Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Zeila::Ancient City in Somalia-Part 2

Adal kingdom

Islam was introduced to the area early on from the Arabian peninsula, shortly after the hijra. Zeila's two-mihrab Masjid al-Qiblatayn dates to the 7th century, and is the oldest mosque in the city. In the late 800s, Al-Yaqubi wrote that Muslims were living along the northern Somali seaboard. He also mentioned that the Adal kingdom had its capital in the city,suggesting that the Adal Sultanate with Zeila as its headquarters dates back to at least the 9th or 10th centuries. According to I.M. Lewis, the polity was governed by local dynasties consisting of Somalized Arabs or Arabized Somalis, who also ruled over the similarly-established Sultanate of Mogadishu in the Benadir region to the south. Adal's history from this founding period forth would be characterized by a succession of battles with neighbouring Abyssinia.

By 1330, the Moroccan historian and traveler Ibn Batutta would describe the city as dominated by Muslims from the Zaidi Shi'ite denomination, an apparent indication of an early Persian influence in the region.
Zeila's importance as a trading port is further confirmed by Al-Idrisi and Ibn Said, who describe it as a town of considerable size and a center of the local slave trade. Pankhurst, amongst other writers, thought Marco Polo was referring to Zeila (then the capital of Adal) when he recounts how the Sultan of Aden seized a bishop of Abyssinia traveling through his realm, attempted to convert the man by force, then had him circumcised according to Islamic practice. This action provoked the Abyssinian Emperor into raising an army and capturing the Sultan's capital.
Through extensive trade with Abyssinia and Arabia, Adal attained its height of prosperity during the 1300s. It sold incense, myrrh, slaves, gold, silver and camels, among many other commodities. Zeila had by then started to grow into a huge multicultural metropolis, with Gulf Arab, Somali, Afar, Oromo, and even Persian inhabitants. The city was also instrumental in bringing Islam to the Oromo and other Ethiopian ethnic groups.
In 1332, the Zeila-based King of Adal was slain in a military campaign aimed at halting the Abyssinian Emperor Amda Seyon's march toward the city. When the last Sultan of Ifat, Sa'ad ad-Din II, was also killed by Dawit I of Ethiopia in Zeila in 1410, his children escaped to Yemen, before later returning in 1415. In the early 15th century, Adal's capital was moved further inland to the town of Dakkar, where Sabr ad-Din II, the eldest son of Sa'ad ad-Din II, established a new base after his return from Yemen. Adal's headquarters were again relocated the following century, this time to Harar. From this new capital, Adal organised an effective army led by Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi (Ahmad "Gurey" or "Gran") that invaded the Abyssinian empire. This campaign is historically known as the Conquest of Abyssinia (Futuh al Habash). During the war, Imam Ahmad pioneered the use of cannons supplied by the Ottoman Empire, which he imported through Zeila and deployed against Abyssinian forces and their Portuguese allies led by Cristóvão da Gama.Some scholars argue that this conflict proved, through their use on both sides, the value of firearms like the matchlock musket, cannons and the arquebus over traditional weapons.
Travellers' reports, such as the memoirs of the Italian Ludovico di Varthema, indicate that Zeila continued to be an important marketplace during the 16th century, despite being sacked by the Portuguese in 1517 and 1528. Later that century, separate raids by nomads from the interior eventually prompted the port's then ruler, Garad Lado, to enlist the services of 'Atlya ibn Muhammad to construct a sturdy wall around the city. Zeila, however, ultimately began to decline in importance following the short-lived conquest of Abyssinia.

Yemenite period
Beginning in 1630, the city became a dependency of the ruler of Mocha, who, for a small sum, leased the port to one of the office-holders of Mocha. The latter in return collected a toll on its trade. Zeila was subsequently ruled by an Emir, whom Mordechai Abir suggested had "some vague claim to authority over all of the sahil, but whose real authority did not extend very far beyond the walls of the town." Assisted by cannons and a few mercenaries armed with matchlocks, the governor succeeded in fending off incursions by both the disunited nomads of the interior, who had penetrated the area, as well as brigands in the Gulf of Aden. By the first half of the nineteenth century, Zeila was a shadow of its former self, having been reduced to "a large village surrounded by a low mud wall, with a population that varied according to the season from 1,000 to 3,000 people."The city continued to serve as the principal maritime outlet for Harar and beyond it in Shewa. However, the opening of a new sea route between Tadjoura and Shewa cut further into Zeila's historic position as the main regional port.

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