1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Somaliland

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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:—

British Somaliland
French Somaliland
Italian Somaliland
Abyssinian Somaliland[1]

Area in sq. m.


Somaliland was not generally adopted as the name of the country until the early years of the 10th century. The northern and central districts were previously known as Adel, the north-east 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.) 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 Belemmites 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 10 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 hassādam, 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 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 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 Sherīf Ishak b. Ahmad, who crossed from Hadramut with forty followers about the 13th century. Other traditions trace their origin to the Himyaritic chiefs Sanhāj 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 series of Arab immigrations, the last two of which are referred to the 13th and 15th 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 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: (1nomads 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 15 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 Hashīya (Abud's Asha), with two great subdivisions: Daroda, with the powerful Mijertins, War-Sangeli, Dolbohanti and others; and Ishak including the Gadibursi, Issa (Aïssa), Habr-Wal, 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.
Il. The Hawīya, with numerous sub-groups, such as the Habr-Jalet, Habr-Gader, Rer-Dollol, Daji, Karanlē, 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 Hawīya 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.
Ill. The Rahanwīn, 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 Rahanwīn 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. Révoil, 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 head streams 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.

British Somaliland

The British Somaliland protectorate extends along the Gulf of Aden for about 400 m. from the Lahadu Wells, near Jibuti, in the west, to Bandar Ziyada in 49° E., 180 m. W. of Cape Guardafui, and stretches from the coast inland for a breadth varying from 80 to 220 m. The protectorate is bounded W. by French Somaliland, S.W. by Abyssinian territory, and S.E. and E. by Italian Somaliland. About 50,000 persons are settled in the coast towns; the rest are nomads.

Topography, &c.—Physically the protectorate may be described as almost mountainous in contrast with the somewhat monotonous plains of the interior. Between the Harrar plateau and Cape Guardafui the coast ranges maintain a mean altitude of from 4000 to 5000 ft., and fall generally in steep escarpments down to the narrow strip of sandy lowlands skirting the Gulf of Aden. At some points the rugged cliffs, furrowed by deep ravines, approach close to the sea; elsewhere the hills leave a considerable maritime plain between their base and the shore line. South of Berbera are two ranges nearly parallel with the coast. They increase in elevation landwards, culminating in the inner and loftier Golis range, about 9500 ft. high, its crest covered with mountain cedar. The country between the two ranges is known as Guban. South of the Golis the ground falls gradually to the central plateau known as the Haud, a waterless but not infertile district. The Haud (only the northern part of which is British territory—the rest is Abyssinian) consists partly of thorn jungle, the haud of the Somali, partly of rolling grass plains, called ban, and partly of semi-desert country called aror. Westward of Berbera the ascent to the high country is not so abrupt as in the east but is made by several steps, the mountains forming a chaotic mass. Eastwards the mountain system, the Jebel Sangeli, maintains the same general character as far as Bandar Gori (Las Korai), where the precipitous northern cliffs approach within 200 or 300 yards of the gulf, their bare brown rocks and clays presenting the same uninviting appearance as the light brown hills skirting the Red Sea. Immediately south of the Jebel Sangeli are the comparatively fertile Jidali and Gebi districts or river valleys—the Gebi flowing east in the direction of Ras Hafun, while the Jidali has a southerly course towards the Wadi Nogal. Its waters are lost in the arid stony plateau of the Sorl. To this succeeds the Nogal district, separated both from the Sorl and the Haud by ranges of low hills. The Nogal and the neighbouring regions of the Haud are also known, from the tribes inhabiting them, as the Dolbahanta country. The prevailing formations appear to be granites which are veined with white quartz, and underlie old sedimentary brown sandstone and limestone formations.

The average annual rainfall at Berbera is about 8 in., and more than half of this amount has fallen in one day. The mean annual rainfall is greater on the slopes of the ranges by which the moisture bearing clouds are intercepted. These slopes are the home of aromatic flora which yields myrrh and frankincense.

The chief domestic animals are the camel and the ass, both of prime stock. The camels make excellent mounts, swift and hardy; and the extensive caravan trade is everywhere carried on exclusively by means of these pack-animals. The Somali have also large herds of cattleoxen, sheep and goats. They possess a hardy breed of ponies, for which the Dolbahanta country is famed.

Chief Towns.—Berbera (q.v.) is the capital and chief seaport of the protectorate. About 45 m. west of Berbera is the exposed port of Būlhar. Close to the French frontier stands the seaport of Zaila (q.v.). East of Berbera are Las Korai, Karam, Hais and other small seaports. Inland the most important settlement is Hargeisa (i.e. little Harrar), 60 m. S.S.W. of Būlhar, a centre for caravans from Shoa and Ogaden. Sheikh, Burao and Bohotle are all on the caravan route from Ogaden to Berbera.

Industries and Trade.—Fibre is obtained from the aloe plants, this industry being in the hands of women; ostriches are reared for the sake of their feathers, and large quantities of gum and resin are collected. But the wealth of the people consists chiefly in their livestock. Trade is largely with Harrar and the Ogaden country—both Abyssinian possessions. The important exports are gums and resin, fibre, hides, ivory, ostrich feathers, coffee, ghee, livestock, gold ingots from Abyssinia and mother-of-pearl; the shells being found along the coast from Zaila to beyond Berbera. There is also a profitable shark fishery in the hands of Arabs. The imports are mainly white long cloth, grey shirting, rice, jowaree, dates and sugar. Jowaree is displacing rice as the staple food of the Somali. The trade with Abyssinia suffers owing to the absence of railway communication, which the neighbouring French colony possesses. Thus in 1899–1900 the total value of trade was £751,900, the French railway being then but just begun; in 1902–1903, the railway being completed during the year, the value of trade was but £487,900. The average annual value of trade for 1904–1909 was about £500,000.

History.—An Arab sultanate, with its capital at Zaila (Zeyla), was founded by Koreishite immigrants from the Yemen in, it is said, the 7th century A.D. In the 13th century it had become a comparatively powerful state, known as the empire of Adel. In the 16th century the capital of the state (in which Arab influence was a decreasing factor) was transferred to Harrar (q.v.). The state was greatly harassed by Galla invaders in the 17th century, and broke up into a number of petty independent emirates and sultanates under Somali chiefs. Zaila became a dependency of Yemen and thus nominally part of the Turkish empire. The British connexion with the Somali coast dates from the early years of the 19th century; the first treaty between the British and Somali having been signed in 1827 after the plundering of an English ship by the Habr-Wal. In 1840 various treaties were concluded by Captain Robert Moresby of the Indian Navy “on the part of the English Government in India” with the sultan of Tajura and the governor of Zaila, who engaged not to enter into treaties with any other foreign power. At the same time Musha Island, at the entrance to the Gulf of Tajura, was bought by the British “for ten bags of rice,” Bab Island, in the same gulf, and Aubad Island, off Zaila, were also purchased, the object of the East India Company being to obtain a suitable place “for the harbour of their ships without any prohibition whatever.” From this time onward the Indian government exercised considerable influence on the Somali coast, but British authority was not definitely established, and in 1854 Richard Burton's expedition was attacked at Berbera. In 1874–1875 the ambition of Ismail Pasha, khedive of Egypt, who claimed jurisdiction over the whole coast as far as Cape Guardafui, led him to occupy the ports of Tajura, Berbera and Būlhar as well as Harrar in the hinterland. Ismail also obtained (July 1875) a firman from the sultan of Turkey making over Zaila to Egypt in return for an increase of £15,000 yearly to the tribute paid to the Porte. In 1884, in consequence of the revolt of the mahdi in the Egyptian Sudan, the khedival garrisons were withdrawn. Thereupon Great Britain, partly to secure the route to the East via the Suez Canal, which the occupation of the country by another power might menace, occupied Zaila, Berbera and Būlhar, officials being sent from Aden to govern the ports. Establishment of a British Protectorate.With respect to Zaila Turkey was given the option of resuming possession, but advantage was not taken of the offer (see Lord Cromer's Modern Egypt, 1908, vol. ii.). During 1884, 1885, 1886 treaties guaranteeing British protection were concluded with various Somali tribes and in 1888 the limits of the British and French spheres were defined, all claims to British jurisdiction in the Gulf of Tajura and the islands of Musha and Bab being abandoned. The other inland boundaries of the protectorate were defined by agreements with Italy (1894) and Abyssinia (1897).

In 1899 troubles arose between the administration and a mullah of the Habr Suleiman Ogaden tribe, who had acquired great influence in the Dolbahanta country and had married into the Dolbahanta Ali Gheri. This mullah, Mahommed bin Abdullah by name, had made several pilgrimages to Mecca, where he had attached himself to a sect which enjoined strict observance of the tenets of Islam and placed an interdiction on the use of the leaves of the kat plant—much sought after by the coast Arabs and Somali for their stimulating and intoxicating properties. At first the mullah's influence was exerted for good, and he kept the tribes over whom he had control at peace. Accredited with the possession of supernatural powers he gathered around him a strong following. In 1899 the mullah began raiding tribes friendly to the British; in August of that year he occupied Burao, 80 m. south and east of Berbera, and declared himself the mahdi. In the autumn of 1900 the mullah was again harassing the tribes on the southern border of the British protectorate and the neighbouring Abyssinian districts. The tribes hostile to the mullah sought British protection, and Colonel (afterwards Sir) E. J. E. Swayne raised a Somali levy of 1500 men, and in May 1901 occupied Burao. On the 2nd of June a small force, zeribaed under Captain Malcolm McNeill, was attacked by the mullah's followers but repulsed after desperate fighting. Colonel Swayne thrice defeated the enemy, who lost 1200 men and 600 taken prisoners, and the mullah fled across the Haud, taking refuge with the Mijertin in Italian territory. In December 1901 the mullah was, however, once more raiding in the neighbourhood of Burao, Wars with the Mullah Mohammed Abdullah.and in May 1902 Colonel Swayne led another expedition against him, the Somali levies being strengthened by the 2nd King's African Rifles, consisting of Yaos from Nyasaland. Overcoming in a remarkable manner the difficulties of operating in the dry season, Colonel Swayne harried the mullah incessantly, and followed him across the Haud into the more fertile region of Mudug in Italian territory, permission so to do being granted by Italy. On the 6th of October, while marching through dense bush at Erigo, the British force was ambuscaded. The British lost 101 killed and 85 wounded, but put the enemy to flight. The mullah lost some 700 men and retreated to Galadi, west of Mudug, a place with ample water supplies. Colonel Swayne was not able to continue the pursuit, and returned to Berbera. It was then determined that in the further operations against the mullah the main advance should be from a base on the east coast of Italian Somaliland—the open roadstead of Obbia being chosen. The command was given to Brigadier-General W. H. Manning, and small numbers of British and Boer mounted infantry, Indian and African troops were employed, while an Abyssinian force held the line of the Webi Shebeli. Manning advanced from Obbia in February 1903, and in March got in touch with the northern column, the line of communication stretching over 500 m. The mullah was west of this line in the neighbourhood of Galadi. The wells at Galadi were occupied by the British early in April without opposition. A reconnoitring force of 500 men under Lieut.-Colonel A. S. Cobbe (who had gained the V.C. at Erigo) was pushed west to Gumburu, and came into contact with the enemy. A detachment of this force, consisting of 200 Yaos and Sikhs under Lieut.-Colonel Plunket, was attacked on the 17th of April and overwhelmed. Of the whole party only 40 Yaos, of whom 36 were wounded, escaped; 10 British officers being among the slain. Meantime from Bohotle a force had advanced under Major Gough to Daratole, a spot not far from Gumburu. It had a stiff fight on the 23rd of April and was obliged to fall back. After these events the Obbia line of communication was closed up, and Manning's force concentrated at Bohotle. The mullah now broke away to the north, and, crossing the line of the British communication, established himself in the Nogal district.

Another campaign being deemed necessary, reinforcements bringing the fighting force up to 7000 men were sent out, and Major-General Sir C. C. Egerton assumed supreme command, Manning retaining command of the first column. In October 1903 a new forward movement was begun, the mullah being still in the eastern Nogal, while he had also seized the Italian seaport of Illig, north of Obbia. In a pitched battle fought on the 10th of January 1904 at Jidballi in the Nogal country the enemy were routed, losing over 1000 men in killed alone, while the British loss in killed and wounded was 58. The mullah and his chief adviser, a Haji Sudi, formerly an interpreter on a British warship, were not at the battle, and with his Ali Gheri followers he now fled north across the Sorl, apparently intending, if further pressed to retreat to Illig. This port was accordingly for a short time (April 1904) occupied by a British naval force. By May the mullah had been driven out of the British protectorate and became a refugee among the Mijertin. It was decided therefore to abandon offensive operations. In 1905 the Italians effected an arrangement apparently satisfactory to all parties (see § Italian Somaliland).

For some three years the mullah remained quiescent, but in 1908 he quarrelled with the Mijertins and in 1909 he was again raiding tribes in the British protectorate. Evacuation of the Interior.The British government (the Asquith cabinet) came to the conclusion that another expedition against the mullah would be useless; that they must either build a railway, make roads and effectively occupy the whole of the protectorate, or else abandon the interior completely. The latter course was decided upon, and during the first months of 1910 the advanced posts were withdrawn and the British administration confined to the coast towns. In support of this decision it was urged that it was no good pursuing people whom it was impossible to catch, that the isolated posts in the interior had not been able to protect the friendly tribes; and that the semi-desert nature of the country did not justify any attempt at economic development. (The proposal to build a railway from Zaila or Berbera to Harrar, which would have competed with the French line from Jibuti for the trade of southern Abyssinia, had been vetoed on grounds of general policy.) Before the withdrawal arrangements—more or less ineffective—were made for arming and organizing the tribes in the protectorate in their own defence.

From 1884 to 1898 the protectorate was attached for administrative purposes to Bombay, and was immediately dependent on Aden; in the last-named year it was transferred to the Foreign Office, and in 1905 passed under the control of the Colonial Office. From 1902 to 1906 Colonel Swayne was commissioner; he was succeeded by Captain H. E. S. Cordeaux, who had served in Somaliland since 1898. Legislative power is in the hands of the commissioner, and revenue is obtained largely from customs. The revenue, £22,000 in 1900–1901, was £30,000 in 1908–1909, while the expenditure, £51,000 in the first-named year, was £134,000 in 1908–1909. Deficits are made good by grants from the imperial treasury.

French Somaliland

French Somaliland (Côte française des Somalis) lies at the entrance to the Red Sea. The sea frontier extends from Ras Dumeira on the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, a little north of Perim Island, to Ras Gurmarle, a few miles south of the Gulf of Tajura. The protectorate is bounded N. by the Danakil country; S. by British Somaliland; W. by the Harrar province of Abyssinia. It extends inland at its greatest depth about 130 m.

The country consists chiefly of slightly elevated arid plains, largely waterless save along the southern frontier. The only good harbour along the coast is at Jibuti. The Gulf of Tajura is 28 m. across at its entrance and penetrates inland 36 m. At its western end an opening 870 yds. wide leads into the circular bay of Gubbet-Kharab (Hell's Mouth), behind which rise a chaotic mass of volcanic rocks, destitute of vegetation and presenting a scene of weird desolation. A pass through the hills gives access to Bahr-Assal; the last of a chain of salt lakes beginning 60 m. inland in the depression in which the waters of the Hawash (see Abyssinia) lose themselves. It is conjectured that at some remote period the Hawash flowed into Tajura Bay and that the present condition of the country is the result of volcanic upheaval. Assal Lake, according to this theory, formed part of the sea bed. It is now 5 m. inland from Gubbet-Kharab, is 5 m. long by 4 broad, and lies 490 ft. below sea-level. About 160 ft. above the present level of the lake a white band marks distinctly a former level. The waters of Bahr-Assal are deeply impregnated with salt, which, in thick crusts, forms crescent-shaped round the banks—dazzling white when reflected by the sun. Two streams, one saline and at a temperature of 194° F., flow into the lake. The climate of the protectorate is very hot, but not unhealthy for Europeans if reasonable precautions be taken.

Inhabitants and Towns.—The inhabitants are, on the north side of the Gulf of Tajura, chiefly Danakils (Afars, q.v.); on the southern shore Galla and Somali. There are a number of Arabs, Abyssinians, Indians, and about 2000 Europeans and Levantines. The chief town and seat of administration is Jibuti (q.v.), pop. about 15,000, which has taken the place of Obok (q.v.), on the opposite (northern) side of the Gulf of Tajura. Also situated on the gulf are the small towns of Tajura, Sagallo, Gobad and Ambabo.

Trade and Communications.—The collection of salt from Bahr-Assal is an industry of some importance. In 1903 a beginning was made in the cultivation of cotton in the dry river beds, where water can always be obtained at a depth of 10 ft. On the coast turtle and mother-of-pearl fishing are carried on. But the value of the protectorate depends upon the carrying trade with Harrar and the supplying of victuals and coals to French warships. In 1897 the building of a railway from Jibuti towards Harrar was begun. By Christmas 1902 the railway, called the Imperial Ethiopian railway, was completed to Dire Dawa (or Adis Harrar), 30 m. short of Harrar, and 188 by rail from Jibuti, of which but 64 m. are in French territory. By a law passed by the French chambers in 1902 a subvention of £20,000 a year for fifty years was granted to the company owning the railway (see further Abyssinia).
The exports are chiefly coffee, hides, ivory (all from Abyssinia), gum, mother-of-pearl and a little gold; the imports cotton and other
European stuffs, cereals, beverages, tobacco and arms and ammunition for the Abyssinians. The total volume of trade in 1902, the year of the completion of the railway, was £725,000, in 1905 it had risen to £1,208,000—imports £480,000, exports £728,000.

History.—French interest in the Somali and Danakil coasts dates from the days of the Second Empire. Count Stanislas Russell, a naval officer, was sent on a mission to the Red Sea in 1857, and he reported strongly on the necessity of a French establishment in that region in view of the approaching completion of the Suez Canal. The only result of his enterprise was the abortive treaty for the cession to France of Zula (q.v.), now in the Italian colony of Eritrea. In 1856, however, M. Monge, vice-consul of France at Zaila, had bought Ambabo, and shortly afterwards Henri Lambert, French consul at Aden, bought the town and territory of Obok. Lambert (who was assassinated by Arabs, June 1859) had the support of his government, which viewed with alarm the establishment (1857) of the British on Perim Island, at the entrance to the Red Sea. The cession of Obok was ratified by a treaty (signed on the 11th of March 1862) between the French government and various Danakil chiefs. It was not, however, until 1883 that, in consequence of events in Egypt and the Sudan (see Egypt: History), formal possession was taken of Obok by the French government. In 1884 Léonce Lagarde, subsequently French minister to Abyssinia, was sent to administer the infant colony. Between 1883 and 1887 treaties with Somali sultans gave France possession of the whole of the Gulf of Tajura. An agreement with Great Britain (February 1888) fixed the southern limits of the protectorate; protocols with Italy (January 1900 and July 1901) the northern limits. The frontier towards Abyssinia was fixed by a convention of March 1897 with the Negus Menelik. In this direction the protectorate extends inland some 56 m. In 1889 a Cossack chief, Captain Atchinoff, who had occupied Sagallo, was forcibly removed by the French authorities (see Sagallo). The transference of the seat of government to Jibuti in May 1896 and the building of the railway to Harrar gave the protectorate a stability which it had previously lacked. Its importance to France is, nevertheless, chiefly strategic and political. It serves as a coaling station for men-of-war and as a highroad to Abyssinia.

Italian Somaliland

Italian Somaliland extends on the coast from Bandar Ziyada, a point on the Gulf of Aden intersected by 49° E., eastward to Cape Guardafui, and thence southward to the mouth of the river Juba in 0° 15′ S. Bounded N. and E. by the Indian Ocean it is separated S. from British East Africa by the Juba. Westward it is bounded by Abyssinian and British Somaliland. From the east coast the protectorate extends inland from 100 to 300 m.

The coast-line is largely rock-bound and little indented, and throughout the 1200 m. of its extent there is not one good harbour. The northern shore, along the Gulf of Aden, is backed by tablelands separated by the beds of mountain torrents—generally dry. From the table-land rise hills, such as Jebel Kurma, which have an altitude of 4000 ft. or more. The coast rises in a succession of hills (fringed by a narrow margin of beach) until Cape Guardafui is reached. Cape Guardafui is in 11° 75′ N., 51° 26′ 32″ E., and forms, as it were, the tip of the Horn of Africa. The cape, which faces north and east, presents on its northern face a nearly vertical wall of rock rising from the sea to a height of 900 ft. The water is deep right to the base of the cliff and owing to the winds and the strength of the ocean currents, navigation is dangerous. The headland is known to the Somali as Girdif or Yardaf—whence in all probability comes the European form Guardafui. But in the lingua franca of the Levant the Italian word guarda means “beware,” a meaning also attached to the Portuguese word guardafu.
Rounding Guardafui the coast trends southwards, and some 90 m. from that cape is Ras Hafun or Medudda—the most easterly point of the continent of Africa—being in 10° 45′ S., 51° 27′ 52″ E., or about a mile and a half east of Guardafui. Ras Hafun consists of a rocky peninsula rising 600 ft. above the sea, and is connected with the mainland by an isthmus 12 m. long. A little south is the mouth of the Darror, a usually dry watercourse with a length of over 200 m., which rises, as the Gebi, in the north-east of the British protectorate. From this point a zone of upheaved coral rocks skirts the shore for some distance.

Chief Towns.—The chief towns are on the coast. They are Mukdishu (q.v.), pop. about 5000, Brava (4000), Marka (5000), Warsheik (3000) and Yub. These are all in the southern part of the protectorate between 0° 15′ S. and 2° 19′ N., and are known generically as El-Benadir (the ports), a name also applied to the coast between the ports. Yub (Jub) is a small town at the mouth of the Juba river. In every case the port is much exposed and unapproachable for months together. Obbia, 5° 22′ N., and lllig in 7° 60′ N., are points of departure for the Ogaden and Dolbahanta countries. Alula, on the Gulf of Aden, is the chief town of the Mijertin Somali.
In the interior is Lugh, a populous city on the left bank of the Juba, about 240 m. from the coast, and further inland is Dolo at the confluence of the Daua and Ganale to form the Juba. These places are entrepôts for the trade of the interior, especially with the Boran district.
In the coast towns of the eastern seaboard there are Swahili Arab and Indian settlements, and tribes, such as the Amaran, of mixed Arab and Somali blood.

Agriculture and Trade.—Though much of the land is barren, the soil is fairly fertile in the valleys of the Webi Shebeli and Wadi Nogal. But the most fertile district is the valley of the lower Juba, where for over 100 m. is a strip of land varying from a few hundred yards to some 4 m. wide, annually inundated by the rise of the river. Here are cultivated rich crops of millet and other grains. In other districts lack of water impedes cultivation, though after the rains pasturage is abundant, and resinous plants are so varied and numerous as to justify the ancient name of the region.
Ivory, cattle, butter, coffee, cotton, myrrh, gums and skins are exported from the Benadir country. In the northern ports there is a similar but smaller trade and one also in ostrich feathers. The chief imports are textile fabrics, rice and petroleum. During 1896–1897 the value of the Benadir trade was £120,000; in 1906–1907 it had risen to over £250,000.

History.—The Somali coast, as has been seen, early fell under Moslem influence. The towns on the eastern seaboard, of which Mukdishu and Brava were the chief, formed part of the Zenj “empire” (see Zanzibar) and shared its fate, being conquered in turn by the Portuguese (16th century), the imans of Muscat (17th century), and the sultans of Zanzibar (1866). On account, probably, of the inhospitable nature of the shore the northern portion of the protectorate appears to have been little subject to hostile invasion. By treaties with Somali sultans in 1889 and by subsequent agreements with Great Britain, Zanzibar and Abyssinia, the coast east of the British Somali protectorate fell within the Italian sphere of influence (see Africa, § 5). In August 1892 the sultan of Zanzibar leased the Benadir ports of Italy for fifty years. They were administered first by the Filonardi Company, and from 1898 by the Benadir Company. By an agreement dated the 13th of January 1905 the sultan of Zanzibar ceded his sovereign rights in the Benadir ports to Italy in return for the payment of a lump sum of £144,000. Thereafter the Italian government assumed the direct administration of the ports, a purely commercial undertaking replacing the Benadir Company. In 1905 also Great Britain leased to Italy a piece of land near Kismayu to facilitate communications with the Benadir country. In 1908 a royal decree placed that part of the country between the Juba and the sultanate of Obbia under a civil governor.

A notable event in the co-operation of the Italian authorities in the campaigns against the Mullah Abdullah. In 1904 negotiations were opened with the mullah by the Italians, and by arrangement with the sultan of Obbia and the sultan of the Mijertins the territory between Ras Aswad and Ras Bowen, which was claimed by both parties, was handed over to the mullah. This region, that of the lower Nogal, included the port of Illig. Here Mahommed b. Abdullah established himself under Italian surveillance, and by an agreement dated the 5th of March 1905, peace was declared between the mullah, the Italians, British and Abyssinians, and all other Somali tribes. In 1908–1909, however, fighting was renewed, the mullah and the Mijertins failing to agree. Italian (native) troops were sent to the district to restore order. The mullah also attacked tribes living in the British protectorate (see § 2).

The station of Lugh, the most advanced point occupied by Italy, had been founded by Captain Bottego in 1895. After the treaty of Adis Adowa, recognizing the independence of Abyssinia, had been concluded in 1896, negotiations were opened for defining the Italian-Abyssinian frontier in the Somali regions. In 1897 an agreement was come to that from the point on the British Somaliland frontier where 47° E. intersected 8° N. the frontier line should be drawn, at a distance of about 180 m. from the Indian Ocean, to the Juba. At the close of 1907 the Negus Menelik, in return for a pecuniary indemnity (£120,000), agreed to a modification of the 1897 line, whereby the Italian protectorate was extended north of Lugh to Dolo. From Dolo the frontier goes east to the Webi Shebeli, whence the 1897 line is followed to the British-Abyssinian frontier. By this arrangement (ratified by a convention dated the 16th of May 1908) the Benadir coast obtained a suitable hinterland.

Bibliography.—a. General descriptions, history and books of travel. G. Ferrand, Les Çomâlis (Paris, 1903), a brief but comprehensive survey; R. Burton, First Footsteps in East Africa (London, 1856); F. L. James, The Unknown Horn of Africa (London, 1888); H. G. C. Swayne, Seventeen Trips through Somaliland (3rd ed., London, 1903), perhaps the best general book on the country, contains a special fauna section; G. Révoil, La Vallée de Darror (Paris, 1882) and Dix mois à la côte orientale d'Afrique (Paris, 1888); A. Donaldson Smith, Through Unknown African Countries (London, 1897); V. Bottego, Il Guiba esplorato (Rome, 1895); L. Robecchi-Bricchetti, Somalia e Benadir . . . Prima traversata della Somalia italiano (Milan, 1899) and Nel paese degli Aromi (Milan, 1903), M. Guillain, Documents sur l'histoire . . . de d'Afrique orientale (Paris, n.d. [1856]); P. Paulitschke, Harar (Leipzig, 1888).
b. Ethnology, flora, fauna, geology, &c. P. Paulitschke, Ethnographic Nordost-Afrikas. Die materielle Cultur der Danâkil, Galla und Somâl, vol. ii. (Berlin, 1893), Die geistige Cultur der Danâkil, &c. (1896), and Beitrage zur Ethnographic und Anthropologie der Somâl, Galla und Harrarî (Leipzig, 1886), containing fine plates; H. M. Abud, Genealogies of the Somál . . . (London, 1896); A. Engler on the flora in the Sitzungsberichte of the Prussian Academy of Science, Nos. x.-xii. (1904); G. Révoil, Faune et flore des pays Somalis (Paris, 1882); C. V. A. Peel, Somaliland . . . with a complete list of every animal and bird known to inhabit that country . . . (London, 1900), and “On a collection of Insects and Arachnids” in Proc. Zool. Soc. (1900); R. E. Drake-Brockman, The Mammals of Somaliland (London, 1910); J. W. Gregory, “The Geology of Somaliland,” Geol. Mag. (1896).
c. Language. Leo Reinisch, Die Somalie Sprache (Vienna, 1900, et seq.); F. M. Hunter, Grammar of the Somal Language (Bombay, 1880); E. de Larajasse and C. de Sampont, A Practical Grammar of the Somali Language (London, 1897); E. de Larajasse, Somali-English and English-Somali Dictionary (London, 1897).
d. For the various protectorates, (1) British—the annual reports issued by the Colonial Office, London; Official History of the Operations in Somaliland, 1901—1904 (2 vols., London, 1907); War Office maps on the scale of 1:1,000,000, also sketch map 1:3,000,000 (1907). (2) French protectorate—L'Année coloniale (Paris); L. Henrique, Les Colonies françaises (Obock) (Paris, 1899); L. de Salma, Obock (Paris, 1893); Carte de la côte française des Somalis, 1:500,000 (Paris, 1908). (3) Italian protectorate—Somalia italiana, 1885–1895 (official “Green Book”); C. Rossetti, Somalia italiana settentrionale, with map (Rome, 1906); U. Ferrandi, Seconda spedizione Bottego: Lugh emporio comrnerciale sul Giuba (Rome, 1903).
The Bibliografia etiopica of G. Fumagalli (Milan, 1893) includes works dealing with Somaliland.
 (F. R. C.) 


  1. See also Abyssinia.
  2. It is probable that a divergent branch leaves the Shelebi some distance above the swamps and that at high water an overflow into the Juba occurs (see Geog. Journ., Nov. 1909).