Afro-Arab are Arabs of African descent. This include arabised Berber, Chadian, Sudanese, Swahili, Mauritanian, and Egyptian populations. Afro-Arabs come in varied phenotypes in Africa. They can be white skinned Mediterannean types and black skinned West African types. Afro-Arab does not constitute a race on the African continent.

Egypt and the Maghrib

Libyan Arab

The first process of North African arabisation began with the conquest of the region by Arab jihadist. Having conquered many territories in Mesopotamia and the Levant, Arab jihadist set their sights on Egypt. At this time Egypt was a majority Coptic Christian and Coptic speaking territory of the Byzantium Empire. The region was taxed heavily and its territory and people exploited by Byzantium. In 640, under the leadership of  Amr ibn-al-A (Ethiopian companion of the prophet Muhammad), Arab armies defeated Byzantium troops in Egypt. Copts welcomed the Arab conquerors, who they viewed as better overlords than what they presently had. The population agreed to Arab overlordship, provided they were left to practice their faith and protection for their water rights, goods, and lands. 

After settling in Egypts, Arabs focused to the west, al-Maghrib. The Maghrib was then inhabited by very independent Berber tribes of the Donatist Christian faith. Cyrenaica was the first to be conquered. Uqba ibn Nafi lead the conquest of Tunisia setting base at Kairouan for further expansion. With the defeat of the Byzantium navy by Arabs, Carthage fell in 695. Tunis rose in its place. By 705, most of Ifriqiya(North Africa) fell under Arab islamic control. In 711, their thrust was towards the Iberian Peninsula.

Cairo replaced Alexandria as the capital of Egypt. Persecution of Christian was intermittent. Some scholars believe lack of persecution, did not solidify the Coptic Christian population opposition to Islam and set the population for arabisation. Overtime much Arab immigration to Egypt began taking place. Sometimes entire tribes immigrated from Syria and the Arabian Peninsula. Arabs were no longer just overlords. They eventually began mixing with Copts. Copts eventually got involved in the administration of the state. Overtime the majority of Egypt became Arab and Islamised.

Banu Hilal and Banu Salaym

Moroccan Arab, King Mohammed VI

Further arabisation took place in the early decades of 1000 A.D. with the immigration of Arab Bedouin tribes. The northern movement along the coast of the Maghreb was undertaken by the Banu Hilal Bedouin tribes from Egypt. The southern movement of was undertaken by the Banu Salaym, also originating from Egypt. The latter tribes, resulted in the replacing of the Berber language with Arabic with the exception of Tuareg and Sanhaja languages. Arab Bedouin immigration also began occurring in Sudan.

Genetic Relation

Although North Africans can display Mediterranean phenotypes, most lighter, and some defy racial categorization, they are related to all other Africans. The Arabisation of North Africa was more of a social change than a demic replacement. The Berber Marker is represented in 60% of North African males. This means the majority of North African males are related to most males south of the Sahara. They have a common male ancestor with all other African males. Whether the North African has blonde or red hair,the Berber Marker makes him the paternal brother of all Africans. His physical makeup is the product of environmental evolution.

"..there are male lineage ties between African peoples who have been traditionally labeled as being "racially" different, with "racially" implying an ontologically deep divide. The PN2 transition, a Y Chromosome marker, defines a lineage (within the YAP derived haplogroup E or III) that emerged  in Africa probably before the last glacial maximum, but after the migration of modern humans from Africa( see Semino et. al. 2004). This mutation forms a clade that has two daughter subclades(defined by the biallelic markers M35/215 (or 215/M35 and M2) that unites numerous phenoptypically variant African populations from supra/Saharan, Saharan, and sub-Saharan regions."(S.O.Y Keita Exploring northeast African metric craniofacial variation at the individual:a comparative study using principal component analysis, Am J. Hum. Biol 16:679-689,2004)


More Info: Nobatia , Makouria , Alwa
Sudanese, Arab girl

Arab penetration and islamisation of Nubia was slow and gradual. It was not traders or warriors that islamised Sudan, but rather teachers and imams. Before she became islamic, Sudan was dominated by powerful Christian Kingdoms--Nobatia/Makouria and Alwa. Northern Sudan has been a Christian region longer than she has been islamic. 

The Christian states of Nubia slowly worked towards its own demise. The nobility allied with the church gradually eroded the power of the king. Arab Bedouin raids added further to its death woes. By 1366, Makouria and Nobatia disintegrated into petty chiefdoms. Arab Bedouins easily settled in. The church and nobility was powerless. Christianity was no longer an obstacle to islamic expansion pass Aswan. Muslim Fuqura(Holymen) and turuq began arriving. They were not wariors or traders. They went out among the Arab Bedouins and Nubian farmers and taught the message of Islam. 

Juhayna nomads discovered that watered pastureland existed south of Aswan. They immigrated in great numbers, occupying lower Nubia, overtime marrying Nubian women, shifting the society from matrilineal to patrilineal. Alwa with its capital at Soba was the last to be transformed. Abdallah Jamma at the head of an Arab coalition sacked Soba leaving the rest of Alwa to the muslim Funj. Presently, three Arab groups dominate Sudan Ja'aliyiin, Shaiqiyya, and Danagla.

Chad (Niger and Nigeria)

The Arabs of Chad are believed to have arrived from Sudan, during the fourteenth century. They are believed to have been one of the Juhayna family of Arabs. The Hassuna and Awlad Sulayman Arabs also emmigrated. Arab tribes are referred to as Baggara or Shuwa. They were mainly camel herders and slave traders. By the eighteenth century, they became wealthy by accummulating herds of livestock--cattle, goats, sheeps, horses. They can be found in the following Chadian region:Salamat, Ouaddaï, Wadi Fira regions, Batha region center and west, much of Chari-Baguirmi, Mayo-Kebbi, north Tandjilé, Guéra. They can also be found in Nigeria and Niger.


Arabs began moving southward to the Sahara around 1000 A.D. The Benni Hassan Arab reached the western Sahara around the 1250s. Berbers were the inhabitants of the region. Overtime, tension developed between Berbers and Arabs. By 1650 conflict broke out, followed three decades of warfare. This period was called Char Bobha. Berber cleric Nasir al-Din declared Jihad in 1673. Berbers were later defeated by Hassan soldiers.
Swahili Arab, Tippu Tip

The defeat of the Berbers establish a caste system, that set the course of Mauritanian society. Hassan Arabs retained all military, political, and economic power. They assumed the top caste. Zawiya or Berber religious scholars occupied the second. The znaga, tribute paying Berber herders and oasis farmers, were the next layer down. Haratines occupied the very bottom, and they were black.


Swahili culture evolve out of indigenous Bantu coastal society interacting with Indian Ocean societies--Arab, Indian, and Persian. Arabs in order to gain favorable trading position began to marry into the elite families of Swahili societies and gaining favor from their own kinfolk. Swahili/Arab caravans in the latter part of the 1800s, traversed the interior of the east Africa, from Ujiji and Tabora to the Zanzibar coast, trading in ivory, gold, slaves. Swahili/Arabs were typically mixed with Nyamwezi, Swahili, and Arab. The most infamous of Swahili/Arab was Tippu Tip or Hamed Bin Muhammed. He was mixed Nyamwezi, Swahili, and Arab. With guns gotten from Zanzibar, he was able to build a trading empire from Luba territory to the westward bend of the upper Congo River. His empire was entrenched in the slave trade. He used slaves to work large maize and sugar-cane plantations. Excess slaves were traded for ivory.

Today many of the Swahili claim Arab or Persian identity.

Ethnocentrism, racism, and genocide

Works Cited

Oliver, Roland and Fage, J.D(1988). A Short History of Africa(sixth edition). Penguin Group:Great Britain, pp. 51-60. ISBN 0-14-022759-8.