What is African weather like?
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Medieval African Environment

Sahara desert
The Sahara desert

Another very bad drought hit Africa in the Middle Ages, in 963 AD. Again, the drought led to the collapse of the government in Egypt, and brought the Fatimids into power. This period of drought lasted until 1200-1202 AD, and many Egyptian people died, especially if they were city people and not farmers. This drought was probably part of the climate change known as the Medieval Warming Period that also affected Europe, Asia, and the Americas. South Africa was also warmer during the Medieval Warming period, and this probably affected the movement of people in the area.

north africa
North Africa (with snow!)

A second, much more serious drought in the area just south of the Sahara Desert (called the Sahel) and across West Africa began about 1300 AD, and lasted until the 1850s. This drought corresponds with the Little Ice Age in Europe, Asia, and the Americas: in Europe, the weather was wet and cold, but south of the Sahara it was extra hot and dry.

Tunisian olives
Olive orchards in Tunisia (North Africa)

In both Europe and Africa, many people went hungry when the barley didn't grow. In West Africa, there were floods: the Niger river repeatedly flooded the city of Timbuktu (in modern Mali) at this time.

Rain forest Rain forest
The rain forest

All over southern Africa and Madagascar, on the other hand, the Little Ice Age brought cooling just as it did in Europe.

Swaziland
South Africa

Learn by doing: visit different microclimates near your house: a high mountain, a lake, the beach, a desert, some grassland. What do you notice?
Egyptian Environment
Early African Environment
More about Africa

Bibliography and further reading about the medieval African environment:



More about the African Environment
Egyptian Environment
West Asian Environment
More about Africa
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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