Kilwa, an island located off the coast of East Africa in modern-day southern Tanzania, was the most southern of the major Swahili Coast trading cities that dominated goods coming into and out of Africa from and to Arabia, Persia, and India. Kilwa flourished as an independent city-state from the 12th to 15th century CE largely thanks to the great quantity of gold coming from the kingdom of Great Zimbabwe to Kilwa's southern outpost of Sofala. Kilwa boasted a huge palace complex, a large mosque, and many fine stone buildings at its peak in the 14th century CE. The arrival of the Portuguese in the early 16th century CE spelt the beginning of the end of Kilwa's independence as trade declined and merchants moved elsewhere.

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