Afro-Arabs are individuals and groups from Africa who are of partial Arab descent. Most Afro-Arabs inhabit the Swahili Coast in the African Great Lakes region, although some can also be found in parts of the Arab world.
|Regions with significant populations|
|Swahili Coast, parts of Arab world|
|Arabic, Comorian, Swahili|
|Related ethnic groups|
By around the 10th century CE, Arabs had established commercial settlements on the Swahili Coast. 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, the Oman Arabs mingled with the local "negro" populations, thereby establishing Afro-Arab communities. The Niger-Congo Swahili language and culture largely evolved through these intermarriages between Arab men and native Bantu women.
Afro-Arab communities were similarly founded in the Nile Valley, as Arabs intermarried with indigenous Nilotic women. Other Afro-Arabs in the Sudans had little biological connection to Arab peoples, but were instead essentially of Nilotic and Bantu origins, albeit influenced by the old Arabian civilization in language and culture. In the mid-to-late 1800s, Arab traders began to move into the interior, in pursuance of the ivory trade in central Africa. Unlike other cases of racial mixing, Arabs 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. 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. Racial assimilation of Afro-Arabs with non-Arab Africans also aided Muslim missionaries in the spread of Islam throughout Africa.
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. The mizmar is also performed by Afro-Arabs in the Tihamah and Hejaz regions of Saudi Arabia.
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