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Songhai People

Updated on August 1, 2013

An empty nest is kind of what I have. These days I have been arranging the bedrooms which made me encounter old toys representing a treasure hunt. One of my findings are the dolls I picked for my daughter when she was a child, they were all African type. My intention was as the African proverb quote written below; the series of African People from A to Z, has the same intention as it gets close to the end.

"What you help a child to love can be more important than what you help him to learn."

This hub presents the letter S, and for it the reader will meet the largest empire in African history.

SONGHAI seen as:

Songhai people (Same source of the first)
Songhai people (Same source of the first) | Source

Who are the Songhai people?

Around three million people consider themselves Songhai. The Songhai people are also spelled as:

  • Songhay
  • Songhoi
  • Songrai
  • Sonhrai
  • Sonhray

The Songhai origins are traced to the 8th century of Za. The Za dynasty endured to the end of the 16th century, when it was conquered by the Sultan of Morocco.The Songhai empire was at it's largest under the rule of Askia Daud (1549 - 1582), and stretched to Cameroon. Sunni Ali was the first great king of the Songhai. He was an efficient warrior who conquered many of the Songhai's neighbors, including what remained of the Mali empire. Askia Muhammad Toure was a leader following Sunni Ali, who created a new dynasty called the Askia. He also continued the imperial expansion that Sunni Ali had begun.

Songhai Subgroups

Upper lake area
Hunters and farmers along the Niger river
Hunters in the high grass stretch of the savanna
One of the important ethnic groups in the Republic of Chad
Fishermen living in small settlements along the rivers
Southwestern part of Niger, while others occupy Northern Nigeria along the Niger River Valley
A caste of proud magicians

Songhai: an empire of kings and wars

Songhai Empire
Songhai Empire | Source

The Songhai Empire

Songhai locations

show route and directions
A markerMali -
get directions

B markerNiger -
get directions

C markerBurkina Faso -
Burkina Faso
get directions

D markerGhana -
get directions

E markerTogo -
get directions

F markerIvory Coast -
Côte d'Ivoire
get directions

G markerAlgeria -
get directions

H markerRepublic of Chad -
get directions

Where are the Songhai people located?

Southwestern Mali along the bend of the Niger River, and Western Niger is primarily where the Songhai people live (extending from Lake Debo to the mouth of Sokoto River). The Songhai are also found at:

  • Benin, Burkina Faso
  • Nigeria
  • Ghana (also known as the Zabrama or Gao)
  • Togo
  • Ivory Cost
  • Southeastern Algeria
  • Republic of Chad

How do the Songhai people live?

The Songhai people traces descent along the father's line.Their traditional inherited distinct position are known as:

  • Noble
  • Commoner
  • Griot (Musicians)
  • Slave

The Songhai settlements usually consist of round, mud or thatched dwellings with roofs. An increased number of villagers live in rectangular mud brick houses with corrugated tin roofs.


How do the Songhai people communicate?

The Songhai people communicate with a unique Nile-Saharan language, called as their own name "Songhai".

Songhai's trading history
Songhai's trading history

How do the Songhai people survive?

The Songhai people are mostly subsistence farmers, but those living in cities are engaged in a wide range of trades and professions.The farmers (only men, since it is consider a noble labor) grow:

  • rice
  • millet (grown during the brief rainy season)
  • sorghum
  • peanuts
  • black-eyed peas
  • sorrel
  • other crops

Paramount chiefs from noble lines, within the Songhai people, hold offices and continue to exert at least symbolic authority in rural regions.The Songhai also raise some livestock.

The Songhai women

The women often sell cooked foods and condiments. They also make traditional pottery and mats. The women have gardens in which they grow:

  • mangoes
  • guavas
  • citrus
  • fruits
  • papayas
  • dates
  • bananas (during the hot, dry season)
  • carrots
  • tomatoes
  • peppers
  • cabbages
  • squash

Songhai people (same source of the picture above)
Songhai people (same source of the picture above)

Songhai Survival ways

What characteristics define the Songhai people?

  1. Nearly all Songhai are Muslim
  2. The majority of the Songhai people did not convert to Islam; about 97% kept their traditional religions.
  3. Every town has a mosque
  4. Some communities have religious leaders (imams)
  5. An important ceremonial festival is held known as "genji bi hori" (pestilence control)
  6. They also celebrate the rain dance known as "yenaandi".
  7. The Songhai people were the first to create standardized systems of weights and measures, which helped contribute to later developments.

Songhai Kingdoms today

working bee
working bee

The formula within the hub

Do you see it?

See results

Nature's Formula

Oh, what a blessing it is to learn, like faith comes by hearing; love comes by learning about one another. How can we live our own life, knowing about others that are in need?

We are part of the nature surrounding us. Nature's creation system teaches us a great formula lesson. If you really read this hub, I hope you saw the formula given by the Songhai people, The formula of creation:

Flower nectar + bees = sweet food

Fruits + crushing = juice

Is this formula within the hub? Do you see it? Can you apply it?

Blessings to all in our decisions and from its effects!

© Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill

Journey of the Songhai people

Digest Nature's Formula as you watch an application example

© 2013 Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill


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    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 2 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Thanks to you Scott for being part of those that give themselves to others. Nice to know you were able to experience their reality.

    • Scott Tuttle profile image

      Scott Tuttle 2 years ago from United States

      Thanks for this article. I lived among the Songhai as a Peace Corps volunteer.

    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 3 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      MartieCoetser thanks I am honored by your visit. I love Africa and I'm anxious to become and eyewitness of its beauty and cultural enrichment.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 3 years ago from South Africa

      A very informative and interesting hub about the Songhai People in Africa! Thank you, Lastheart :)

    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 4 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Shadow Jackson thanks to you for approving the Songhai people.

    • Shadow Jackson profile image

      Billionaire Brains 4 years ago from Washington, DC

      Such a rich history! Thanks for sharing! :-)

    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 4 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      MsDora thanks! I am learning about you also...and love does come by learning about one another.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Great presentation! Educational and fun. "Love comes by learning about one another." Thank you for this top-quality article. Have a great week!

    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 4 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Billy and I love to have your visit, thanks my friend. "...A bit smaller..." I like that quote.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love this series and you do so well with it. Great research and information, are making this world a little bit smaller through this series. :)



    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 4 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      I am making plans to visit them.

    • Froggy213 profile image

      Greg Boudonck 4 years ago from Will soon return to an Isla Del Sol - Puerto Rico Will Rise Strong

      You did an amazing job on this hub my dear. Voted up across the board. They are a very interesting people.