The picture above is the marketplace in Mogadishu in 1882.
Mogadishu is an ancient city that was a central trading centre in the Indian Ocean trade. Its foundation is unclear, but is mostly associated with traders from the Indian Ocean region, like Arabs, Persians etc who settled in the Banadir coast region. The word Banaadir itself comes from the Persian word Bandar which means port, and refers to the port-cities of the Banadir region of Somalia.
Mogadishu was a wealthy city that was a commercial hub in the Indian Ocean trade. The famous Arabian traveller Ibn Battuta visited this city in the 13th century and wrote about it:
We sailed on from there for fifteen nights and came to Maqdashaw, which is a town of enormous size. Its inhabitants are merchants possessed of vast resources; they own large numbers of camels, of which they slaughter hundreds every day [for food], and also have quantities of sheep. In this place are manufactured the woven fabrics called after it, which are unequalled and exported from it to Egypt and elsewhere.
Mogadishu remained throughout the centuries an important trading centre, but lost its prominent role to other emerging trading centre’s in the Swahili coast. When the Portuguese entered the Indian Ocean trade in the 15th and 16th century, Mogadishu was not as wealthy as in the times of Ibn Battuta, but nonetheless remained an important commercial city. The city was wealthy from the overseas trade it drove based on its complementary relationship with the Ajuraan imamate of the interior . In the 16th and early 17th century, the city was ruled by the Muzzaffar dynasty which claimed its origin from Yemen, while the interior was ruled by the Ajuraan group. The Ajuraan ruled much of the Somali hinterland and succeeded in establishing their hegemony over the inter- riverine region.
‘Once established in the southern plains, however, the Ajuraan are said to have ruled the country from Qallaafo, on the upper Shabeelle river, to the shores of the Indian Ocean; and from Mareeg on the central Somali coast to the Jubba river in the south. (Cassanelli, pp90)
The emergence of the Imamate of Yaaquub in Mogadishu is related to the tyrannical rule of the Ajuraan in the interior, and the attraction of the growing Mogadishu wealth as a consequence of its thriving trade controlled by the Muzzaffar dynasty which was allied to the Ajuraan in the interior.
The Yaaquub is a lineage of the Abgal clan who itself is part of the wider Darandoole Mudulood group. The Darandoole Mudulood is a pastoral group that lived in Central Somalia, and throughout the centuries migrated Southwards. As a consequence of this southwards migration, the Darandoole Mudulood encroached slowly but steadily on Mogadishu city and came in conflict with the Muzzaffar dynasty. This dynasty in Mogadishu was itself incapable to withstand this migration and encroachment and opted for negotiation with the Imam of the Darandole.
Cerulli has recorded traditional narrative of how the Darandole conquered Mogadishu against the Muzaffar dynasty:
“In ancient times the Sirasi lived in Mogadiscio. The people called Halawani succeeded the Sirasi. The Mudaffar succeeded the Halawani. The Mudaffar came from the country of Yemen in Arabia. He had guns. He built the palace that is found under the Governor’s house. He was a friend of the Aguran. At that time the Mudaffar governed the coast; and the Aguran ruled in the woodland. The Hirabe were not nearby them; they lived in the northern places. At that time the people of the woodland could not spend the night in the city of Mogadiscio. At sunset a ban was put on the city: ‘Hawiyya, it is growing dark! Hawiyya, it is growing dark!’ Then they went away toward the woodland.
“Later the Mudaffar had an interpreter who was called ‘Ismankäy Haggi ‘Ali. This ‘Ismankäy had the idea of letting the Darandollä enter the city. A message was sent to the imam Mahmud ‘Umar, who lived at Golol. The imam, guiding his Page: 71 warriors, came south and approached Mogadiscio. Then what did ‘Ismankäy do? He spoke with the Mudaffar: ‘By now the Darandollä are near Mogadiscio, let me be accompanied by some soldiers, and I shall go to them.’ ‘How do you want to do it?’ ‘I shall do it this way. I shall come to an agreement with the leaders and make them return to the places in the north.’ ‘So be it!’ said the Mudaffar. Then ‘Ismänkäy took some soldiers with him, but without weapons: ‘Leave your weapons! We go out to conclude an agreement, not really for war.’ They put down the weaons. They went into the woodland. When they had gone into the woodland, the Darandollä came out and took all the soldiers prisoner. Then they continued the raid and entered Mogadiscio. The Mudaffar was caputred and they wanted to kill him. But he, looking at the people who had come close to him, saw among them ‘Ismankäy Haggi Ali. ‘Stop!’ he said then. ‘Before you kill me, I want to speak. O ‘Ismankäy, you are good for nothing, you are capable of nothing, you will not pass seven!’ he said. Thus was 248 ‘Ismankäy cursed. When the Mudaffar was killed, when seven days passed after his death, ‘Ismankäy died too. It happened exactly as he had been cursed.
The Darandoolle have conquered Mogadishu city and killed the Muzzaffar governor sometime between 1590 and 1625. The approximate dates appear to be corroborated by a Portuguese document dated 1624
After the Darandoolle Mudulood took control of the Mogadishu city in 1624, they quarrelled with the Ajuraan on the interior.
‘After entering Muqdisho, the Darandoolle quarrelled with the Ajuraan. They quarrelled over watering rights. The Ajuraan had decreed: ‘At the wells in our territory, the people known as Darandoolle and the other Hiraab cannot water their herds by day, but only at night’’…Then all the Darandoolle gathered in one place. The leaders decided to make war on the Ajuraan. They found the imam of the Ajuraan seated on a rock near a well called Ceel Cawl. They killed him with a sword. As they struck him with the sword, they split his body together with the rock on which he was seated. He died immediately and the Ajuraan migrated out of the country.’
The Darandoolle became as such the first group to rebel against the tyranny of Ajuraan in the interior, and ever since this Ajuraan defeat other groups would follow in the rebellion which would eventually bring down Ajuraan rule of the inter-riverine region.
After the defeat of the Ajuraan in the interior the Darandoolle Mudulood established themselves around Mogadishu and Shabelle river valley, in which Wacdaan inhabited the environs of Afgoye and Mogadishu, Hilibi in Lower Shabelle, Moobleen went to the region now known as Middle Shabelle, while the Abgaal established themselves in and around Mogadishu city.
By about 1700 the entire political structure of Mogadishu city was altered with the ascendancy of a new line of Abgaal Yaaquub imams who established themselves in Shangaani quarter (the northern moiety of Mogadishu city). The Yaaquub imam’s powerbase remained among the people of the interior, while members of the Imam’s Yaaquub lineage intermarried with the BaFadel and Abdi Semen, two famed merchants families of Yemeni origins.
The Yaaquub Imam collected the port tariffs of the city, and emerged as the authority of Mogadishu city, despite its division into two moieties The Yaaquub imamate would survive until the closing of the 19th century and was a force to reckon with when Zanzibari influence slowly expanded throughout the Banadir region.
‘ By the early years of the nineteenth century Muqdisho and the two other principal towns of the Benaadir coast, Marka and Baraawe, seem to have settled into a pattern of regular if modest trade with boats plying the maritime routes between India, Arabia, Lamu and Zanzibar. Exports included cattle,slaves, ivory and ambergris.12 From two Soomaali traders from Baraawe whom he encountered at Zanzibar, Commander Thomas Smee learned in 181 I that Muqdisho ‘is not very considerable, may contain I 50 to 200 houses [by this he presumably means stone houses], it has not any river near it, and has but little trade’. He was also informed that it was governed by ‘a Soomaulee Chief named Mahomed Bacahmeen’, probably the reigning Abgaal imam.13 Despite its modest circumstances, Muqdisho was clearly larger than either Marka or Baraawe, the latter consisting of only about Ioo huts (as opposed to houses). By comparison, it is also worth noting that Smee’s informants could tell him that Luuq had some 300 huts.14 This situation probably remained little changed until the following decade, when the fortunes of the Benaadir towns began to intertwine with the ambitious plans of Seyyid Said ibn Sultan for his East African legacy. Muqdisho, in particular, figured in two incidents which clearly established an atmosphere of mutual suspicion with the Omani rulers of Zanzibar. First, it seems, an Omani vessel ran aground north of Muqdisho and its entire crew was sent to that town for sale as slaves, only to be ransomed after a year in captivity by friends in Zanzibar, ‘who sent some stout negroes to replace them’. Then, in i823, the Omani fleet that was sent to subdue Mombasa dropped anchor at Muqdisho and its commander, Abdullah ibn Sulaiyim, kidnapped two community leaders who came on board his ship and imprisoned them at Zanzibar. A ransom of 2,000 Maria Theresa dollars was fixed for their release, though they were eventually freed by the Governor of Zanzibar at the request of the headstrong British naval captain W. F. W. Owen.15 Owen hoped to raise the entire Benaadir on behalf of the British cause in East Africa, as he saw it, and while he appears to have had some success at Baraawe, none was forthcoming from Muqdisho.’
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