Kanem Empire      
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(Text by Duane R. Hurst © 2013)

Click on a link to view its information and pictures.
Significant Event:
    Conversion to Islam

Main Cities: N'jimi
Time: 700-1380 AD
Language: Kanuri; Kanembu; Tebu
Personage: Dunama Dabbalemi
Religion: Islam
Related Country: Chad; Nigeria

Brief History:
      I have included only a few items concerning the history of this kingdom. A good source for more details can be found on Wikipedia or in history books.

Map of Kanem Empire
Click Map to Enlarge
      Circa 300 AD, Kanembu nomads migrated southwest into fertile lands surrounding Lake Chad. The Duguwa Dynasty built a capital city and founded the Kanem Empire. Some historians believe Kanem was called "Agisymba" in the writings of Ptolemy.
      During the late 12th century AD, the Kanembu moved into the area of modern Kanem Prefecture. They settled down, established a capital at N'jimi and formed an empire through military conquest.

      Mai (king) Dunama Dabbalemi of the Sayfawa Dynasty converted to Islam in the mid-13th century AD and became a zealot who declared jihad against neighbors. He expanded Kanem territory and established a hostel in Cairo to aid pilgrims going to Mecca. Kanem reached its zenith during his reign (1203-1243 AD). Dunama reputedly commanded over 40,000 cavalry and was a skilled warrior. Numerous slaves captured during his wars were sold to trans-Saharan merchants.

      Internal conflict weakened the empire by end of the 14th century AD. The Sayfawa relocated to Borno State, near Lake Chad. Intermarriage resulted in an amalgam group called the Kanuri. The Bornu Empire replaced the Kanem in 1380 AD.

© Page Publisher: Duane R. Hurst