"In both Arab and Iranian Islamic writings, blacks are accused of being stupid, untruthful, vicious, cowardly, sexually unbridled, ugly and distorted, excessively merry, and easily affected by food and drink."
Minoo Southgate, 1984, Negative Images of Blacks in Some Medieval Iranian Writings Arabs called African Blacks (typically East Africans) the 'Zanj'. Most Arab writers who spoke disparagingly of black Africans had never traveled to subSaharan Africa . Many of their tales were based on hearsay. In the Arab world, as in Europe , there was also a necessity to justify the enslavement of black Africans by portraying them as subhuman.
At least part of the negative fiction was fabricated by black Africans themselves. Coastal East Africans such as the Swahili formed the trade link between Arabs from Asia and the African interior. To defend their trading zone, they told fantastic stories of the dangers of the interior. Asian merchants were thus discouraged from venturing into the interior and making direct trade links with the wealthy kingdoms there. Thus the Swahili preserved their trade monopoly and prospered.
Although the Arab writers featured below described blacks in demeaning language, Ibn Battuta, the most well-traveled man in pre-modern times, wrote of sub-Saharan Africans in a vastly different light. Of all medieval travel writers, he was the only one who actually traveled to both East Africa and West Africa . Ibn Battuta was a native of Morocco , culturally Arab and ethnically Berber.
In the following table, the observations of Ibn Battuta and other Arab writers are laid out side by side. These are not meant to be direct comparisons as Ibn Battuta was writing of specific black African cultures, while most of the other writers were writing of the generic Zanj:
Other Arab/Indian/Iranian writers
"Of the neighbors of the Bujja, Maqdisi had heard that "there is no marriage among them; the child does not know his father, and they eat people -- but God knows best. As for the Zanj, they are people of black color, flat noses, kinky hair, and little understanding or intelligence."
Maqdisi (fl. 966 AD), _Kitab al-Bad'_, vol.4