1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Berbera

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BERBERA, chief town and principal port of the British Somaliland protectorate, North-East Africa, 155 m. S. of Aden, in 10° 26′ N., 45° 4′ E. Berbera stands at the head of a deep inlet which forms the only completely sheltered haven on the south side of the Gulf of Aden. It is the residence of the commissioner of the protectorate and the headquarters of the Somaliland battalion of the King's African Rifles. The harbour is eleven to thirteen fathoms deep at the entrance (indicated by a lighthouse), decreasing to five fathoms near the shore. Ocean-going steamers find ample accommodation. There are two piers and numerous warehouses. The town is built in two divisions—the native town to the east, the new town, laid out by the Egyptians (1875–1877), to the west. The majority of the better-class houses are of rubble, one-storeyed and flat-roofed. The public buildings include the fort, hospital and barracks. There are a Roman Catholic mission and convent and a government school. The affairs of the town are administered by a municipality. The water-supply is brought to the town by an aqueduct from the hills some 8 m. distant. The bulk of the inhabitants are Somali, who have abandoned a nomadic life and adopted largely the ways of the Arab and Indian traders. The permanent population is under 10,000; but from October to April the population rises to 30,000 or more by the arrival of caravans from Ogaden and Dolbahanta. The traders bring with them tents on the backs of camels and these are pitched near the native town. Their merchandise consists of sheep and goats, gum and resin, skins and ostrich feathers. The trade is almost entirely with Aden, of which Berbera may be considered a commercial dependency. The value of the goods brought in yearly by caravan exceeds on the average £100,000. The total trade of the port for the five years 1901–1902 to 1905–1906 averaged over £200,000 a year. The chief articles of import are cotton goods (European white long cloth and American grey shirting), rice and jowari, flour, dates, sugar and tobacco (the last from Rotterdam). Berbera is said to have been founded by the Ptolemies among the Barbari of the adjacent coast lands. It fell subsequently into the possession of Arabs and was included in the Mahommedan state of Adel. At the time of the visit to the town of R. F. Burton and J. H. Speke (1854) it was governed by its own sheiks. In 1870 it was claimed by the khedive Ismail, but was not permanently occupied by Egypt until 1875. In 1884 it passed into the possession of Great Britain (see Somaliland, §2, History).