Somalia (Somali: Soomaaliya; Arabic: الصومال aṣ-Ṣūmāl), officially the Republic of Somalia (Somali: Jamhuuriyadda Soomaaliya, Arabic: جمهورية الصومال Jumhūriyyat aṣ-Ṣūmāl) and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Djibouti to the northwest, Kenya to the southwest, the Gulf of Aden with Yemen to the north, the Indian Ocean to the east, and Ethiopia to the west.
In antiquity, Somalia was an important center for commerce with the rest of the ancient world. Its sailors and merchants were the main suppliers of frankincense, myrrh and spices, items which were considered valuable luxuries by the Ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians, Mycenaean and Babylonians with whom the Somali people traded. According to most scholars, Somalia is also where the ancient Kingdom of Punt was situated. The ancient Puntites were a nation of people that had close relations with Pharaonic Egypt during the times of Pharaoh Sahure and Queen Hatshepsut. The pyramidal structures, temples and ancient houses of dressed stone littered around Somalia are said to date from this period. In the classical era, several ancient city-states such as Opone, Mosyllon and Malao that competed with the Sabaeans, Parthians and Axumites for the wealthy Indo-Greco-Roman trade also flourished in Somalia.
The birth of Islam on the opposite side of Somalia's Red Sea coast meant that Somali merchants, sailors and expatriates living in the Arabian Peninsula gradually came under the influence of the new religion through their converted Arab Muslim trading partners. With the migration of fleeing Muslim families from the Islamic world to Somalia in the early centuries of Islam and the peaceful conversion of the Somali population by Somali Muslim scholars in the following centuries, the ancient city-states eventually transformed into Islamic Mogadishu, Berbera, Zeila, Barawa and Merka, which were part of the Berberi civilization. The city of Mogadishu came to be known as the city of Islam, and controlled the East African gold trade for several centuries. In the Middle Ages, several powerful Somali empires dominated the regional trade including the Ajuuraan State, which excelled in hydraulic engineering and fortress building, the Sultanate of Adal, whose general Ahmed Gurey was the first African commander in history to use cannon warfare on the continent during Adal's conquest of the Ethiopian Empire, and the Geledian Sultanate, whose military dominance forced governors of the Omani empire north of the city of Lamu to pay tribute to the Somali Sultan Ahmed Yusuf. In the late 19th century after the Berlin conference had ended, European empires sailed with their armies to the Horn of Africa. The Imperial clouds wavering over Somalia alarmed the Dervish leader Muhammad Abdullah Hassan, who gathered Somali soldiers from across the Horn of Africa and began one of the longest colonial resistance wars ever.
Somalia was never formally colonized. The Dervish State successfully repulsed the British empire four times and forced it to retreat to the coastal region. As a result of its fame in the Middle East and Europe, the Dervish state was recognized as an ally by the Ottoman Empire and the German empire, and remained throughout World War I the only independent Muslim power on the continent. After a quarter of a century holding the British at bay, the Dervishes were finally defeated in 1920 when Britain for the first time in Africa used aeroplanes when it bombed the Dervish capital of Taleh. As a result of this bombardment, former Dervish territories were turned into a protectorate of Britain. Italy similarly faced the same opposition from Somali Sultans and armies and did not acquire full control of parts of modern Somalia until the Fascist era in late 1927. This occupation lasted till 1941 and was replaced by a British military administration. Northern Somalia would remain a protectorate while southern Somalia became a trusteeship. The Union of the two regions in 1960 formed the Somali Democratic Republic.
Due to its ancient brotherly ties with the Arab world, Somalia was accepted in 1974 as a member of the Arab League. To strengthen its relationship with the rest of the African continent, Somalia joined other African nations when it founded the African Union, and began to support the ANC in South Africa against the apartheid regime and the Eritrean secessionists in Ethiopia during the Eritrean War of Independence. A Muslim country, Somalia is one of the founding members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and is also a member of the UN and NAM. Despite suffering from civil strife and instability, Somalia has also managed to sustain a free market economy which, according to the UN, outperforms those of many other countries in Africa.
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