African History 3: Fighting for Control of Northern Africa

Caliphates came and went in northern Africa, but only one was cali-fated to rule it. Let's see what happened.

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World HistoryAfrican History

Transcript

00:27

The Umayyad rule was generally great for wealthy merchants, lords, and urban citizens, but

00:33

significantly less great for desert nomads on the fringes of society. [Drinks coffee]

00:38

Turns out being on the fringe of society kinda sucked in every society.

00:42

Go figure.

00:43

Back in medieval times, Morocco, in the northwest corner of Africa, was the Wild West and the

00:49

fringiest part of the African Islamic world.

00:52

It was dry, depopulated, and undeveloped, but worth mountains of cash…

00:56

Or should we say great big sand dunes of cash? [Piles of money]

01:00

Nah, we’ll go with mountains.

01:01

As the gateway between Western Europe and Africa, the trade routes through Morocco were

01:06

worth more than the land taxes of most of North Africa put together.

01:11

However, lots of bandits, nomads, pirates, and local lords all fought each other for

01:16

their cut.

01:17

And by 740 CE, the Umayyads let their Wild West slip from their fingers.

01:23

Oopsies.

01:24

When Umayyad armies were like, "forget this…",

01:28

Morocco was taken over by a gang of nomad lords.

01:31

As the western frontier of the Islamic world in the 900s CE, Morocco was the place where

01:37

Islamic soldiers occasionally crossed the sea to bump heads with Christian Spaniards.

01:41

Luckily, their mom’s made them wear helmets.

01:45

It was natural that such a rough place would breed some rebels.

01:48

In the 10th century, a new type of rebel leader went into hiding among the nomads.

01:52

This guy was Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi Billah , the 12th Imam ,

01:59

whom Shi'a Muslims believed was a prophesized leader of the Islamic world.

02:05

Sounds nerve-wracking.

02:07

We bet he stress ate.

02:08

The 12th Imam won over the nomads and conquered the rest of Islamic Africa from 909 to 934

02:14

CE, creating the Fatimid Caliphate .

02:17

Don’t call it fat, though, if you value being alive and unconquered.

02:18

The Fatimid Caliphate was a big deal.

02:20

Arabic became an everyday language for everyone, even working stiffs, and that's still the

02:24

case today.

02:26

Instead of being colonized and exploited by the Middle East, like under the Umayyads,

02:30

North Africa became a center of power unto itself.

02:33

Yeah, it was an Arabic culture, but it had a truly African flavor.

02:37

For the rest of the European Middle Ages, North Africa's rulers were some of the strongest

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in the Muslim world.

02:43

Hm…guess they worked out.