Swahili Mosques Between Sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean

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Swahili Mosques

Between Sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean

Stéphane Pradines


Running along the East African coast, Swahili mosques count among the best examples of Islamic architecture in Sub-Saharan Africa. The study of the Swahili architecture allows us to analyze the diffusion of ideas, people, and material cultures in the Indian Ocean, as well as to understand the role of Islam in the building of maritime regional identities, international trading networks, and urbanization of the Swahili coast. The history of these monuments is supported by the archaeological work that has been carried out in East Africa over the course of the past twenty years. Among the most important sites, which are explored in this presentation, are Gedi in Kenya; Kilwa, Songo Mnara, Sanje ya Kati, and Kua in Tanzania; and Dembeni in Mayotte (Comoros).


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Pradines, Stéphane. Historic Mosques in Sub-Saharan Africa, from Timbuktu to Zanzibar. Leiden: Brill, 2021.

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Pradines, Stéphane and Pierre Blanchard. “Kilwa al-Mulûk. Premier bilan des travaux de conservation-restauration et des fouilles archéologiques dans la baie de Kilwa, Tanzanie.” Annales islamologiques 39 (2005): 25–80.

Pradines, Stéphane and Pierre Blanchard. “Rapport de mission [Inventory of Islamic sites in Mayotte], Mayotte, Association des naturalistes  de Mayotte – Drac, 19-26 September 2009.” Unpublished report.

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Stéphane Pradines, “Swahili Mosques Between Sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean,” Khamseen: Islamic Art History Online, published 27 May 2021.

Stéphane Pradines is an archaeologist and Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at the Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC) in London. He served as Director of the excavations of the Fatimid and Ayyubid Walls of Cairo, as well as a number of other excavations in the Indian Ocean (Maldives) and East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Comoros). He is a specialist of medieval trade in the Indian Ocean and the material culture of war in Muslim Africa, especially arms and military architecture. His most recent book is entitled Historic Mosques in Sub-Saharan Africa, from Timbuktu to Zanzibar (Brill, 2021).