Mogadishu, lady of the Horn of Africa

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Mogadishu, a city with an extraordinary past, able to establish itself as a lady of the seas for a long time

The words of Ibn Battuta

“Back in the boat, after fifteen days of navigation we reached Mogadishu, a city of immense size where very rich merchants reside and enormous quantities of camel meat (they slaughter hundreds a day), sheep and mutton are consumed; famous for its homonyms and matchless fabrics that are exported to Egypt and elsewhere. ”

Ibn Battuta

The origins

The area around Mogadishu has been inhabited since ancient times by groups of hunter-gatherers of the Khoisan ethnic group. The latter will then merge with migrants who settled on the coasts of present-day Somalia, giving life to the proto-Somali civilization, which established itself in the seas of the Horn of Africa. Their contribution was fundamental because, not possessing the adequate technologies, it was impossible for any navigator to venture into India “directly”, having to stop in Somali ports.


Precisely for this reason, all the cities of that coast became extraordinarily rich and affluent, so much so that Sarapion, the name by which Mogadishu was known at the time, was even mentioned in Ptolemy‘s “Geography”. However, the first change of note will take place in 700, the year in which the Umayyad Caliphate will arrive in Somalia.

The arrival of the Arabs

Caliph Abdul Malik ibn Marwan, in fact, will be the first to want to extend his sovereignty also on the local coasts, managing in a short time to take possession of the Somali ones, including Mogadishu, and Kilwa. Initially the city enjoyed much of the new rulers but, starting with the arrival of Harun al Rashid, it began to manifest an ever stronger intolerance towards their distant ruler.


However, it will be with the arrival of some Arab migrants that Somalia will gain a leading role in the Middle East for the first time. With the arrival of the latter, in fact, the first confederations will be formed which will then give life to the Sultanate of Mogadishu, which will reign from the 13th to the 17th century on these lands.

The Sultanate of Mogadishu

The latter brought the city to levels of development never reached before, confirming it as one of the most important and beautiful cities in all of Africa. Its strategic position in fact allowed it to receive valuable goods from both the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and Africa, so much so that for a long time it was looked upon with admiration by every people on earth. It was no coincidence that the Portuguese, interested more than ever in obtaining the dominion of the seas, tried to conquer it, however failing in the enterprise.


At the time, the Sultanate of Mogadishu was clientes of the larger Ajuran Sultanate and it was thanks to the latter that the city rejected the Europeans and the Oromo, another population who attacked the city’s sovereignty. The many wars and a change of dynasty in the city, however, destabilized the Ajuran dominion which, at the end of the 17th century, finally collapsed.

Under the Sultanate of Oman

With the collapse of the Ajuran Sultanate, its role was taken by that of Oman which, in those years, was becoming one of the hegemonic powers of the Indian Ocean, so much so as to rival even the British. The latter had in fact set sights on the territories of the Omanis, waging a war with Muscat starting from 1823; however, it was resolved just 5 years later with an Arab victory that would long distance London from the Somali coast.


However, this clash greatly destabilized Oman, which in fact no longer administered the African coasts from the Arabian Peninsula, but rather from Zanzibar, another flagship of the Sultanate of Oman.

Italians, British and independence

In 1892 the Italian government rented the region around Mogadishu, taking possession of it definitively in 1905 and making it the main place for its colonization projects. In a short time, in fact, Mogadishu became second only to Asmara for “Italianized”, with 22,000 out of a total population of 50,000 inhabitants.


Starting in 1941, Mogadishu was occupied by the British, under whose sovereignty it remained until 1950, when it was entrusted to Italy in trusteeship for 10 years. From 1969 to 1991 Somalia fell under the dictatorship of Siad Barre, after the latter’s fall, however, the political situation became further complicated, making the territory a completely unstable reality and mostly linked to local warlords.

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