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Monday, 21 April 2014

Zeila::Ancient City in Somalia-Part 1


 Zeila (Somali: Saylac, Arabic: زيلع‎), also known as Zaila, is a port city in the northwestern Awdal region of Somalia.
It was in antiquity identified with the commercial port of Avalites described in the 1st century Greek document the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, an area that was situated in the historic northern Barbara region. The town evolved into an early Islamic center with the arrival of Muslims shortly after the hijra. By the 9th century, Zeila would be described as the capital of an already-established Adal kingdom, and would attain its height of prosperity a few centuries later in the 1300s. The city subsequently came under Ottoman and British protection.
In the post-independence period, Zeila was administered as part of the official Zeila District in the Awdal region of Somalia. It serves as the province's commercial capital and is a major seaport within the autonomous Awdalland region.

Geography

Zeila is situated in the Awdal region in northwestern Somalia. Located on the Gulf of Aden coast near the Djibouti border, the town sits on a sandy spit surrounded by the sea. It is known for its coral reef, mangroves and offshore islands, which include the Saad ad-Din archipelago named after the Somali Sultan Sa'ad ad-Din II of the Ifat Sultanate. Landward, the terrain is unbroken desert for some fifty miles. Berbera lies 170 miles (270 km) southeast of Zeila, while the city of Harar in Ethiopia is 200 miles (320 km) to the west.
 

History

Avalites

 

Zeila is an ancient city, and has been identified with what was referred to in classical antiquity as the town of Avalites, 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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