Facts About the Culture, Geography, and History of Somalia
Somalia is a country that spreads along the Horn of Africa and is bordered by Kenya to the south, Ethiopia to the west, Djibouti, and the Gulf of Eden to the north and the Indian Ocean to the East. The 12 interesting facts assembled herein will help you have a quick glance at this unique country.
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12. On July 1, 1960, the new country of Somalia was formed.
Somalia is a country with a unique history. It was colonized by Italy, France, and Britain, each establishing its own territory – Italian Somaliland, French Somaliland, and British Somaliland, respectively. Immediately prior to independence, French Somaliland carried out a Referendum as to whether to secede or be part of the larger federal republic of Somalia. The Referendum was largely rigged by France in favor of secession. The Italian Somaliland and British Somaliland combined to form the Federal Republic of Somalia thus culminating into Independence on July 1, 1960, with Aden Abdullah Osman Daar as its first president. French Somaliland renamed itself as Djibouti.
11. Restaurants are popular in many cities in Somalia, however, women very rarely dined out with men until the late 1990s.
Somalis love visiting and eating from restaurants. You can find a whole family going to a restaurant just bond and have meals. Being largely business people, hotels serves as a way of specialization where hoteliers focus on making meals while the rest focus on other businesses. Somalis have a rich cuisine that is largely influenced by Italian culture. Pasta, macaroni, and Italian pastries accompanied by traditional dishes are common. Being largely Islamic, mixing of men and women in public sitting places is a taboo. However, this is gradually being eroded by the external influence of Somalis coming back from their refuge abroad.
10. When people in Somali get married, there is not just a bond between the man and his wife, but also between the clans and the families.
Somalis are a tightly knitted one-tribe community. Clans form strong elements of the Somali tribe. Marriages are between clans/families with sons and daughters being the glue that binds them. Most of Somalis live in extended families with cousins allowed to marry each other.
9. The most widely recognized symbol in Somalia is the camel. This is because the camel provides meat, milk, transportation, income, and status for those who own one.
Camel is the most popular animal among the desert communities. Somalia, being a semi-arid land, camels are the only mammalian livestock that has a guarantee of survival as it can go for months without drinking water which makes it able to survive biting drought that commonly ravages this land. Apart from being a survivor, the camel is also loved as the only viable means of transport for both people and goods in a rugged terrain that lacks modern transport infrastructure. This makes it one of the most precious assets for anyone who owns it. The camel not only provides transportation, meat, milk, and income - it is also a measure and store of value. The camel is used for payment of dowry and thus plays a critical role in the Somali marriages. Its hide is also used not only for bedding but also for making the top of seats. Its milk is highly nutritious and goes for a price that is up to three times more than cow’s milk. During wartime, the camel has often been used as a means of secretly transporting weapons and troops through secret jungle routes.
8. The main language spoken in Somalia is Somali. Some also speak Arabic, Italian, and English.
Somali is the main tribal language. However, colonial influence means that colonial languages are also widely spoken. Italian and English are also spoken but mainly in major urban centers by a few educated elite. Arabic is a religious language that is mostly spoken in Mosques during preaching and reading the Quran.
7. The Civil War in Somalia has been going on for over a decade.
Somalia descended into civil war after the overthrow of its ruthless dictator, Mohammed Siad Barre, in 1991. Since then, Somalia has never had an effective central government. There is no functional State. It is a typical example of a ‘banana’ republic, save for the fact that war has made banana to cease being its primary export. Clan warlords hold supreme. Like Afghanistan, Somalia is ravaged by clan and religious factions, which keep fighting each other for control and domination of populations, economy, and means of livelihood.
6. Since the beginning of the Civil War in the early 1990s, not one tourist visited Somalia until 2010, when a man from Canada Mike Spencer Brown arrived, shocking authorities by declaring himself a tourist.
Bombs and bullets are a norm rather than an exception in Somalia. No tourist would want to visit Somalia, except a one on a suicidal mission. Even though there is an UN-sponsored government in place, it has weak feet and short arm to really stand out and stretch its arm of deterrence. Peacekeeping force seems to be a permanent feature in Somalia, at least for now. This is a terrorist haven.
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5. Ancient rock paintings, dating back 5000 years, have been found in the northern part of Somalia.
Somalia is an ancient establishment with the Somalis having been part of Africa’s ancient civilization as epitomized by the pyramid ruins along its northern frontier. It is part of the Cush heritage. This heritage seems to owe its origins from Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula. Ancient rocks and paintings dating as old as 5 millenniums ago have been discovered.
4. Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world.
Due to famine, wars, and droughts, Somalia largely depends on food aid to survive. An almost 30-year old war has created a whole generation that is illiterate, as the severe battlefields could not allow schooling to take place. Most people resided in refugee camps during that period with professionals having to run out of the country to seek safer places to practice their profession. What is left is a country with little infrastructure to talk about. It is a country largely in ruins, not just of the infrastructure but also of the societal fabric.
3. More than half of the residents of Somalia are self-employed. They are farmers, herders, and independent business owners.
Somali people are highly entrepreneurial. Wherever they find peace, they easily establish business and flourish. You can find a successful Somali business community in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, South Africa, Scandinavia, Britain, United States, China, and Malaysia, among other places. They are extremely resilient people. They love engaging in their own enterprises rather than seeking employment. They have a fierce sense of independence. This makes it easy for them to be self-employed. Unfortunately, it seems that they are too independent to accept to be ruled.
2. Somalia is flat in the south but up north and you’ll see mountains that reach more than 6,500 feet (2,000 meters).
Somalia is largely flat southwards towards Kenya. However, when you go northwards, there are many hills and mountains. The rugged hilly terrain in the north makes it look like a different country from the south. The mountainous region is largely on the northeast and includes the Cal Madow mountain range, the Shimbiris Mountain, and Karkaar Mountain.
1. Somalia has the longest coastline on Africa’s mainland.
Somali coastline is its longest border stretching from north to southwest. Its coastline stretches some 3025 kilometers. Along the coastline, there are various beaches, islands, and archipelagos. The most popular island is Bajuni island while the most popular archipelago is the Saad ad-Din Archipelago. Its two main cities, Mogadishu and Kismayu, are established along the coast.
Somalia, though a war-torn country, provides a lot of historical and cultural value to human civilization. It has great beaches, entrepreneurial people, and diverse terrain. With peace, Somalia can rely on the resilient entrepreneurial spirit of its great people to quickly recover and regain its position as one of the foremost countries in Africa. It has great mineral potential including oil and natural gas whose exploration and exploitation have been hampered by civil war and lack of effective central government.
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