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Afro-Arab (sometimes referred to as African Arab) can refer to people of mixed Black African and genealogical Arab ancestral heritage and/or linguistically and culturally Arabized Black Africans. There are communities of Afro-Arabs in East Africa, West Africa, North Africa and the Near East as well as, through recent migrations, Western Europe.

The phrase "Afro-Arab" may also refer to the African Union's efforts to improve co-operation between African countries and those of the Arab world.


The Arabs of the Middle East have very old connections to the African continent, and in addition more than half the Arab world now exists in Africa (in terms of area, and possibly population too) i.e. from Egypt and Sudan in the east to Mauritania in the west. The Islamic world covers even more area, including northern Nigeriamarker in the west and the Sahelian nations as well.

This intermingling of Arabs and Black African peoples from the African continent, along with the spread of Islam, has resulted in large populations of African Arab peoples covering a vast area of Africa. Afro-Arabs within the Middle East itself are for the most part descendants of Black African slaves who were brought there during the Arab slave trade.Saudi Arabiamarker, Omanmarker, UAEmarker, Kuwaitmarker, Bahrainmarker and Qatarmarker as well East Africa hosts a significant Afro-Arab population along the Swahili Coast, such as in Zanzibarmarker, Mombasamarker, Lamumarker, Malindimarker, the Comorosmarker, Bagamoyomarker, and Ujijimarker.


In the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, descendants of East Africans from Tanzania and Zanzibarmarker perform Liwa and Fann At-Tanbura music and dance . Mizmar is performed in the Hejaz region of Saudi Arabiamarker

In Classical Literature

One of the most famous Afro Arabs of ancient times was the pre islamic hero like figure Antar Ibn Shadded. Antar was born in Laiwa, He was the son of Shaddād, a well respected member of the Arabian tribe of Banu Abs, The tribe neglected Antar at first, and he grew up in servitude. Although it was fairly obvious that Shaddad was his father, his dark skin made it easier to classify him among the African slaves. Antara claimed attention and respect for himself by his remarkable personal qualities and courage in battle, excelling as an accomplished poet and a mighty warrior.

The Zanj Revolt

The Zanj Rebellions took place near the city of Basramarker, located in southern Iraq over a period of fifteen years (869-883 AD). They grew to involve over 500,000 slaves who were imported from across the Muslim empire and claimed over “tens of thousands of lives in lower Iraq” . The major revolt is said to have been led by Ali ibn Muhammad, who claimed to be a descendent of Caliph Ali ibn Abu Talib. Not all participants in the Zanj revolt where of Black African descent; many were slaves of Indianmarker, Iranian and Slavic ancestry. The majority that were forced to work in the Iraqi salt marshes were however of Zanj (East African Bantu) ancestry. It is believed that many of today's Basra area "Afro Arabs" are descending from one of these Zanj groups though many may have settled that area under different circumstances via the Arab-African sea trade routes.

See also


  1. Gustavo Benavides, M. W. Daly, Religion and Political Power, SUNY Press, 1989, 84.
  2. Sarah Grainger, Uganda celebrates Afro-Arab unity, BBC News, March 13, 2008.
  3. Theola Labb, A Legacy Hidden in Plain Sight, Iraqis of African Descent Are a Largely Overlooked Link to Slavery, January 11, 2004; Page A01.
  4. Susan Beckerleg, Hidden History, Secret Present: the Origins and Status of African Palestinians, translated by Salah Al Zaroo.
  5. R. E. S. Tanner, Cousin Marriage in the Afro-Arab Community of Mombasa, Kenya, Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Apr., 1964), pp. 127-138
  6. Patricia Romero Curtin, Laboratory for the Oral History of Slavery: The Island of Lamu on the Kenya Coast, The American Historical Review, Vol. 88, No. 4 (Oct., 1983), pp. 858-882
  7. Africans in the Arabian Gulf, Afropop Worldwide.
  8. Poul Rovsing Olsen, "La Musique Africaine dans le Golfe Persique", Journal of the International Folk Music Council, Vol. 19, (1967), pp. 28-36

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