Geographic Features of Africa
A Satellite View
African Geography
• Second largest continent of Earth
• Africa’s climate and landforms influenced the
ways in which its people live
• Northern Africa: Sahara desert, Atlas Mountains
• North East Africa: Nile River, Red Sea
• East Africa: lakes, plateaus (flat land) and Great
Rift Valley (mountains)
• Middle Africa: Congo River Basin, tropical rain
forests, many species of animals
Vegetation Zones
Great Rift Valley
3,000 miles long
• Four Climate Zones
– Mild-stretches across northern coast and southern tip.
Moderate rainfall, warm temps, fertile land
– Desert-covers 40% of Africa, Sahara desert in the
north, Kalahari in the south
– Rain forest-stretches across of Africa along the
equator, makes up 10% of land, heavy rains, warm
temps, dense forests, hard to travel through
– Savannas-broad grasslands, small shrubs, covers 40%
of Africa, located north and south of rainforest. gets
enough rainfall for farming/herding but rain is
Kush & Axum
• Kush & Axum arose as strong early civilizations
• Kush: 2000 B.C., because of all the trade going
on in Egypt, Arabs established and turned into
a state
• Economy based on farming, because of its
location along the Nile River
• Major trading empire: provided iron products,
ivory, gold, ebony, and slaves
• 250 B .C.- Located along Africa’s east coast
(along the Red Sea)
• Was located along a trade route to India &
• Religion was Christianity, Islamic rulers moved
into the area and a new religion moved in
Rise of Islam
• Islam also impacted Africa. By the early eighth
century, the coastal region of North Africa was
under Arab rule.
• Several Muslim trading states had been
established on the African coast of the Red Sea
• Why is farming a necessary first step toward
founding a civilization?
• (Farming allows for larger population to settle in
an area; settled populations can develop the
characteristics of a civilization.)
What is “Dar al-Islam”?
• The collective regions of Islam
– “ Islam-dom”
The Royal Kingdoms of West
Africa (Ghana, Mali, Songhai
• Ghana, in the upper Niger River valley, emerged in the
fifth century as one of the first great trading states of
West Africa.
• The Kings of Ghana were wealthy and relied on a welltrained army to enforce their wishes
• Ghana had an abundance of gold, making it the center
of an enormous trade empire
• In exchange for gold, Muslim merchants from North
Africa brought textiles, metal goods, horses, and salt.
Salt, used for preserving food, was also very important
for replacing salt lost from the body due to the hot
Ghana became a rich and powerful nation, especially when
the camel began to be used as a source of transport.
Ghana relied on trade and trade was made faster and
bigger with the use of the camel. ../salt/photo6.html
Berbers & Decline of Ghana
• Berbers, a nomadic people, used camel
caravans to carry out much of the trade across
the desert. Camels were well adapted to
desert conditions.
• The kingdom of Ghana, weakened by wars,
collapsed around 1200.
• One of the greatest of the trading states that
arose in its place was Mali, established by
Sundiata Keita in the mid-thirteenth century.
• Sundiata captured the Ghanaian capital in 1240.
He united the people of Mali and created a strong
• The wealth and power of Mali was based on the
gold and salt trade; however, most people in Mali
were grain farmers.
• Mansa Musa, who ruled Mali from 1307 to 1337,
was a rich and powerful king. He doubled the size
of the kingdom and created a strong central
• MANSA MUSA: Greatest King of
Mali - Hajj to Mecca; Introduced
Islamic culture to Mali
Mansa Musa’s haj
Mali on the Map”
Mansa Musa
Mali Culture
• Rulers became Muslim
• prosperous kingdom
• Timbuktu became center
of learning (university)
&Islamic cultural center contained Muslim
art, mosques
• Evidence of trip to
the Americas?
• His pilgrimage to Makkah was accompanied
by thousand of servants, soldiers, and camels.
• Later he encouraged the building of mosques
and the study of the Quran in his kingdom.
Mali falls, Kingdom of Songhai rises
• Songhai began to surpass Mali in the fifteenth
century. Sunni Ali expanded the empire by
leading his army on successive military
• This led to control of the gold and salt trade.
• Under Muhammad Ture, the Songhai Empire
reached the height of its power. Its chief cities
prospered from the salt and gold trade until
the end of the 1500s
The great Songhai leader, Sunni Ali saw that the kingdom of Mali was
weakening and he led his soldiers to conquer the area. He began the
kingdom of Songhai. He also set up a complex government to rule all the
lands he had conquered.
Weakening of Songhai
• Moroccan kingdom to the north
launched continuous attacks
• Moroccans wanted to control the
gold source
• destroyed the Empire
• economic decline
• internal fragmentation
• All 3 kingdoms
controlled some
aspects of the famous
Salt for Gold trade of Western
Africa around the northern peak of
the Niger River
• Economy: Gold/Salt trade &
agricultural production
• Caravans traded southern
GOLD for Sahara’s SALT
with Muslims traders
Discussion Question
• Sometimes salt was used as money. What
English word preserves this connection
between salt and money?
• (The word is salary. The root of the word, sal,
is Latin for salt. As in Africa, salt was valuable
in the Roman Empire. At one time salt was
part of a Roman soldier’s pay.)
Societies in East and South Africa
• Islam influenced many of the small states and
societies in eastern Africa.
• Beginning in the first millennium B.C., farming
people who spoke dialects of the Bantu
language moved into East Africa and the
Congo River basin.
• They came not as conquerors, but as small
• The Bantu people began to take part in the
regional trade up and down the East African
coast. The result was the development of
trading posts including Mogadishu, Mombasa,
and Kilwa.
• States formed more slowly in southern Africa.
Zimbabwe was the wealthiest and most
powerful state from 1300 to 1450. It
prospered from the gold trade
• Great Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe’s capital, was
surrounded by massive walls built with granite
blocks held together without mortar.
• How did Islam spread throughout Africa?
(Trade was the primary way that Islam
Crash Course

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