Concise history and geography of Somalia

. Somali Republic

Somali Republic, a state of northeast Africa formed in 1960 by the union of the former British Somaliland protectorate and the Italian- administered Trust Territory of Somalia. With an area of 637541, it covers most of the Horn of Africa, extending from the border of Djibouti along the Gulf of Aden and around the eastern borders of Ethiopia, and down the coast of Indian Ocean to the borders of Kenya. The capital of the Somali Republic is Mogadishu.

The total land boundary is 2340 km. Border countries are: Djibouti 58 km, Ethiopia 1600 km, and Kenya 682 km.

2. Somalia which is one of the longest countries of Africa covers an area of (246154 sq. miles)

3. The Somali coast, which is one of the longest coasts in Africa and in the world as well, extends from Kiyamboni, in the south to Seila near Djibouti,  is 3125 km long.

4. Physical geography of Somalia: Surad et Baiaha, the highest mountains of Somalia.

As a whole the country presents a good environment, part of being arid or semi desert. The northern coastal plains which stretch from Djibouti along the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea into the Bari region are particularly arid, and are known locally as Guban.

The inland of this barren coastal strip gives place to the maritime range oh Ogo Highlond. Surad the highest mountain in Somalia, near the city of Erigabo, is 2406 m high (7,894 ft). The highland that rises higher in the Bari highland is known as Al-Masket situated in between Bossaaso and Alula. The second highest mountain of Somalia is Baiaha which is about 2100 m high.

5. The southern part of Somalia is fertile and mostly arable. The highlands of Somalia slope gradually from northwest and intersected by low laying agriculturally rich plains and valleys. There are two main permanent rivers, Juba and Shebele, both in the south of Somalia. The both rivers contain water the year round and provide main river system of the whole area.

The Shebele River, with a total length of about 2000 Km, run parallel to the north of the River Juba through the southern part of Somalia.  Juba River, which is about 1800 km long, is the largest and the most important water source in Somalia.

There are number of seasonal water known as Togag. The most important water stream in the South is Lag- Badana, about 120 km south of the city of Kismayo. In the north the largest seasonal water streams ( Togag) are Daror and Nugal, which run only after heavy rain. The Daror enters in the Indian Ocean at the Bay Hafun of the district of Bargal, and the Nugal, farther north, enters in the Red Sea.

6. Vegetation. Most of the country is covered by scrub bush, in places almost impenetrably dense grazing land, but intersected by wide grassy plains. Vegetation patterns correspond generally to the distribution of saline and nonsaline soils. In the more widespread nonsaline areas, the most important trees are dosok, one of the box trees (Buxus hilde, brandtii) and a wide range of acacias trees ( qurac, qansax, galool etc.). Galool (Acacias bussei) is probably the most important tree in the northern and central Somalia. Its long roots provide the framework of the nomadic huts; mats and ropes are made of its bark. Il is also used for firewood and charcoal burning. The Boswellia ( beeyo iyo maydi), which produces frankincense, and other gum-bearing trees flourish in the arid regions of northeast particularly in the Bari region and the Ergavo. In few areas above 1500 m high, there are small forests of cedar of Lebanon. Along the larger permanent watercourses almost all species of plants occur, particularly in the fertile lands between the Shebele and Juba rivers, where the sedentary people cultivate all sorts of produce, such as exotic fruits (banana, papaya, mango, and grapefruit), cereals, vegetables, cotton, beans, peanut sugar cane, potatoes and many other produces.

7. Somalia is rich of natural resources, but unfortunately not yet exploited as expected.

Following are the natural resources as reported by the scientific papers after long geological research: Uranium, iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, different kinds of salts, natural gas and oil reserves, etc.

8. Animal life: Common among the larger mammals are elephants, giraffes, buffalo, zebra, hippopotamuses, rhinoceros, lions, leopards, hyenas, foxes and variety of antelopes.  The latter include kudu, waterbuck, gazelle, the dero and extremely common dik-dik known locally as sagaro. The lions are found in most parts, but the rhinoceros is rare.

There are considerable number of elephants and hippopotamuses along the River Juba and Shebele, and crocodiles are found in these rivers. Zebra is found mainly south of the Juba River. There are baboons, a tree monkey, jumping shrews, two varieties of squirrels, a small hare, rock rabbits and mongooses. Ostriches are common in open countries. Livestock such as camel cows, sheep, and goats is the most important economical resources of Somalia, both for export and local consumption.

9. Somalia has many economically important resources that are not well exploited due to lack of know how to.  Much of the national economy has been devastated by the civil war since 1991.

The agriculture is the most important sector, with livestock accounting for about 40% of GDP and about 65% export earnings. Livestock (camels cows, sheep, goats), hides, bananas, exotic fruits, many kinds of cereals, fish and sea food, franc-incenses and gums, are Somalia’s principal exports. Sugar, rice, spaghetti, machined goods, clothes, petroleum products, construction materials, vehicles, heavy machines, medicines and qat are the principal imports. The ongoing civil war and civil disturbances and clan rivalries, however, have interfered with any broad based economic development and international aid arrangements.

10. L’Islam in Somalia. The Somalis are the first African people who became Muslims and welcomed Islam during the lifetime of Prophet Mohamed. L’islam was introduced to the people of Horn of Africa by number of delegations from Mecca in the beginning of the 7th century. From their connection with the Gulf of Aden, their proximity to Arabia and their export of frankincense, gum and animal produces, the northern and eastern Somali coasts have for centuries been open to the outside world. Cultural and educational exchange between the Somalis and the Arabian world was much easier, that helped Islam to spread in Somalia very quickly. Between the 7th and 9th centuries, merchant Muslim Arabs and Asians developed a series of trading posts and schools along the Gulf of Aden, Indians Ocean coasts including Somalia. The archaeological evidences and the existence of mosques and other historic buildings in Somalia, built in the 8th century are solid evidences that Islam was deeply rooted in Somalia for centuries and centuries.

Arab and Persian Muslims developed with the Somalis trading towns and commercial centre dating from at least the 10th century A.D. Arabs and Persian Muslims developed with the Somalis a ring of coastal trading towns and commercial centres dating from at least 10th century A. D. By this time Islam was firmly established in the  northeastern and northern ports of Zeila, Berbera, Bulahar, Bosaso, Candala, Haabo, Bargaal, Haafun; and in the south at Merca, Brava, Mogadishu and Kismayu on the Indian Ocean. Farther to the west, a ring of Somali Muslim sultanates had grown up around the kingdom of Abyssinia. Somali clansmen regularly formed part of a national Muslim army led by general Ahmed Gurey. In the 16th century, the muslim Somali state of Audal, whose port was Zeila, assumed the lead in the holy war against the invading Amhara forces. The turning point in the straggle between Christens and Muslims was reached with the Abyssinian victory in 1542, with the Portuguese support, over the remarkable Somali leader Ahmed Gurey. Somalis are devoted Sunni Muslims, adhering mostly to the Shafiite, and Islam is the state religion.

11. History: Somali coasts have for centuries been open to the outside world. This area formed part of Punt, the land of frankincense, aromatics and gum, mentioned in ancient Egyptian writings. The writings which date back 1500 BC, mention that there were contacts between the people of Punt land and the Egyptians. The Egyptian kings considered the frankincense as a sacred product for their gods, and they used it in the places of worship. In those days, Frankincense was in great demand in all over the world. The writings mention also that commercial relationship developed between the people of the Punt land and the Egyptian kings, which lasted for centuries. Egyptian kings established coaling station at the coast of Punt land and used to send ships to buy frankincense, aromatics, gum and animal products.


Between the 7th and 10th centuries, immigrant Muslim Arabs and Asians developed a series of trading posts along the Golf of Aden and the Somali coasts in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Many of the Early Arab geographers mentioned these and the sultanates that grew out of them, but they described the interior of the country in detail.

Many well known Arab geographers explored Somalia extensively and collected valuable well documented information that can be found in many libraries and archives. Following are well known Arab geographers and explorers who did valuable explorations in Somalia centuries ago: Al-Masuudi (935), Al-Bakri (1067), Al-Idirisi (1154) and Ibn- Batuuta (1331). Accord to Arab geographers,  Ibn Said an Arab explorer, had already reached  the region of Merca and Barawe by as early as the 13 century.

1839. In fact, the intensive exploration really began only after the occupation of Aden by the British 1839, and the ensuing scramble Somali possession by Britain, France and Italy.

1854. While R. F. Burton was exploring the country to the northwest in the course of his famous journey from Berbera to Harar, his colleague J. H. Speke was making his way along the Makhir Coast in the northeast.

1846 and 1848.  Captain Charles Guillain also sailed down Indian Ocean and went Ashore at Mogadisho, Merca and then penetrating some distance inland and collecting valuable geographical and ethnographic information.

1865. The German Baron Karl Klaus von der Decken sailed up the Juba River as far as Bardera in a small steamship.

1883. A party of Englishmen (F. L. and W. D. James and W. D. James, G. P. V. Aylmer and E Lort-Phillips) penetrated from Berbera as far as Shebeli, and between 1886 and 1892 J. E. Sweyne and others surveyed the country between the coast and Shebeli River and also reached farther east toward the Nogal Valley.

1894-95. During 1894-95 A. Ronaldson-Smith explored the headwaters of the Shebeli River, reached Lake Rudolf, and eventually descended the Tana River to the sea.

1891. The Italian Luigi Robecchi-Bricchetti trekked from Mogadishu to Obbia, and then crossed the Ogaden province to Berbera. About the same time further explorations were made by another Italian, Capt. Vittorio Bottego.

1944-1950. In the 20th century several extensive surveys were made by J. A. Hunt and much of the country was mapped by aerial survey between 1944 and 1950.

The imperial Partition of Somalia

About the middle of the 18th century, the Somalia territory became a theatre of competition of the great powers of those days, such as Great Britain, Italy and France. On the African continent itself, Egypt was also involved and later Abyssinia, expanding and consolidating its kingdom under the guiding of Menelik, Emperor of Ethiopia.

1839 – Britain’s interest in the northern Somali coast followed the establishment of the British coaling station at Aden on the short route to India.

1862 – France sought its own coaling station and obtained Obock on the Danakil coast, and later thrusting eastward and developing the port of Djibouti, formerly French Somali territory.

1869 – Farther north, Italy opened a station in 1869 at Assab which later became the colony of Eritrea.

1870 – Stimulated by these European maneuvers, Egypt revived Turkey’s ancient claims to the Red Sea coast. In 1870 the Egyptian flag was raised at Bulahar and Berbera.

1884-1886 – A British protectorate was proclaimed and a governor was appointed to maintain order and  control trade at Zeila Berbera and Bulahar.

1888 – Anglo-French agreement on the boundaries of the two powers’ Somali possessions was signed. In the same period the Italians were also actively extending their Eritrean colony and encroaching upon Ethiopian and Somali territories.

1889 – Italy also acquired two protectorates in the northeast corner of Somalia, particularly in Bargal Alula and Bosaaso.

1892 – Italy acquired a Somali colony. From 1892 the lease was held directly from Zanzibar fro an annual rent of 160000 rupees, the Italian government assumed direct responsibility for its colony of south Somalia.

1895 – To the south of the Juba River, the British East Africa Company held Jubaland until 1895, when this became part of Britain’s East Africa Protectorate, namely colony.

1884 – Britain and Italy reached an agreement in 1884 on the extent of their respective Somali territories.

1896-97 Italy, French and Britain all signed  treaties with the new Ethiopian Emperor Menelik, curtailing their Somali possessions. Italy gave up the Somali Ogaden, and Britain exercised much of the western Haud

1899 – The British Somaliland protectorate administration was threatened by the nationalist and religious rebellion led by a patriotic leader sayid Mohamed Abdulla Hassan. The veritable freedom movements in Somalia started at that time.

1910 – The cumbersome British armies, hampered by their supply and water requirements, found the Derwish guerrilla tactics hard to combat effectively, so the British government decided to abandon its inconclusive and extremely expensive operations and withdrew to the coast, leaving the interior in the hands of the Derwish.

1913 – Richard Corfield, the founder of camel constabulary, was killed at the battle of Dul Madobe by the army of Sayid Mohamed called the formidable and invincible Derwishes.

1920 – The formidable Derwish stronghold at Taleh was bombed, when a combined air, sea and land operation finally destroyed the base of the Derwish, but the Sayid escaped unharmed that day, and died a few months after of influenza.

1920- After that the distraction Taleh, the Derwish stronghold, administrative control, under the colonial office since 1905, was gradually restored in the protectorate.

1923- In the south of Somalia, the Italians had been gradually extending their hold on the country and the appointment in 1923 of the first fascist governor marked a new positive phase in the life of the colony. Two years later, Britain ceded Jubaland with the port of Kismayu.

1940.  Establishment of the Somali Republic. During the World War II, the British Protectorate was evacuated in 1940, but was recaptured with the Italian Somalia in 1941. With the exception of French Somaliland, all the Somali territories were then united under British military administration.

1943. The Somali Youth League (SYL), one of the greatest freedom movement, and the party that led Somalia to the independence, was formed during the British administration of Somalia.

1948. The protectorate reverted to the colonial office; Ogaden and the Haud were gradually surrendered to Ethiopia.

1950. The Italian returned to the South of Somalia with ten years to prepare the country for independence under the UN trusteeship

1960. The British protectorate became independent on June 26, and on July 1 South of Somalia followed suit and the two territories joined to form the Somali Republic.

Prepared by prof. Mohamed Hared


1 Comment


One response to “Concise history and geography of Somalia

  1. Alle Ha u raxmadee Marxuum Saalax Xaashi Carab oo Jabuuti lagu aasay Galabta

    Warar ka imaanaya Wadanka Jabuuti ayaa ku waramaya in galabta halkaasi lagu aasay Qoraa Soomaaliyeed oo can ah Alle ha u naxariistee Marxuum Saalax Xaashi Carab.

    Marxuumka Geeriyooday ayaa ahaa nin ay bulshada Soomaalida si aad ah u taqaanay oo Magac dheer ku lahaa ayaa waxaana Marxuumka Geeridiisa ka tacsiyey Qeybaha kala duwan Bulshada oo Marxuumka rabi uga baryay inuu jannadii fardowsa ka waraabiyo

    Saalax Xaashi Carab oo qoray Buugag badan oo Soomaaliya & Caalamka laga akhristo ayaa waxaa sidoo kala ka mid ahaan jiray Gudiga (PEN) waxaana Guud ahaan loo diray Tacsi Ehlada uu ka geeriyooday Marxuumka

    Si gaar ah waxaa Tacsi tiiraanyo leh oo loo dirayo Marxuumka Eheladiisa SBC Soo gaarsiyay Qeybo kala duwan oo bulshada ka mid ah waxaana ay rabi uga baryeen inuu jannadii fardowsa ka waraabiyo Bulshada Soomaaliyeedna uu ka siiyo Samir & Iimaan

    Marxuum Saalax Xaashi Carab oo Galabta lagu aasay ayaa waxaa Caawa Televisionka Qaranka Jabuuti uga tacsiyey Masuuliyiinta Qaranka Jabuuti oo sheegay in Qoraaaga uu ahaa Nin muhiim u ahaa Bulshada Soomaaliga ku hadasha waxayna Rabi uga baryeen Naxariis

    Siyaasi Cali Cabdi Awaare oo ah La taliyaha Raiisul wasaaraha Soomaaliya ayaa waxaa uu sidaasi si leg u diray Tacsida Tiiraanyada leh ee loo diray Ehelada Marxuum Saalax Xaashi Carab waxaana uu sheegay in uu Marxuum saalax ka baxay Bulshada Soomaaliyeed guud ahaan isaga oo rabi uga bareyay inuu janatu Fardowsa ka waraabiyo.

    Tacsiyo kala duwan waxaa Warbaahinta SBC soo gaarsiyay Suxufiyiin uu ka mid yahay Axmed Maxamed Cali (Axmed Kismaayo) Abwaan Maxamuud C/laahi Sangub & Aqoonyahano Abwaano kala duwan kuwaasi oo ka tacsiyey Geerida Naxdinta leh ee ku timid Marxuum Saalax Xaashi Carab.

    SBC International News Desk

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