People speaking Bantu languages seem originally to have lived in today’s Nigeria and Cameron and it was from here that they started migrating sometime in the first millennium BCE. [Read more: The Bantu migration] There seem to have been two waves of migrants. In the first wave, people moved both across the continent to East Africa and down along the West African coast. Some time around 300 CE they may have reached today’s South Africa. The second wave, starting perhaps a thousand years later, spread the Bantu speakers from what today is Congo and into central and eastern Africa. These migrations seem to have been spontaneous movements but exactly why they took place is less clear and debated among scholars. Some suggest it was due to overpopulation while others cite disease or changes in the climate. Many Bantu speaking peoples took up cattle herding in their new locations and everywhere they went they pushed away the original inhabitants, such as the San bushmen of southwestern Africa, who were forced to leave their original lands and eke out a living in more inhospitable places.
The Berbers are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa. They live in an around the Sahara desert and in the Atlas mountains, in Morocco and Algeria, all the way up to the Mediterranean coast. The Tuaregs, the “blue men of the desert” – named after the color of their headgear, which sometimes rubs off on their skin – are Berbers too. The Berbers are semi-nomadic, combining the tending of goats and sheep, with some farming and trade, and for hundreds of years the Tuaregs were in charge of the caravans that traded with Timbuktu in the kingdom of Mali and beyond. When the Arabs arrived in the seventh-century, the Berbers were not defeated as much as incorporated into the elite. Two of the kingdoms that ruled Spain were run by Berbers, and the last of the four original caliphates, the Fatimid caliphate, 909–1171 CE, was at least initially heavily dominated by Berbers. Today there are between 25 and 30 million people who speak the Berber language, most are Muslims, but some are Christian and a small minority are Jews. For the past couple of decades, there has been a strong revival of Berber culture. Berber arts and crafts are taught to younger generations, the language is preserved, and festivals, such as the tbourida, the equestrian horse show, attract large audiences. Berber music, with musicians such as Bombino and Tinariwen, has received world-wide attention. Famous people of Berber descent include Saint Augustine, the traveler Ibn Battuta, the French footballer Zinedine Zidane and the Swedish singer Loreen.
There are also demands for political rights. Some Berber people want independence for “Amazigh,” the name of their homeland, which they regard as occupied, and mismanaged, by Arabs in the north and Black Africans in the south. The political instability of countries such as Algeria and Libya has provided opportunities to realize these aims. The overthrow of the Gaddafi regime in Libya in the fall of 2011, allowed some Tuareg to escape with their weapons to Mali where they began a guerrilla war against the government of Amadou Toumani Touré. In April 2012, after Touré was overthrown in a military coup, the guerrilla movement, the MNLA, declared independence for “Azawad,” on a territory which comprised some 60 percent of northern Mali. The city of Gao was named temporary capital, with Timbuktu to become the permanent capital. Disappointingly, Azawad received no official recognition from other states.
The kingdom of Makuria was a kingdom located in today’s northern Sudan and southern Egypt. Located along the Nile it covered the area from the third to the fifth or sixth cataract. It also had control over trade routes, mines and oases to the east and west. Its capital was Dongola, and the kingdom is sometimes known by that name. They converted to Christianity in the sixth-century, but were cut off from the rest of Christianity when the Arabs conquered Egypt in the seventh-century. In 651 an Arab army attacked but they were fought off and a treaty was signed which created stability between the two sides until the thirteenth-century. During this time the country was stable and prosperous in its golden age. Increased aggression from Egypt, and internal discord, led to the state’s collapse in the fourteenth-century.
The Nubians were a literate society and a fair number of writings survive from the period. They were written in old Nubian language in an uncial variety of the Greek alphabet, extended with some Coptic symbols and some symbols unique to Nubian. The Aswan Dam, constructed in 1964, was going to flood Makurian territory, and UNESCO tried to get as much excavated as possible. Thousands of experts were brought in from around the world, including Polish, British and Ghanaian teams.
They were growing barley, millet and dates. Well irrigated lands by the Nile river. Oxen-driven waterwheel, land was divided into individual plots. Houses of sun-dried bricks. Pottery, weaving, leatherwork, metalwork, baskets, mats and sandals from palm fibre. There was no currency and trade was in barter. Imported luxury goods from Egypt and exported slaves which they captured west and south of Makuria itself. Was officially Coptic by 710 CE. They first wrote in Greek.
They defeated the Rashidun caliphate at the First battle of Dongola, 642, and Second Battle of Dongola, 652. The Arabs were particularly impressed with their archers. This standoff led to the unique agreement known as the bakt or baqt. This treaty guaranteed peaceful relations between the two sides. The Nubians agreed to give Arab traders more privileges of trade in addition to a share in their slave trading, while the Egyptians may have been obliged to send manufactured goods south. There is no extant copy of the treaty they signed, and the earliest copies are several centuries after the fact and are quite varied. The treaty might not have been written at all and simply an oral agreement. Still, the main features of the treaty seem clear: Arabs and Nubians should not attack each other; the subjects of the two countries should be allowed to travel and trade freely and have safe passage; immigration to each other’s country and settlement was forbidden; fugitives were to be extradited; Nubians should maintain a mosque for visiting Arabs; the Egyptians had no obligation to protect the Nubian from third parties. 360 slaves per year should be sent to Egypt, of the best quality, men and women and not too old. This was an unprecedented treaty in the history of Arab conquests since it imposed costs on Arabs as well – including sending wheat and lentils south. It blocked the expansion of Islam and was therefore criticized by Islamic scholars. King Zacharias III of Makuria sent his son Georgios to Bagdhad in 835 to renegotiate the treaty directly with the caliph. This expedition was a great success and the arrears were canceled and the baqt was altered so that it only had to be paid once in three years.
Zacharias III, 822-854, was ruler of the Nubian kingdom of Makuria. In 833 he ceased paying the baqt to the rulers of Egypt, and prepared to fight the Abbasid Caliph al-Mutasim, 833-842, over the tribute. He sent his son Georgios to renegotiate the terms, and al-Mutasim reduced the payment to once every three years. When the Beja refused to pay their tribute to the Abbasids in 854, the forces of Makuria joined with them in attacking Egypt. They slew the Egyptian working the emerald mines of the eastern desert, invaded upper Egypt and pillaged Edfu, Asna and many other villages.
The country was prosperous and peaceful in the eighth-century and ninth-century. They invaded Egypt in the twelfth-century, but lost and were invaded in turn. The Egyptians did not seem to bother. The country is Islamicized in the thirteenth-century, and becomes more unstable. Arab traders invade. Bedouins from the desert invade. The Mamluks invade. The deal was that Makuria should secure Egypt’s southern border but they are now no longer able to do this. In 1317, the Dongola cathedral was turned into a mosque. Civil war and anarchy ensue. In the sixteenth-century it was included into Egypt itself.