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Somaliland

SOMALILAND, a country of East Africa, so named from its Somali inhabitants. It is also known as the " Eastern Horn of Africa," because it projects somewhat sharply eastwards into the Indian Ocean, and is the only section of the continent which can be spoken of as a peninsula. In general outline it is an irregular triangle, with apex at Cape Guardafui. From the apex the north side extends over 600 m. along the south shore of the Gulf of Aden westwards to Tajura Bay, and the east side skirts the Indian Ocean south-west for over 1000 m. to the mouth of the Juba. Somali also inhabit the coast region and considerable areas inland, as far south as the Tana river. The country between the Tana and Juba rivers now forms part of British East Africa (q.v.), and in this article is not included in Somaliland. Inland the limits of Somaliland correspond roughly with the Shoan and Harrar Hills, and the Galla district south of Shoa and east of Lake Rudolf. The 40 east may be taken as the western limit of Somali settlements. The triangular space thus roughly outlined has a total area of about 356,000 sq. m. The population is estimated at about 1,100,000, but no trustworthy data are available. It is partitioned between Great Britain, Italy, France, and Abyssinia as under:

Area in sq. m.

Population.

British Somaliland . French Somaliland . Italian Somaliland . Abyssinian Somaliland 1 .

Total 68,000 12,000 146,000 130,000 300,000 50,000 400,000 350,000 356,000 1,100,000 Somaliland was not generally adopted as the name of the country until the early years of the 1pth century. The northern and central districts were previously known as Adel, the northeast coast as Ajan. By the ancients the country was called regio romataica, from the abundance of aromatic plants which it produced.

Physical Features. The whole region is characterized by a remarkable degree of physical uniformity, and may be broadly described as a vast plateau of an average elevation of 3000 ft., bounded westwards by the Ethiopian and Galla highlands and northwards by an inner and an outer coast range, skirting the south side of the Gulf of Aden in its entire length from the Harrar uplands to Cape Guardafui. The plateau, known as the Ogaden plateau, everywhere presents the same monotonous aspect of a boundless steppe clothed with a scanty vegetation of scrubby plants and herbaceous growths.

The incline is uniformly to the south-east, and apart from the few coast streams that reach the Gulf of Aden during the rains, all the running waters are collected in three rivers the Nogal in the north, the Webi Shebeli in the centre, and the Juba (q.v.)

1 See also ABYSSINIA.

in the south which have a parallel south-easterly direction towards the Indian Ocean. But so slight is the precipitation that the Juba alone has a permanent discharge seawards. The Nogal sends down a turbulent stream during the freshets, while the Shebeli, notwithstanding the far greater extent of its basin, does not reach the sea. At a distance of about 12 m. from the coast it is intercepted by a lone line of dunes, which it fails to pierce and is thus deflected southwards, flowing in this direction for nearly 170 m. parallel with the coast, and then disappearing in a swampy depression (the Bali marshes) before reaching the Juba estuary. 2 Geology. The Somaliland plateau is chiefly composed of gneiss and schist. In the north the plateau is overlain by red and purple unfossiliferous sandstones, capped near its edge by a cherty limestone also unfossiliferous but possibly of Lower Cretaceous age. The plains inland from Berbera, and the maritime margins between the coast and foot of the plateau, consist of limestones of Lower Oolitic age with Belemnites subhastatus. At Duba some limestones may belong to the Lower Cretaceous.

Climate. In general the climate is dry and bracing all over the plateau. Temperature is as a rule high but with considerable variation, from 60 F. or less in the early morning to 100 or over in the early afternoon. On an average the coast-belt temperatures are some 10 higher than those of the plateau. Four seasons are recognized January-April, very dry and great heat; May-June, cooler and the " heavy " rains; July-September, the season of extreme heat and the south-west monsoon; October-December, the " light " rains. The " heavy " rains are little experienced in the coast districts. The rainfall is from 4 to 8 in. a year. In consequence of the elevation of the plateau and the dryness of the air, the heat is less oppressive than is indicated by the temperatures recorded. Malaria prevails in the valley of the Webi Shebeli.

Flora. The highlands, which in an almost continuous line traverse East Africa, have to a great extent isolated the flora of Somaliland in spite of the general resemblance of its climate and soil to the country on the western side of the band of high ground. In the northern mountainous regions of Somaliland the flora resembles, however, to some extent, that of the Galla country and Abyssinia. On the plateau many forms common elsewhere in East Africa, such as the Borassus palm and the baobab tree, are missing. The greater part of the country is covered either with tall coarse grasses (these open plains being called ban), or more commonly with thick thorn-bush or jungle, among which rise occasional isolated trees. The prevalent bush plants are khansa (umbrella mimosa), acacias, aloes, and, especially, Boswellia and Commiphora, which yield highly fragrant resins and balsams, such as myrrh, frankincense (olibanum) and " balm of Gilead." The billeil is a thorn-bush growing about IO ft. high and covered with small curved hooks of great strength. The bush contains also numerous creepers, one of the most common being known as the armo. It is a vivid green and has large, fleshy, heart-shaped leaves. Of the thorns, the guda and the wadi often grow from 30 to 50 ft. high and have large flat-topped branches. In places there are forests of these trees. On the summit of the Golis range the cedars form forests. Among the larger trees are the mountain cedar, reaching to 100 ft. ; the gob, which bears edible berries in appearance something like the cherry with the taste of an apple, grows to some 80 ft., and is found fringing the river beds; the hassddan, a kind of euphorbia, attaining a height of about 70 ft. ; and the darei, a fig tree. There are patches of dense reeds, reaching 10 ft. high, and thickets of tamarisk along the river beds, and on either side the jungle is high and more luxuriant than on the open plateau. Of herbaceous plants the kissenia, the sole representative of the order Loasaceae, which is common in America but very rare elsewhere, is found in Somaliland, which also possesses forms belonging to the eastern Mediterranean flora.

Fauna. Somaliland is rich in the larger wild animals. Among them are the lion (Somali name libah) and elephant, though these have been to a large extent driven from the northern coast districts; the black or double-horned rhinoceros, common in central Ogaden ; leopards, abundant in many districts, and daring they have given their name to the Webi Shebeli ("River of the Leopards"); panthers ; spotted and striped hyenas (the latter rare) ; foxes, jackals, badgers and wild dogs; giraffes and a great variety of antelopes. The antelopes include the beisa oryx, fairly common and widely distributed; the greater and lesser kudu (the greater kudu is not found on the Ogaden plateau) ; the Somali hartebeest (Bubalis Swaynei), found only in the Haud and Ogo districts; waterbuck, rare except along the Webi Shebeli and the Nogal; the dol or Somali bushbuck; the dibatag or Clarke's gazelle; the giraffe-like gerenuk or Waller's gazelle, very common ; the aoul or Soemmering's gazelle, widely distributed ; the dero (Gazella Speki) ; and the small dikdik or sakaro antelope, found in almost every thicket. The zebra (Equus grevyi) is found in Ogaden and places to the south, the wild ass in the northern regions. There are wart hogs, baboons (maned and maneless varieties), a tree monkey, jumping shrews, two kinds of squirrel, a small hare, rock rabbits 2 It is probable that a divergent branch leaves the Shebeli some distance above the swamps and that at high water an overflow into the Juba occurs (see Geog. Journ., Nov. 1909).

and a weasel-like animal which hunts in packs. Ostriches are found in the open plains; the rivers swarm with crocodiles, but hippopotami are rare. Birds of prey are numerous and include eagles, vultures, kites, ravens and the carrion stork. Among game birds are three varieties of bustard, guinea fowl, partridges, sand grouse and wild geese. Snakes are common, an adder, a variegated rock snake and a Hadramut with forty followers about the 13th century. Other traditions trace their origin to the Himyaritic chiefs Sanhaj and Samamah, said to have been coeval with a King Afrikus, who is supposed to have conquered Africa about A.D. 400. These legends should perhaps be interpreted as pointing to a Scale, 1:8,000,000 English Miles o 20 40 60 80 100 ismavu C 44 D Longitude East 46 of Greenwich R 48 black snake called muss being those most dreaded. Mosquitoes are rarely troublesome; gadflies, and a large spider (hangeyu), which spins a web resembling golden silk, are common, as are scorpions and centipedes. Termites rear sharp pointed " hills," often over 20 ft. high. A species of lizard grows nearly 4 ft. long.

Inhabitants. The Somali belong to the Eastern (Ethiopic) Hamitic family of tribes, of which the other chief members are the neighbouring Galla and Afar, the Abyssinian Agau and the Beja tribes between the Nubian Nile and the Red Sea. They have been identified with the people of Punt, who were known to the Egyptians of the early dynasties. The Somali, however, declare themselves to be of Arab origin, alleging their progenitor to have been a certain Sherif Ishak b. Ahmad, who crossed from series of Arab immigrations, the last two of which are referred to the 13th and 1sth centuries. But these intruders seem to have been successively absorbed in the Somali stock; and the Arabs never succeeded in establishing permanent communities in this region. Their influence has been very slight even on the Somali language, whose structure and vocabulary are essentially Hamitic, with marked affinities to the Galla on the one hand and to the Dankali (Afar) on the other.

The present Somali peoples are possessed of no general type. They are not pure Hamites, and their physical characteristics vary considerably, showing signs of interbreeding with Galla, Afar, Arabs, Abyssinians, Bantus and Negroes. They are a 3 8o race of magnificent physique, tall, active and robust, with fairly regular features, but showing Negro blood in their frequently black complexion and still more in their kinky and even woolly hair. Their colour varies from the Arab hue to black, and curiously enough the most regular features are to be found among the darkest groups.

There are four classes in Somaliland: (i) nomads who breed ponies, sheep, cattle and camels, live entirely on milk and meat, and follow the rains in search of grass; (2) settled Somali, comparatively few, living in or near the coasts; (3) outcast races, not organized in tribes but living scattered all over Somaliland; they are hunters, workers in iron and leather, and the chief collectors of gum and resin; (4) traders. The national dress is the " tobe," a simple cotton sheet of two breadths sewn together, about 1 5 ft. long. Generally it is thrown over one or both shoulders, a turn given round the waist, and allowed to fall to the [ankles. The " tobes " are of all colours from brown to white. A ceremonial " tobe " of red, white and blue, each colour in two shades, with a narrow fringe of light yellow, is sometimes worn. Old men shave the head and sometimes grow a beard. Middle-aged men wear the hair about an inch and a half long; young men and boys in a huge mop; while married women wear it in a chignon, and girls in mop-form but plaited.

The Somali are a fighting race and all go armed with spear, shield and short sword (and guns when they can get them). During the rains incessant intertribal lootings of cattle take place. Among certain tribes those who have killed a man have the right to wear an ostrich-feather in their hair. They are great talkers, keenly sensitive to ridicule, and quick-tempered.

Women hold a degraded position among the Somali (wives being often looted with sheep), doing most of the hard work. The Somali love display; they are inordinately vain and avaricious; but they make loyal and trustworthy soldiers and are generally bright and intelligent.

The Somali have very little political or social cohesion, and are divided into a multiplicity of rers or fakidas (tribes, clans). Three main divisions, however, have been clearly determined, and these are important both on political and ethnical grounds.

I. The HASHIYA (Abud's Asha), with two great subdivisions: Daroda, with the powerful Mijertins, War-Sangeli, Dolbohanti and others; and Ishak, including the Gadibursi, Issa (Aissa), HabrWal, Habr-Tol, Habr-Yuni, Babibli, Bertiri. All these claim descent from a member of the Hashim branch of the Koreish (Mahomet's tribe), who founded a powerful state in the Zaila district. All are Sunnites, and, although still speaking their Somali national tongue, betray a large infusion of Arab blood in their oval face, somewhat light skin, and remarkably regular features. Their domain comprises the whole of British Somaliland, and probably most of Italian Somaliland.

II. The HAWIYA, with numerous sub-groups, such as the HabrJalet, Habr-Gader, Rer-Dollol, Daji, Karanle, Badbadan, Kunli, Bajimal and Ugass-Elmi; mostly fanatical Mahommedans forming the powerful Tarika sect, whose influence is felt throughout all the central and eastern parts of Somaliland. The Hawiya domain comprises the Ogaden plateau and the region generally between the Nogal and Webi-Shebeli rivers. Here contact has been chiefly with the eastern Galla tribes.

III. The RAHANWIN, with numerous but little-known sub-groups, including, however, the powerful and warlike Abgals, Barawas, Gobrons, Tuni, Jidus and Kalallas, occupy in part the region between the Webi-Shebeli and Juba, but chiefly the territory extending from the Juba to the Tana, where they have long been in contact, mostly hostile, with the Wa-Pokomo and other Bantu peoples of the British East Africa Protectorate. Of all the Somali the Rahanwm betray the largest infusion of negroid blood.

Of the outcast races the best known are the Midgan, Yebir, and Tomal. The Midgan, who are of slightly shorter stature than the average Somali, are the most numerous of these peoples. They are great hunters and use small poisoned arrows to bring down their game. The Yebir are noted for their leather work, and the Tomal are the blacksmiths of the Somali.

Prehistoric Remains. The discovery of flint implements of the same types as those found in Egypt, Mauritania, and Europe show Somaliland to have been inhabited by man in the Stone age. That the country was subsequently occupied by a more highly civilized people than the Somali of to-day is evidenced by the ruins which are found in various districts. Many of these ruins are attributable to the Arabs, but older remains are traditionally ascribed to a people who were " before the Galla." Blocks of dressed stone overgrown by grass lie in regular formation; a series of parallel revetment walls on hills commanding passes exist, as do relics of ancient water-tanks. This ancient civilization is supposed to have been swept away by Mahommedan conquerors; before that event the people, in the opinion of several travellers, professed a degraded form of Christianity, which they had acquired from their Abyssinian neighbours. Of more recent origin are the ruins known as Galla graves (Taalla Galla). These are cairns of piled stones, each stone about the size of a man's head. The cairns are from 12 to 15 ft. high and about 8 yds. in diameter. Each is circular with a central depression.

Exploration. Somaliland was one of the last parts of Africa to be explored by Europeans. The occupation of Aden by the British in 1839 proved the starting-point in the opening up of the country, Aden being the chief port with which the Somali of the opposite coast traded. The task of mapping the coast was largely undertaken by officers of the Indian navy, while the first explorers of the interior were officers of the Indian army quartered at Aden Lieut. Cruttenden (1848), Lieut, (afterwards Captain Sir Richard) Burton, and Lieut. J. H. Speke (the discoverer of the Nile source). In 1854 Burton, unaccompanied, penetrated inland as far as Harrar. Later on the expedition was attacked by Somali near Berbera, both Burton and Speke being wounded, and another officer, Lieut. Stroyan, R.N., killed. For twenty years afterwards no attempt was made to open up the country. The occupation of Berbera by the Egyptians in 1875 was, however, followed by several journeys into the interior. Of those who essayed to cross the waterless Haud more than one lost his life. In 1883 a party of Englishmen F. L. and W. D. James (brothers), G. P. V. Aylmer, and E. Lort-Phillips penetrated from Berbera as far as the Webi-Shebeli, and returned in safety. At the instance of the Indian government surveys of the country between the coast and the Webi-Shebeli and also east towards the Wadi Nogal were executed by Major H. G. C. Swayne and his brother Captain E. J. E. Swayne between 1886 and 1892. Meanwhile a French traveller, G. Revoil, had (1878-1881) made three journeys in the north-east corner of the protectorate, especially in the Darror valley. The first person who reached the Indian Ocean, going south from the Gulf of Aden, was an American, Dr A. Donaldson Smith (b. 1864). He explored (1894-1895) the headstreams of the Shebeli, reached Lake Rudolf, and eventually descended the Tana river to the sea, his journey thus taking him through southern Somaliland. Meantime the greater part of the eastern seaboard having fallen under Italian influence, the exploration of the hinterland had been undertaken by travellers of that nationality. In 1890 Brichetti-Robecchi made a journey along the eastern coast from Obbia to beyond Cape Guardafui. In the following year he went from Mukdishu to Obbia, and thence crossed through Ogaden to Berbera on the Gulf of Aden. In the same year Prince Eugenio Ruspoli made a journey southwards from Berbera, while two other Italians penetrated to Imi on the upper Shebeli, which place was also reached in 1903 by H. G. C. Swayne. In 1892 Captain Vittorio Bottego and a companion left Berbera and made their way past Imi to the upper Juba, which Bottego explored to its source, both travellers finally making their way via Lugh to the east coast. Prince Ruspoli in 1893 reached Lugh from the north, thence turning north-west. He was killed in the Galla country by an elephant. In 1895 Bottego, with three European companions, left Brava to investigate the river system north of Lake Rudolf, and succeeded in tracing the Omo to that lake. Subsequently in the Abyssinian highlands the expedition was attacked by Galla and Captain Bottego was killed. Dr Sacchi, who was returning to Lugh with some of the scientific results of the mission, was also killed by natives. An English expedition under H. S. H. Cavendish (1896-1897) followed somewhat in Donaldson Smith's steps, and the last named traveller again crossed Somaliland in his journey from Berbera via Lake Rudolf to the Upper Nile (1899-1900). In 1902-1903 a survey of the Galla- Somali borderlands between Lake Rudolf and the upper Juba was executed by Captain P. Maud of the British army. Military operations during 1901-4 led to a more accurate knowledge of the south-eastern parts of the British protectorate and of the adjacent districts of Italian Somaliland.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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