Africa & Middle East Silver Coins
The Middle East is often called the "Cradle of Civilization," referring to the ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations. This area is the birthplace of many religions, including three of the largest: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The Arab conquest which started in the 7th century C.E. stamped its image over the entire region, and Islam remains the majority religion.
Likewise, medieval Islam spread across North Africa and down to West Africa, as well as across the Gulf of Aden and up the Nile into East Africa. As the Muslim traders advanced, they became the first people to chronicle African kingdoms that left no written records of their own. In the 1800s, the European powers conquered and divided Africa among themselves in order to exploit the natural resources found there.
The modern Middle East was made from partitioning the Ottoman Empire of Turkey after its defeat in World War I. The discovery of vast petroleum reserves has given many Middle Eastern nations political and economic power. In Africa, most nations did not regain independence until after World War II. Many of these nations possess mineral or petroleum wealth, but have failed to parlay them into the type of power that the Arab nations have.
Middle East Silver Coins
Archaeologists believe that the first coins in history were minted in Lydia (now part of western Turkey) in the 7th century B.C. from electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver. The idea quickly spread to ancient Greece and south into the Euphrates region. The first pure gold and silver coins are believed to date from the early Islamic Caliphate of the 7th century C.E. Since that time, most of the nations of the Middle East have used Arabic writing and followed Islam, and this is reflected in the design of their respective coins. Israel is, of course, the notable exception, using the Hebrew language and Judaic themes on their coins. Most nations of the Middle East still make commemorative coins from gold and silver.
African Silver Coins
Coinage was introduced to Africa by medieval Muslim traders, and West Africa was the major source of gold and silver before the conquest of the New World. When the European nations conquered Africa, they introduced their own currency. Many nations of Africa did not mint their own coinage until after the use of silver and gold in circulating currency had ceased, but produce silver and gold commemorative coins.