Sites & cities that bear the name of Zeila


Today in : Somalia
First trace of activity : ca. 1st century C.E
Last trace of activity : today
Recorded names : Havilah?, Αβαλίτες, Avalites, Saylac, زيلع‎, Zayla, Zaila, Zeyla

Description : Zeila (Somali: Saylac, Arabic: زيلع‎, romanized: Zayla), also known as Zaila or Zeyla, is a Somali port city in the western Awdal region of Somaliland. In the Middle Ages, the Jewish traveller Benjamin of Tudela identified Zeila (or Hawilah) with the Biblical location of Havilah. Most modern scholars identify it with the site of Avalites mentioned in the 1st-century Greco-Roman travelogue the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea and in Ptolemy, although this is disputed. The town evolved into an early Islamic center with the arrival of Muslims shortly after the hegira. By the 9th century, Zeila was the capital of the early Adal Kingdom and Ifat Sultanate in the 13th century; and also a capital for its successor state the Adal Sultanate, it would attain its height of prosperity a few centuries later in the 16th century. The city subsequently came under Ottoman and British protection in the 18th century. Up until recently Zeila was surrounded by a large wall with five gates: Bab al Sahil and Bab al-jadd on the North. Bab Abdulqadir on the East: Bab al-Sahil on the west and Bab Ashurbura on the south. During antiquity Zeila was part of the Somali city-states that in engaged in a lucrative trade network connecting Somali merchants with Phoenicia, Ptolemaic Egypt, 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. Zeila is an ancient Somali city, and has been identified with what was referred to in classical antiquity as the town of Avalites (Greek: Αβαλίτες), situated in the erstwhile Barbara geographical region on the northern Somali coast. Along with the neighboring Habash (Habesha or Abyssinians) of Al-Habash to the west, the Barbaroi or Berber (ancestral Somalis) who inhabited the area are recorded in the 1st century CE Greek document the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea as engaging in extensive commercial exchanges with Egypt and pre-Islamic Arabia. The travelogue mentions the Barbaroi trading frankincense, among various other commodities, through their port cities such as Avalites (modern Zeila). Competent seamen, the Periplus' author also indicates that they sailed throughout the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden for trade. The document describes the Barbaroi's system of governance as decentralized, and essentially consisting of a collection of autonomous city-states. It also suggests that "the Berbers who live in the place are very unruly", an apparent reference to their independent streak.

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