1902 Encyclopedia > Arabia > Arabia - Slavery

(Part 29)


(29) Slavery in Arabia

Slavery is still, as of old times a recognized institution throughout Arabia; and an active traffic in blacks is carried on along the coasts of the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, but especially the former.

The slaves themselves are chiefly brought from the east African coast districts down as far as Zanzibar, and from the Galla tribes in the interior; a few Abyssinians, too, are sometimes imported. Slaves are usually employed in Arabia as herdsmen or as domestic servants, rarely in agricultural works; they also form a considerable portion of the body guards with which eastern greatness loves to surround itself. Like their countrymen elsewhere, they readily embrace the religion of their masters, and become zealous Mahometans, though rarely according to knowledge. Arab custom enfranchises a slave who has accepted Islam at the end of seven years of bondage; and when that period has arrived, the master, instead of exacting from his slave the price of freedom, generally, on giving him his liberty, adds the requisite means for supporting himself and a family in comfort. Further, on every important occasion, such as a birth, circumcision, a marriage, or a death, one or more of the household slaves are sure of acquiring their freedom. Hence it comes that Arabia is densely sprinkled with a free black population; and these again, by intermarriage with the whites around, have filled the land with a mulatto breed of every shade, till, in the eastern and southern provinces especially, a white skin is almost an exception. This has taken place all the more readily that in Arabia there exists no prejudice against Negro alliances; no social or political line separates the African from the Arab. A Negro may become a sheikh, a kadee, an emeer, or whatever his industry and his talents may render him capable of being. This occurs frequently, particularly in Nejd, Yemen, and Hadramaut; in the Hejaz and the north, on the contrary, a faint line of demarcation may be observed between the races.

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