A team of Polish scientists from the University of Szczecin, the Polish Academy of Science and the University of Adam Mickiewicz, which consists from archaeologists and ethnologists, will take part in an expedition to Africa this October. Their main goal is to search for traces of the Slavic fortress called Qarjat as-Saqaliba. This is a fortified settlement founded by the rebel Slavic slaves from the turn of the 9th and the 10th century.
How did it happen that the Slavs appeared in Africa? Their presence in this part of the world is no surprise to science. This is due to the fact that this ethnic group was the largest group of slaves that was traded at that time. Saqāliba (Arabic: Siqlabi) refers to kidnapped Slavic slaves in wars and to mercenaries, who traded with Muslims at that time. Arabic term is thought to be a Byzantine loanword Sklavinoi meaning Slavs.
English word slave is also derived from this word. But it is not to be confused: Slav/Slavic does not mean slave. However, it should also be noted that some of these kidnapped “Slavs” were not necessarily Slavs, but lived in the Slavic lands, as there is often no distinction made. It refers to all Eastern Europeans.
Saqalibs served or were forced to serve in a multitude of ways as servants, harem concubines, eunuchs, craftsmen, soldiers, and as guards of Caliphs. In North Africa their military role was similar to mamluks in the Ottoman Empire. Slavic guardsmen in Morocco had the same role. They served to rulers in the kingdom of Nekor as protectors from other Arabs and Berbers.
After several years of service as guards, they rebelled to regain freedom. After a short battle they were driven from the capital and fled to the mountains, where they founded a fortress called Qarjat as-Saqaliba.
Scientists will use a so-called philological method. It will be combined with the ethnographic method, which includes collaboration with the local population. They will prepare for the exploration in Morocco by visiting archives and libraries.
They will reaserch the area of the Rif mountains, where on the turn of the IX. and the X. century the kingdom of Nekor was situated. Scientists will try to establish the location of the fortress based on the map, the names of villages, rivers, hills and other data, as well as topography.