n Ekklesiastikos Pharos - Pre-Islamic Arabic trade and religion on the east coast of Africa




Sabaean (pre-Islamic Arabic) colonies were established in Ethiopia very early (at the beginning of the seventh century BC) as is proved by the characteristics of the Ethiopian language, religion and writing as well as by the oral traditions of the Lemba in Southern Africa. The Sabaean King, Kharabit, was, 'to an indefinite extent', in possession of the eastern coast of Africa. The Sabaeans' widespread commerce brought them and their colonies into contact with both Christianity and Judaism but also with some 'pagan' Sabaean concepts. The Falasha constitute a people who furnish us with not only a key to the evolution of the religious beliefs of a people under Sabaean influence but also a parallel to what we believe happened elsewhere down the coast of East Africa, wherever Ethiopians of Amhara extraction or Sabaeans settled. For at least three thousand years the Indian Ocean trading networks involved people and commodities from a variety of cultures who, in the course of trade, also exchanged religious ideas and practices. Trade and religion exerted a reciprocal influence on one another.


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