The Trans-Saharan Trade Route

Unit 2: c. 1200-1450

Main Ideas:

  • Improved commercial practices → Increased the reach and volume of trade along this trade route

  • Expansion of Mali Empire → More people were drawn into the trans-Saharan Trade Route

  • Islam spread via North African merchants → Many West Africans converted to Islam but retained their indigenous African traditions

The Trans-Saharan Route

A Trade Route Connecting North Africa & West Africa 

Key Ideas:

  • Improved commercial practices increased the volume of trade

    • Camels were used as they could hold heavy loads & survive long without water → Very useful in the desert

    • Caravanserai were roadside inns where merchants rest for the night

  • Mali Empire facilitated trans-Saharan Trade

    • Mali empire traded goods like gold & ivory → Became very rich & prosperous

  • Islam spread to West Africa via North African Merchants → Many West Africans converted to Islam but retained some indigenous African traditions

    • Some West Africans converted to Islam to forge better relations with Islamic North African Merchants

    • Those who converted didn't fully follow Islamic sharia law & retained some indigenous African traditions

      • Most West African Muslims didn't follow Islamic ideals of women subordination

    • Mansa Musa was inspired by Islam and built mosques & Islamic schools in West Africa to promote Islam

Goods & Ideas Exchanged:







A camel caravan on the trans-Saharan Trade Route


A caravanserai (roadside inn) in Oualata, Mauritania, where travelers would rest for the night