Mogadishu, circa 1889
Map of Mogadishu circa 1889. “Tour” is the minaret near the Abdul Aziz mosque. In the middle of “Hamarouin” (Xamar Weyne) another tower is visible but unnamed (the circle sorrounded by “Hamarouin”. That tower still existed in the 1980’s. Bimal is a Somali clan name, and Arcal may be.
The map comes from ” The Earth and its Inhabitants: Africa (South and East Africa)”, authored by Elisee Reclus and published by the D. Appleton and Company. 1889. Text on the opposite aide and above and below the map reads as follows:
“…which the natives had succeeded in recovering from the rapids, was till recently used by them as a ferry-boat between the two banks of the Juba.
East of the lower course of the Webi, where it runs for some miles parallel with the sea, the coastline describes a slightly concave curve, to which the Arabs have given the name of El-Banader, that is, the ports.” Yet the villages along this section of the seaboard offer nothing but exposed and often dangerous roadsteads. From this designation of the coast the Bimal,’Tuni, Abgal,Wadann, and other neighbouring populations, are often collectively called Banaders, or Benadirs. Brava, or Barewa, the first of the roadsteads, where the little drab dhows find some shelter behind a chain of reefs, has at least the advantage of an abundant supply of good water. Vessels skirting the coast in the direction of Cape Guardafui, here take in their last provision of fresh water. Brava may be regarded as the outport of the Lower Webi, for this river, before running out in the surrounding swamps and sands, passes within 7 or 8 miles of this place. In the intervening space is developed a chain of hills 400 to 500 feet high, which assume the outlines of the towers and ramparts of a fortified city. Some Arab and Swaheli families are settled at Brava in the midst of the surrounding Somali populations. Although Mohammedans, these population, which are mixed with Galls elements, are extremely tolerant. Their women, who are allowed to go unveiled, arrange their hair in the form of a crest reaching from the brow to the nape of the neck.
Merka, which stands on a rocky headland, has the best claim of all these villages to the title of bandar, or ” port.” Here a creek well sheltered from the north-east trade winds affords some accomodation to the Arab dhows which obtain cargoes of hides, ivory and gum-copal from the surrounding districts. A slightly leaning ruined tower still recalls the Portuguese occupation of Merka in the sixteenth century.
Farther north follow a few towns now in ruins, beyond which is seen rising above the beach the massive square tower which commands the terraced houses of Magdoshu,’ a place which, like Kismayu, Brava, and Merka, is governed in the name of the sultan of Zanzibar. Within the jurisdiction of the governors of all these towns is included a little enclave or separate territory 10 or 12 miles in circumference.
Mogadoshu comprises two distrinct quarters, Hamarwhin and Shingani, the former of which has almost been abandoned and is now becoming a heap of ruins. In Shingani are at present concentrated most of the inhabitants, numbering about five thousand altogether, and between the two stands the governor’s palace. Amongst the inhabitants of Mogadoshu are a few Arab families, including some Shurfas, or “descendants of the prophet”, besides several Hindu traders and one or two thousand Somali. But fully two thirds of the population consist of the so-called Abesh, that is to say, the descendants of emancipated slaves, on whom still falls nearly all the hard work.
The principal local industry is the manufacture of cotton fabrics. Before the invasion of the African markets by the products o the European and American looms, the textiles of Mogadoshu were forwarded far and wide throughout the interior of the continent, as well as to Arabia and even as far as the Persian coast. Now, however, the number of buyers of these goods is greatly reduced; nor is much business any longer done in slippers and matting, the other staple industries of this district. The future of Magdoshu will depend not so much on its local products as on the movement of exchanges between foreign markets and the Webi basin as far as the Galla territories in Harrar and Ethiopia.
Magdoshu is separated by a distance of scarcely 24 miles from its fluvial port, Gelidi, a town composed of latticed cone-shaped huts, where the explorer, Kinzelbach, was poisoned in the year 1869. The medieval Arab writers speak of the watercourse flowing to the west of Magdoshu as of another Nile, comparable to that of Egypt itself, Yet this river at present is scarcely more than a hundred feet broad at Gelidi, where the natives cross it in little ferry-boats held together by cordage made of creeping plants. .
The last point on the Somali coast going northwards, the possession of which is still claimed by the Sultan of Zanzibar, is the village of Warshek (Warrishir), whose harbour is inaccessible during the prevalence of high winds. Beyond this place stretches the domain of the Somali coast tribes, who were till recently independent, but. over whom Germany now claims dominion in virtue of some treaty concluded with the Sultan of Opia, an obscure princelet now put forward as the “chief of all the Somali people.” His very existence is unknown to the vast majority of the nation, as is theirs to him. This village, or rather camping-ground of Opia, which has been thus suddenly promoted to the dignity of a capital, is situated on a headland between the territory of the Hawiyas and that of the Mijertin tribe. But even diplomatists will never be able to make it the centre of any large population, for the surrounding country is a waterless steppe, while the neighbouring seaboard is absolutely destitute of harbours .