Sites & cities that bear the name of Berbera


Today in : Somalia
First trace of activity : ca. 4th century B.C.E
Last trace of activity : today
Recorded names : Malao, بربرة‎, Barbara, Barraboa

Description : Berbera (Somali: Barbara, Arabic: بربرة‎) is the capital of the Sahil region of Somaliland and is the main sea port of the country. Berbera is a coastal city and was the former capital of the British Somaliland protectorate before Hargeisa. In antiquity, Berbera was part of a chain of commercial port cities along the Somali seaboard. During the early modern period, Berbera was the most important place of trade in the Somali Peninsula. It later served as the capital of the British Somaliland protectorate from 1884 to 1941, when it was replaced by Hargeisa. In 1960, the British Somaliland protectorate gained independence as the State of Somaliland and united five days later with the Trust Territory of Somalia (the former Italian Somalia) to form the Somali Republic. Located strategically on the oil route, the city has a deep seaport, which serves as the region's main commercial harbour. Berbera was part of the classical Somali city-states that engaged in a lucrative trade network connecting Somali merchants with Phoenicia, Ptolemic Egypt, Ancient Greece, Parthian Persia, Saba, Nabataea and the Roman Empire. Somali sailors used the ancient Somali maritime vessel known as the beden to transport their cargo. Berbera preserves the ancient name of the coast along the southern shore of the Gulf of Aden. It is believed to be the ancient port of Malao (Ancient Greek: Μαλαὼ) described as 800 stadia beyond the city of the Avalites, described in the eighth chapter of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, which was written by a Greek merchant in the first century AD. In the Periplus it is described as: "After Avalites there is another market-town, better than this, called Malao, distant a sail of about eight hundred stadia. The anchorage is an open roadstead, sheltered by a spit running out from the east. Here the natives are more peaceable. There are imported into this place the things already mentioned, and many tunics, cloaks from Arsinoe, dressed and dyed; drinking-cups, sheets of soft copper in small quantity, iron, and gold and silver coin, but not much. There are exported from these places myrrh, a little frankincense, (that known as far-side), the harder cinnamon, duaca, Indian copal and macir, which are imported into Arabia; and slaves, but rarely." Duan Chengshi, a Chinese Tang dynasty scholar, described in his written work of AD 863 the slave trade, ivory trade, and ambergris trade of Bobali, which is thought to be Berbera. The great city was also later mentioned by the Islamic traveller Ibn Sa'id as well as Ibn Battuta in the thirteenth century. In Abu'l-Fida's, A Sketch of the Countries (Arabic: تقويم البلدان‎), the present-day Gulf of Aden was called the Gulf of Berbera, which shows how important Berbera was in both regional and international trade during the medieval period. Legendary Arab explorer Ahmad ibn Mājid wrote of Berbera and a few other notable landmarks and ports of the northern Somali coast and referred to what is now the Gulf of Aden as the Gulf of Berbera. He also included Zeila and it's archipelago, Siyara, Heis, Alula, Ruguda, Maydh, El-Sheikh and El-Darad. Berbera was an important and well built settlement that served as a major harbor port for several successive Somali Kingdoms in the Middle Ages like the early Adal Kingdom, Ifat Sultanate and Adal Sultanate. Berbera, along with Zeila, were the two most important ports situated inside the Adal Sultanate, and they provided vital political and commercial links with the wider Islamic World: Original Text: To Adea belongs a very good Port, call’d Barraboa, whofe chief City is Arat, obeys a King, who is an enemy to the Abiffines. Barraboa and Zeila are places of great Trade, by reafon of the conveniency of their Ports, towards the entry into the Red-Sea. Modern English: To Adel belongs a very good port, called Barbara, whose chief city is Harar, obeys a King, who is an enemy to the Abyssinians. Barbara and Zeila are places of great trade, by reason of the conveniency of their ports, towards the entry into the Red Sea. Along with other ports and settlements in East Africa and the Horn, explorers Duarte Barbosa and Leo Africanus wrote brief accounts of the port town of Berbera in the early sixteenth century, detailing her historic trading links with Aden and Khambat (Cambay): Further on, on the same coast, is a town of the Moors called Barbara; it has a port, at which many ships of Adeni and Cambay touch with their merchandise, and from there those of Cambay carry away much gold, and ivory, and other things, and those of Aden take many provisions, meat, honey, and wax, because, as they say, it is a very abundant country. At Barbara many ships of Aden and Cambay arrive with their merchandize for exchange; from whence they receive much flesh, honey, wax and victuals for Aden; and gold, ivory and other things for Cambay. According to Selman Reis, an ambitious Ottoman Red Sea admiral, Berbera was rich with pearls, and the amount of merchandise and trade consisting of "gold, musk and ivory" present at Berbera, on the Somali coast, was described by Selman as "limitless".

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