In what ways did environmental factors determine the roles played by the various areas and peoples that

participated in the Indian Ocean trading system? Environmental factors practically made the roles of participants in the Indian Ocean trading system; natural resources for exports, favorable locations, and favorable climate factors made the cities prosperous providers of exports or cosmopolitan areas of trade goods and routes. Environmental Factors and their Roles in the Indian Ocean Trading System  Inland Africa had much gold mining activity and the Swahili coast
exported around a ton of gold per year by 1500. This gold often came from or passed through Great Zimbabwe, a state on the plateau south of the Zambezi River.  The economic base of Zimbabwe was due to farming, cattle herding, and most importantly, long distance trade.  The export of gold brought Zimbabwe to its political and economic peak, also attracting Arab and Iranian merchants to the Swahili coast. Because of Africa’s renowned gold mining and exports, the Swahili coast became an important commercial center and trade port.  Monsoon winds brought the city of Aden enough rainfall for drinking water to feed a large population and to grow grain for export. Because of this, Aden prospered.  Aden had an advantageous position in the Indian Ocean trading system, as well, for trade with India, the Persian Gulf, East Africa, and Egypt.  Aden merchants sorted imports from one place and exported them to another. Arabia, Aden in particular, had favorable amounts of water, which helped to raise the quality of livelihood and economy. Also, Aden had a convenient position for stopover for trade with other Indian Ocean trading states, therefore it had a very important role as mediator in the Indian Ocean trading system.  Gujarat was blessed with a rich agricultural hinterland and a long coastline. Due to the Mongol capture of Baghdad and the disruption of northern land routes, Gujarat’s trade increased.  Gujarat exported cotton textiles and indigo in return for gold and silver. Gujarats controlled trade from India to Swahili. In exchange for ebony, ivory, slaves, and gold, Gujarat exported cotton cloth, carnelian beads, and food.  India had a large market for rich textiles, such as silk, carpets, quilts, and gemstones, gold and stone heads.  The Malabar Coast duplicated Gujarati’s importance in trade. Disruption in land trading routes in turn helped develop maritime routes and Gujarat’s role in the Indian Ocean trade system. Its long coastline and plentiful supply of cotton cloth and other textiles also proved useful in developing its trade.

Africa: Swahili and Zimbabwe

Arabia: Aden and the Red Sea

India: Gujarat and Malabar Coast

Southeast Asia: Malacca

 As the passage to the South China Sea (the Strait of Malacca) was a key point in the commercial routes, it was also a point of much political rivalry. Malacca, a former obscure fishing village, came to dominate the narrowest part of the strait.  Malacca, also the meeting point for traders from China and India, was an emporium for Southeastern trade, assigning it an extremely important role in the Indian Ocean trade system. Due to control over the Strait of Malacca, Malacca had the occupation of acting as a meeting point for merchants from all cultures, which secured an important role in the maritime trade system.