Sahara 1400 CE

The map shows the Sahara desert, Sahel and Maghreb in 1400 CE. Europe to the north, West and Central Africa to the south and Arabia to the east are not detailed. In the map area, all known major geogrpahical features, towns, cities and caravan stops are marked and also some minor ones that are in important locations. The trade routes are part knowledge, part conjecture and of course not set in stone in a place and time where roads are almost non-existent. Note that the medieval map markers are projected over modern terrain map layers, which here and there deviate from the historical layout. For example the Aswan dam and Nasser lake did not exist in 1400 CE and Lake Chad was a lot larger.
The map has been made with the help of OpenLayers. Hover over a landmark to see a short description (displayed below the map). The names of the landmarks are a mix of Arabic, Amazigh (Berber), Tuburi, French and English, as original names are often lost. Where known, alternative names are listed in the descriptions. You can zoom out and in, pan the view and enlarge the map to occupy the full screen. Four different layers are available. None of them is transparent, so it does not make sense to switch on multiple ones at the same time.

This is the evening of the great trans-Saharan caravan trade. The competing Portugese sailors whose caravels will ply the Atlantic Ocean are still several decades into the future. In the west the Ghana empire has been eclipsed by the Mali empire, which is at its height; the Songhai empire is still to come. In the east the Kanem empire has collapsed, its successor Bornu has taken over. Hausaland in West Africa is filled with a collection of seven city-states. The north is ruled by Arabs, who have conquered and islamized the area some 700 years earlier.
The sub-saharan states have grown rich from trade, especially salt, gold, ivory, kola nuts and slaves. Most of the transportation is done by camel caravans, led by Berbers, who dominate the Sahara. Key to travel through the desert are the oases. The largest of them have a town nearby, the smallest are no more than group of wells without permanent settlement. Still they are vital water supplies.

Toggle GeoServer Toggle Stamen Toggle ArcGIS Toggle OSM