Middle Eastern Slave Markets

Figure 1.--Here we have a detail depicting a slave market in Cairo. A buyer is examining a boy for possible purchase. Click on the image to seen the entire market. We don't think this was the major markert in Cairo, but do not have Ebers text describing it. The drawing came from a book published by Georg Ebers. He was a noted German academic and Egyptologist. He traveled to Egypt twice in the 1860s-70s before the British established a protectorate and moved to supress the slave trade in Egypt.

Arab slave traders sold large numbers of Africans in markets located in North Africa, the Arab Middle East, and Persia. There were also sales to markets in the Ottoman Empire and even India before the British Raj. Africans were not the only people sold as slaves. European Christians captured in the Mediterranean or on raids in Europe were also sold. Also slaves taken by the Ottomans in the Balkans and what is now the Ukraine and southern Russia appeared in these markets. The composition varied over time. There were also war captives. There were many important slave markets. Here we are just beginning to collect informtion. Zanzibar, Muscat, and Cairo were three of the most important. There were several other important markets (Ceuta) and many smaller ones. Muslim buyers (usually men) would inspect the human merchandise. Their inspection depended on how the slkaves were to beused which was entirely up to the buyer. African women and young girls were probed in a demeaning fashion by male buyers to determine the sexual worth of their potential purchases. Muslim women also had slaves. I believe the actual purchases, however, were usualy done by her husbands or other male representative. But here we still have very limited information. A slave who did not sell were killed to avoid expenses on unwanted merchandise. African slaves by the 19th century were being sold in large numbers in African markets (especially Zanzibar and Mombassa) as agricultural labor. This shift was the result of the development of plantations along the coast of what is now modern southern Somalia and Kenya and on Zanzibar and slave labor was needed for these plantations.


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Created: 7:54 PM 8/23/2011
Last updated: 7:54 PM 8/23/2011