The image of Arabs in East Africa has been forged through economic and social relations dating back many centuries, but particularly since the rise of the Omani Arab Sultanate of Zanzibar in the 19th century and the British decision to replicate that social order along the coastal strip of Kenya. Central to this image is the perceived role of Arabs in driving the slave trade from East Africa. The paper ends by considering how this imagined history might affect recent attempts to build an economic relationship between Gulf states, especially Qatar, and Kenya.

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