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History & Culture 

Somalia History & Culture

The history of Somalia dates back many centuries as one of the oldest trading nations in the world. This is due to the strategic location along the coastline of East Africa bordering the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Historically, Somalia has some of the wealthiest trading ports which include the Mogadishu port, now over a thousand years old and other notable ports such as Kismayo, Berbera, Bosaso, Merca and the ancient port of Zeila.  

Islam has long played a major role in the culture of Somalia, with Islam in the country dating back to the early era of the religion around the seventh century. Evidence of this can be found in Somalia’s historic, centuries-old mosques. These include the Zeila mosque (Masjid El Qiblateen circa 600), with its distinctive two minarets, one that faces Jerusalem and the other, built later, that faces Mecca. Additional mosques are found in Berbera, Hafun and all the way to Mogadishu, Merca, Barawe and Kismayo. Many of the most notable mosques in Somalia such as Arba’a Rukun in Mogadishu (circa 1269), the Friday Mosque of Merca (circa 1609) and Fakr ad-Din in Mogadishu (circa 1269) were the only mosques in East Africa to have minarets.

Notably, Somalia has long been known as a “Nation of Poets” because of the Somali people’s passion and facility for the poetic arts. The practice of poetry became wide spread due to the nomadic nature of the Somali tradition and thus, sending messages to one another slowly transformed into a poetic style as these lyrical words were easier to remember for the messenger.

Somalia is also known for its domestication of the camel, a key instrument for the nomadic life, which occurred between the third and second millennium BC. This practice of domestication would later spread to ancient Egypt and into North Africa. Ancient depictions of camels can be found in the rock art in the cave formations of Laas Geel, (6,000-20,000 thousand year old), and are the oldest depictions of camels among early people. 

Currently, Somalia has the largest population of camels of any individual country in the world, 14 million. Chief exports of Somalia include camels as well as other livestock, hides, fish, and bananas. Somalia’s economy is largely based on livestock , typically accounting for upwards of 40% of GDP and 50% of export earnings. However, agriculture is another important sector of the economy

To date, Somalia has a population of approximately 15 million people within her borders, and approximately 10 million in neighboring countries, and nearly 2 million in the Global Diaspora. About 10% of that Somali Diaspora live within the United States. 

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