Sudanic Kingdoms & Swahili City-States

Lesson Question:

What story are we told about Africa?

This atlas is attributed to the Majorcan Jewish cartographer Abraham Cresques (1325–87), who was in the service of the king of Aragon.


What five words come to mind when you think of the word “Africa”?


Which perceptions from the French editorial cartoonist reflect your own?

Where do these perceptions come from?

Activity #1:

What message does Chimamanda Adichie communicate to her audience?

What is your initial reaction to this message?

What questions does this raise about your own life and the stories you tell?


Describe image of a specific location in Africa. Does this image challenge or support your perceptions of the continent? Explain your response.


Grocery store in Benin


People extracting water from well in Sudan


Busy street in Accra, Ghana


Dogon Dancers in Mali


Disco in Mombasa, Kenya


Traditional ruler of the Edo people in Nigeria


Parliament in South Africa


People studying in Algerian university


School in Moshi, Tanzania

Activity #3: Map questions

  • Why do you think West and East Africa saw a series of kingdoms develop within the same general areas?

  • How was southern Africa connected to the trans-Saharan trade system?

The Sudanic Kingdoms & Swahili City-States

Activity #3: Video questions

As you watch the documentary, answer the questions on your handout.

Survivors (1:15 to 11:20)

The Sudanic Kingdoms & Swahili City-States


Read pages 218-229 in your textbook to complete the graphic organizer. Then add notes from the class videos and documents.

The Sudanic Kingdoms & Swahili City-States



Mansa Musa and the Mali Empire

Mansa Musa and the Mali Empire

Mansa Musa and the Mali Empire

Mansa Musa and the Mali Empire

Swahili City-States

Swahili City-States

Swahili City-States

Traditional Beliefs & Customs

Ibn Battuta:

Best Roadtrip Ever!

What can we learn about the Islamic Medieval World from the travels of Ibn Battuta?


Analyze the following documents from the Travels of Ibn Battuta.

Ibn Battuta’s Travels

Source: Movie trailer for A Journey to Mecca. Ibn Battuta (b. February 25, 1304, d.1368 or 1369) was a Moroccan scholar and judge who widely travelled the medieval world.Over a period of thirty years, Ibn Battuta visited most of the Islamic world and many non-Muslim lands, including North Africa, the Horn of Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and China. Near the end of his life, he dictated an account of his journeys.

  • Based on the video, who was Ibn Battuta?

  • Why is he important to the study of history?

Ibn Battuta’s Travels

Document B: Maps of Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo’s travels Note A Native of Tangiers, Ibn Battuta traveled for 27 years.

Document B: Questions

  • Compare the travels of Ibn Battuta to Marco Polo who traveled about a century before him. What general areas did they both travel to and which general areas are different?

  • What region of the world did Ibn Battuta spend most of his time? Why do you think this is the case?

Document C: Ibn Battuta’s diary

The cleanliness of the people of Mecca

The Meccans are very elegant and clean in their dress, and most of them wear white garments, which you always see fresh and snowy. They use a great deal of perfume and kohl and make free use of toothpicks of green arak-wood. The Meccan women are extraordinarily beautiful and very pious and modest. They too make great use of perfumes to such a degree that they will spend the night hungry in order to buy perfumes with the price of their food. They visit the mosque every Thursday night, wearing their finest apparel; and the whole sanctuary is saturated with the smell of their perfume. When one of these women goes away the odour of the perfume clings to the place after she has gone.

Document C: Questions

  • What impresses Ibn Battuta about Meccans? Why do you think he is impressed by their practices?

  • What do Meccans wears to the mosque? Why do you think that is?

Document D: Ibn Battuta’s diary

Life at Walata

. . . these people are Muslims, punctilious in observing the hours of prayer, studying books of law, and memorizing the Koran. Yet their women show no bashfulness before men and do not veil themselves, though they are assiduous in attending the prayers. Any man who wishes to marry one of them may do so, but they do not travel with their husbands, and even if one desired to do so her family would not allow her to go.

The women there have "friends" and "companions" amongst the men outside their own families, and the men in the same way have "companions" amongst the women of other families. A man may go into his house and find his wife entertaining her "companion" but he takes no objection to it. One day at Iwalatan I went into the qadi's house, after asking his permission to enter, and found with him a young woman of remarkable beauty. When I saw her I was shocked and turned to go out, but she laughed at me, instead of being overcome by shame, and the qadi [judge] said to me "Why are you going out? She is my companion." I was amazed at their conduct, for he was a theologian and a pilgrim [to Mecca] to boot.

Document D: Questions

  • What things bother Ibn Battuta about the people?

  • Why do you think these things bother Ibn Battuta?


Why do we need to be critical in our reading of Ibn Battuta’s accounts?


  • What stereotypes or perceptions were challenged from today’s lesson? Which were reinforced?
  • What images were surprising? Why?
  • Did the images change your perceptions of Africa? How?
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