In our ” Exploring Countries ” series, where we explore interesting facts about different nations from around the world, our next destination is Somalia. This country is often associated with poverty, etched in our minds as an image of destitution. But is Somalia just that? Let’s learn more about it together.
Geographical Location of Somalia
Let’s begin our exploration of the country by understanding its geographical location. Somalia is located in eastern Africa, with a coastline along the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. It shares its borders with Djibouti to the northwest, Ethiopia to the west, and Kenya to the southwest.
Population of Somalia; Ethnic and Religious Composition
According to 2018 population data, Somalia has a population of 15 million. The majority of the population, around 85%, is made up of Somalis. The remaining 15% consists of Arabs and Bantu ethnic groups. In terms of religion, nearly the entire population, approximately 99%, adheres to Sunni Islam.
A Brief History of Somalia
Settled life in Somalia dates back to the 1st century AD. The country has existed for a long time under the sovereignty of different nations and was also colonized by various countries during the colonial era. However, it gained its independence on July 1, 1960.
The Origin of the Name Somalia
The ancient Egyptians referred to Somalia as “Punt.” There are various theories regarding the origin of its name, with one of the most common ones suggesting that it evolved from the name “Ismail,” one of the two sons of Akil ibn Abi Talib, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. Ismail’s name is believed to have taken the form “Smal” in the local language, eventually becoming “Somali.”
Languages Spoken in Somalia
Despite being colonized at different times by different countries, Somalia’s official language is Somali. Usually, in colonized nations, the language of the colonizer becomes dominant and widely spoken. However, this did not happen in Somalia, which is fortunate because language is a living memory of a nation.
The White Pearl of the Indian Ocean
The capital city, Mogadishu, is the largest city and the trade hub of Somalia. It is also known as the “White Pearl of the Indian Ocean” because it is a port city on the Indian Ocean coastline. Throughout history, this city has hosted various cultures, resulting in a wealth of historical sites.
Islam in Somalia
Somalia’s introduction to Islam predates the Islamization of Medina. How so? As we know, a group of Muslims led by Ja’far ibn Abi Talib migrated to Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia) before the migration to Medina. At that time, Abyssinia encompassed not only modern-day Ethiopia but also Somalia. The land where those early Muslims settled is part of present-day Somalia.
The religious devotion of the Muslim population is quite high. Somalia has a rich cultural and Islamic tradition that is still maintained today. Even during years marked by civil war, famine, and extreme poverty, the people have continued to uphold their faith.
The Economy of Somalia
Somalia is one of the poorest countries in Africa and the world. Unfortunately, this poverty is not due to climate or natural conditions. It can be attributed to a history of power struggles, wars, internal conflicts, and a lack of governance. Regrettably, during the colonial period, natural resources and labor were heavily exploited, causing severe and long-lasting damage to the country’s economy.
Let’s start with the oldest mosque in Somalia. The Fakr ad-Din Mosque, built in 1269 CE (667 AH), is located in Hamar Weyne, the oldest settlement in Mogadishu. The second oldest mosque is the Arba’a Rukun Mosque, also found in the capital. The Somali Central Mosque is the largest mosque in the country.
Somalia’s Tourist Beaches
Can a country with miles of coastline not have beaches? The city of Merca is home to endless beaches and a coastal strip. Mogadishu also has an important and serene beach for sea tourism. Additionally, Gezira Beach is a significant and peaceful place where you can find the trifecta of sea, sand, and sun.
The country has a dry and hot tropical climate. This climate is characterized by rainy springs and autumns, with dry summers and winters. Both summer and winter experience drought conditions, with temperatures reaching up to 42°C (108°F).
Somali cuisine is predominantly meat-based, with a significant consumption of seafood. Rice also plays a crucial role in their meals. Vegetable consumption is minimal and limited in variety.
Somali National Park
Established in 1989, Lag Badana National Park is located on Somalia’s southern coast. The park is home to many animal and plant species and boasts numerous natural habitats. It serves as a habitat for various endemic species and offers a glimpse into their natural environment.
Must-See Places in Somalia
The Somali National Museum, opened in 1934, houses many artifacts that provide insights into Somalia’s history and culture. The Laas Geel Caves, known for their striking appearance, date back to 9,000 to 3,000 years ago. Discovered by a researcher in 2002, these caves are considered one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country.