hadramawt, suggesting that there may have been substantial immigration during that period.

Southern Arabia was a client state of the Aksumite kingdom throughout the 6th century. Himyarite inscriptions document an invasion of Mecca by an ambitious Aksumite general named Abraha (Tigrinya: አብርሃ) in the year 570 CE.[7] An early incident in post Islamic Afro-Arab relations was known as the First Hegira was (Arabic: الهجرة إلى الحبشة‎, al-hijra ʾilā al-habaša), also (Arabic: هِجْرَة‎, hijrah), was an episode in the early history of Islam, where Prophet Muhammad's first followers (the Sahabah) fled from the persecution of the ruling Quraysh tribe of Mecca. They sought refuge in the Christian Kingdom of Aksum, present-day Ethiopia and Eritrea (formerly referred to as Abyssinia, an ancient name whose origin is debated),[8] In 9 BH (613 CE) or 7 BH (615 CE). The Aksumite monarch who received them is referred to as (Arabic: نجاشي‎, najāšī) Ashama ibn Abjar or the Negus. Modern historians have alternatively identified him with King Armah and Ella Tsaham.[9] Some of the exiles returned to Mecca and made the hijra to Medina with Muhammad, while others remained in Abyssinia until they came to Medina in 628. The mosque which they established is called the Mosque of the Companions (Arabic: مَسْجِد ٱلصَّحَابَة‎, romanized: Masjid aṣ-Ṣaḥābah) is a mosque in the city of Massawa, Eritrea. Dating to the early 7th century CE, it is believed to be the first mosque on the African continent.[10] Many companions settled after Islam became established in the Arabian peninsula and the descendants of these companions still reside in the region.

By around the 1st millennium AD Bantu fishermen established trading towns on what is now called Swahili Coast which between the tenth and twelfth century become Arabized.[11] The Portuguese conquered these trading centers after the discovery of the Cape Road. From the 1700s to the early 1800s, Muslim forces of the Sultanate of Muscat reseized these market towns, especially on the islands of Pemba and Zanzibar. In these territories, Arabs from Oman and Yemen mingled with the local "negro" populations, thereby establishing Afro-Arab communities.[12] The Niger-Congo Swahili language and culture largely evolved through these intermarriages between Arab men and native Bantu women.[13]

Afro-Arab communities were similarly founded in the Nile Valley, as Arabs intermarried with indigenous tribes of Sudan.[14] However, many other Afro-Arabs in the Sudans had little biological connection to Arab peoples, but were instead essentially of Nilotic origins, albeit influenced by the old Arabian civilization in language and culture.[15] In the mid-to-late 1800s, Arab traders began to move into the central African interior, in pursuance of the ivory trade.[16] Unlike other cases of racial mixing, Arabs, mainly from the Persian Gulf, generally did not view Afro-Arabs as half-caste; Afro-Arabs instead enjoyed similar statuses in their societies as long as the father was Arab.[14] Thus, after the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964, many of the Afro-Arabs that left Zanzibar and settled in Oman were able to attain high political and diplomatic positions and be accepted as Arabs.[17] Racial assimilation of Afro-Arabs with non-Arab Africans also aided Muslim missionaries in the spread of Islam throughout Africa.[14] However, this is not the case for the Afro-Arabs of North Africa, whereas racial discrimination still plays a major role on segregating Afro-Arabs from mainstream Arab population, as found in Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Morocco.[18][19][20][21]

In the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, descendants of people from the Swahili Coast perform traditional Liwa and Fann At-Tanbura music and dance.[22] The mizmar is also performed by Afro-Arabs in the Tihamah and Hejaz regions of Saudi Arabia.[citation needed] The ancestors of these Africans were originally brought to the Arabian Gulf as slaves. But today they are fully recognised citizens of the Persian Gulf States, despite the fact that they do not have any Arab ancestry.

In addition, Stambali of Tunisia and Gnawa music of Morocco are both ritual music and dances, which in part trace their origins to West African musical styles.

List of Afro-ArabsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Al-Harthy, Majid H. (2012). "African Identities, Afro-Omani Music, and the Official Constructions of a Musical Past". The World of Music. 1 (2): 97–129. JSTOR 24318122.
  2. ^ "Saudi Arabia's African roots traced to annual Hajj pilgrimage and British colonization". Arab News. 2018-03-01. Retrieved 2020-08-18.
  3. ^ Khalid, Sunni M. "Africa's mark on Arab world; The legacy of the slave trade to the Middle East has influenced life in southern Iraq and neighboring Kuwait". Retrieved 2020-08-18.
  4. ^ "The multiple roots of Emiratiness: the cosmopolitan history of Emirati society". openDemocracy. Retrieved 2020-08-18.
  5. ^ Richards, Martin; Rengo, Chiara; Cruciani, Fulvio; Gratrix, Fiona; Wilson, James F.; Scozzari, Rosaria; Macaulay, Vincent; Torroni, Antonio (April 2003). "Extensive Female-Mediated Gene Flow from Sub-Saharan Africa into Near Eastern Arab Populations". The American Journal of Human Genetics. 72 (4): 1058–1064. doi:10.1086/374384. PMC 1180338. PMID 12629598.
  6. ^ Fattovich R (1997) The Near East and eastern Africa: their interaction. In: Vogel JO (ed) Encyclopedia of precolonial Africa. AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, pp 479–484
  7. ^ Iwona Gajda: Le royaume de Ḥimyar à l’époque monothéiste. L’histoire de l’Arabie ancienne de la fin du ive siècle de l’ère chrétienne jusqu’à l’avènement de l’Islam. Paris 2009, pp. 142–146.
  8. ^ E. A. Wallis Budge (Aug 1, 2014). A History of Ethiopia: Volume I: Nubia and Abyssinia. Routledge. pp. vii.
  9. ^ M. Elfasi, Ivan Hrbek (1988). Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century. UNESCO. p. 560.
  10. ^ "Liste des premières mosquées au monde prophètique, rashidun et omeyyade selon les écris historique et les traces archéologiques". Histoire Islamique (in French). 2014-06-15. Retrieved 2017-09-24.
  11. ^ Spear, Thomas (2000). "Early Swahili History Reconsidered". The International Journal of African Historical Studies. 33 (2): 257–290. doi:10.2307/220649. JSTOR 220649.
  12. ^ Hinde 1897, p. 2.
  13. ^ Tarikh, Volumes 1-2. Longman. 1966. p. 68. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  14. ^ a b c Mazrui 2014, p. 77
  15. ^ Guarak 2011, pp. 7, 401.
  16. ^ Hinde 1897, p. 3.
  17. ^ Mazrui & Mutunga 2004, p. 324
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Olsen, Poul Rovsing (1967). "La Musique Africaine dans le Golfe Persique" [African Music in the Persian Gulf]. Journal of the International Folk Music Council (in French). 19: 28–36. doi:10.2307/942182. JSTOR 942182.


External linksEdit