The Tales of The ancient Kingdom of Kanem

Friday, 7 October 2011


Kanem was situated northeast of Lake Chad. The early origins of the kingdom are believed to date as far as the seventh-century AD with the settlement of the Zaghawa people. The Sefawa dynasty replaced the Zaghawa in the early eleventh-century.
        Njimi was thought to be the capital of Kanem, with a centralized form of governance. However, no one seems to know exactly where Njimi was located.
Abu ‘l-Fida, a thirteenth-century politician and scholar from Syria quoted Ibn Said’s
account of Njimi.
”Njimi is the capital of Kanem. There resides the sultan of Kanem, well known for his religious warfare. He is a descendant of Sayfd. Dhi Yazan on a level with Njimi, he possesses a town with gardens and a pleasure ground. It is on the west bank of the Nile which comes to Egypt and is 40 miles from Njimi. There are fruits there which do not resemble ouf fruits as well as pomegranates, peaches and sugar cane”
       The replacement of the Zaghawa people by the Sefawa dynasty saw a shift in economic activity. There was a shift from an entirely nomadic to pastoral-life with immense agricultural activity.
Kanem and Islam.
The first Islamic contact in Kanem was under the leadership of Hu or Hawwa (1067-71) who is speculated to have been a woman. The faith was however not strong until the activities of Arab traders from the north took root in the thirteenth-century.
Social Construction.
The people of Kanem exchanged presents as a way of strengthening their social ties. This formal exchange of presents also involved the king, who exchanged presents with sultans from the north.
     Memorable was a gift of a giraffe presented by the king of Kanem to Hafsid Sultan al-Mustansir of Tunis in the thirteenth-century.
Trade and power.
Kanem was a wealthy state, the ability of its rulers to control trade in the region was key to its growth.
The main export products of Kanem were ostrich features, slaves and ivory. Keynote in their trade was their riding of horses, which they imported, from the north.
The fact that Kanem controlled trade activities in the region gave her power. Through this, Kanem had to impose her hegemony over the surrounding neighbors and the whole region.
The long rule of Mai-Dunama Dibalami (1210-1248) saw Kanem reach the height of power in the region. Mai-Dunama had a cavalry numbering over 40,000.
 
Decline.
    Several explanations can be attached to the eventual downfall of Kanem. That said, we would tackle just a few that played the most crucial part.
Having shifted from nomadism to pastrolism, the farming methods of Kanem were lacking, over grazing exhausted all pastures. Dynastic

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