SOAS University of London

Centre of African Studies

Migration of Iranians (Shirazis) to East African Coasts and its Cultural Impacts

IMG - Kilwa
Amirbahram Arabahmadi (University of Tehran)

Date: 5 October 2020Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 5 October 2020Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Seminar

About this Event

This talk focuses on historical relations of Iranians and east African coasts and specifically the immigration of a group of Iranians from Shiraz to the coasts and islands of East Africa about one thousand years ago - with the aim of building business in this region - resulting in the permanent settlement of Iranian groups across a vast region of the east and south east coasts of Africa. In my talk I will discuss the deep and long standing social and cultural impacts the newcomers have had on indigenous peoples of East and Southern East African coasts, where some elements of Iranian culture and civilization are still visible in parts of today’s Tanzania, Kenya, and Comoros. These include the celebration of Nowruz, use of the Hijri Shamsi (Islamic solar) calendar, prevalence of Iranian architecture, the influence of Persian on the native language of East Africa, presence of some Farsi words in Kiswahili language and the formation of the so-called Shirazi tribes amongst other Iranian cultural traces.

About the speaker

Amirbahram Arabahmadi is a historian and Head of the Central and Southern African Studies Department at University of Tehran. He has served as cultural attaché of Iran in Tanzania and Zimbabwe for more than six years and has written some books and scholarly papers on Africa. His areas of specialization include: African Culture and Social Development, African History, African Diasporas, Asia-Africa civilization and cultural interactions, East African Religions. He is now a fellow research at International Institute for Asian Studies in Leiden University.

He is the author of Zimbabwe the land of eternal mysteries (Institute of research and knowledge development, 2003), Tanzania an evergreen land (Al Huda International Publication, 2005), Islam in East Africa (Institute of Culture and Islamic Thought, 2007), Years of Zimbabwe Memories & Ethnology (Negarestan Andishe Press, 2015), The Role of Shirazi-Based Iranians in Cultural Development of East African Coast (Negarkhane Publications, 2016), The Tangible Iranian Cultural Heritage in East Africa (Research Institute of Culture Art & Communication, 2017), Tracing Baluchi Identity in Zanzibar in Africa and Its Diasporas: in Rethinking Struggles for Recognition and Empowerment (London: Africa World Press, 2018).

Moderator: Roya Arab

Roya Arab is a musician, archaeologist and curator of cultural events celebrating MENA heritage, with a focus on Iran

Chair: Angelica Baschiera

Angelica Baschiera is the Manager of the SOAS Regional Centres & Institutes (Africa, Asia and Middle East)


This event is open to the public, however registration is required. Online Registration

Organiser: SOAS Centre of African Studies with the SOAS Middle East Institute and Roya Arab