Coin of Sultan Sulaman ibn al-Hasan
14th century AD
This coin was minted at Kilwa in Tanzania during the fourteenth-century reign of Sultan Suleiman ibn al-Hasan. Imported Abbasid- and Fatimid-dynasty coins from North Africa and Arabia were used on the Swahili coast (east coast of Africa) from the ninth century. The first locally made coins copied their Islamic predecessors, and were minted during the eleventh century. These and later Swahili coast coins, such as this, have rhyming inscriptions and declarations praising Allah and hoping for the Sultan's happiness.
The Swahili coast has for centuries been a powerful trading area. The cities along the coast of modern Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique were vibrant centres where African, Arabian, Indian and Chinese merchants met and traded. The region's wealth also brought pirates. A Portuguese raider wrote about Mombasa, Kenya, in 1518: 'Of gold and silver great booty was taken here… and the town was left in ruins'.
J. Williams (ed.), Money: a history (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)