They had also developed the distinctive Swahili culture, characterized by the almost universal practice of Islam, as well as by Arabic and Asian-influenced art and architectural styles.
However, the scramble for Africa of the late 19th century, during which the European powers divided East Africa among themselves, the hegemony of the sultan in Zanzibar gave way to European overrule. The colonial powers began to control trade in the interior, bypassing the Swahili middlemen. Today Salaam and Mombasa are the biggest port cities on the Swahili Coast; both have been significantly transformed by industrial development as well as by the migration of upcountry Africans. Smaller Swahili towns, however, such as Pate in Kenya, retain much of their traditional culture. For these towns, beachfront tourism has become an important economic component.
When European settlers discovered ruins of great civilizations at Mapungubwe in South Africa and Great Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe (then the British colony Rhodesia), they concluded that black Africans could not have built these marvelous stone cities. In order to justify their oppression of the black majority populati