Sultanate of Mogadishu

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Sultanate of Mogadishu

Saldanadda Muqdisho
سلطنة مقديشو
9th century–13th century
Fra Mauro Somalia.jpg
The "City of Mogadishu" on Fra Mauro's medieval map.
Capital Mogadishu
Common languages Somali, Arabic
Government Sultanate
Historical era Middle Ages
 9th century
9th century
 10th century [1]
13th century
Currency Mogadishan
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Near East - india 3.JPG[[Ajan Coast]]
Ajuran Empire Muzzaffar (Mogadishu area) flag according to 1576 Portuguese map.svg
Today part ofFlag of Somalia.svg  Somalia

The Sultanate of Mogadishu (Somali : Saldanadda Muqdisho, Arabic : سلطنة مقديشو) (fl. 9th-13th centuries [1] ), also known as the Kingdom of Magadazo, [1] was a medieval Somali trading empire centered in southern Somalia. It rose as one of the preeminent powers in the Horn of Africa during the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries, before being served as the capital for the Ajuran Empire during the early 13th century. The Mogadishu Sultanate maintained a vast trading network, dominated the regional gold trade, minted its own currency, and left an extensive architectural legacy in present-day southern Somalia. [2]

Somali language Afroasiatic language belonging to the Cushitic branch

Somali is an Afroasiatic language belonging to the Cushitic branch. It is spoken as a mother tongue by Somalis in Greater Somalia and the Somali diaspora. Somali is an official language of Somalia, a national language in Djibouti, and a working language in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. It is used as an adoptive language by a few neighboring ethnic minority groups and individuals. The Somali language is written officially with the Latin alphabet.

Floruit, abbreviated fl., Latin for "he/she flourished", denotes a date or period during which a person was known to have been alive or active. In English, the word may also be used as a noun indicating the time when someone flourished.

Somalis ethnic group inhabiting the Horn of Africa

The Somali are an ethnic group belonging to the Cushitic peoples inhabiting the Horn of Africa. The overwhelming majority of Somalis speak the Somali language, which is part of the Cushitic branch of the Afroasiatic family. They are predominantly Sunni Muslim. Ethnic Somalis number around 28-30 million and are principally concentrated in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti (534,000). Somali diasporas are also found in parts of the Middle East, North America, Western Europe, African Great Lakes region, Southern Africa and Oceania.



Entrance of a coral stone house in Mogadishu. Coral house mogadishu.JPG
Entrance of a coral stone house in Mogadishu.

According to the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea , maritime trade connected Somalis in the Mogadishu vicinity with other communities along the Indian Ocean coast as early as the 1st century CE. The ancient trading power of Sarapion has been postulated to be the predecessor of Mogadishu. During the 8th century, Mogadishu was well-suited to become a regional center for commerce.

<i>Periplus of the Erythraean Sea</i> literary work

The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, also known by its Latin name as the Periplus Maris Erythraei, is a Greco-Roman periplus written in Koine Greek that describes navigation and trading opportunities from Roman Egyptian ports like Berenice Troglodytica along the coast of the Red Sea, and others along Horn of Africa, the Persian Gulf, and the Arabian Sea, including the modern-day Sindh region of Pakistan and southwestern regions of India. The text has been ascribed to different dates between the first and third centuries, but a mid-first century date is now the most commonly accepted. While the author is unknown, it is clearly a firsthand description by someone familiar with the area and is nearly unique in providing accurate insights into what the ancient Hellenic world knew about the lands around the Indian Ocean.

Indian Ocean The ocean between Africa, Asia, Australia and Antarctica (or the Southern Ocean)

The Indian Ocean is the third-largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering 70,560,000 km2 (27,240,000 sq mi) or 19.8% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded by Asia to the north, Africa to the west, and Australia to the east. To the south it is bounded by the Southern Ocean or Antarctica, depending on the definition in use.


Sarapion, was an ancient proto-Somali port city in present-day Somalia. It was situated on a site that later became Mogadishu.

Sultanate of Mogadishu period

The origins of the name Mogadishu (Muqdisho) has many theories but it is most likely derived from a morphology of the Somali words "Muuq" and "Disho" which literally means "Sight Killer" or "Blinder" possibly referring to the city's blinding beauty. [3]

The Sultanate of Mogadishu was established by a local Somali man called Fakr ad-Din who hails from the Ajuran (clan) and was the first Sultan of Mogadishu Sultanate and founder of Garen Dynasty. [4] [5]

The Ajuran is a Somali clan. Group members largely inhabit Kenya as well as Ethiopia; considerable numbers are also found in Somalia.

According to Al-Yaqubi mentioned Muslims were living on the board of southern Somalia. He mentioned Mogadishu in the 9th century calling it a beautiful wealthy city who are inhabited by the people of Bilad Al-Berber, a medieval term used by Arabs to describe Somalis. [6]

For many years Mogadishu functioned as the pre-eminent city in the بلد البربر (Bilad al Barbar - "Land of the Berbers"), as medieval Arabic-speakers named the Somali coast. [7] [8] [9] [10] Following his visit to the city, the 12th-century Syrian historian Yaqut al-Hamawi (a former slave of Greek origin) wrote a global history of many places he visited Mogadishu and called it the richest and most powerful city in the region and was an Islamic center across the Indian Ocean. [11] [12]

Syria Country in Western Asia

Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon to the southwest, the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest. A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Syrian Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Circassians, Mandeans and Turkemens. Religious groups include Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Isma'ilis, Mandeans, Shiites, Salafis, Yazidis, and Jews. Sunnis make up the largest religious group in Syria.

Yāqūt Shihāb al-Dīn ibn-'Abdullāh al-Rūmī al-Hamawī (1179–1229) is famous for his great "geography", Mu'jam ul-Buldān, an encyclopedia of Islam written in the late Abbāsid era and as much a work of biography, history and literature as a simple work of geography.

Archaeological excavations have recovered many coins from China, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. The majority of the Chinese coins date to the Song Dynasty, although the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty "are also represented," [13] according to Richard Pankhurst.

Ajuran Empire period

Almnara Tower, Mogadishu. Ancient-Almnara.jpg
Almnara Tower, Mogadishu.

In the early 13th century, Mogadishu along with other coastal and interior Somali cities in southern Somalia and eastern Ethiopia came under the Ajuran Sultanate control and experienced another Golden Age.

During his travels, Ibn Sa'id al-Maghribi (1213–1286) noted that Mogadishu city had already become the leading Islamic center in the region. [14] By the time of the Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta's appearance on the Somali coast in 1331, the city was at the zenith of its prosperity. He described Mogadishu as "an exceedingly large city" with many rich merchants, which was famous for its high quality fabric that it exported to Egypt, among other places. [15] [16] Battuta added that the city was ruled by a Somali Sultan, Abu Bakr ibn Sayx 'Umar, [17] [18] who was originally from Berbera in northern Somalia and spoke both Somali (referred to by Battuta as Benadir, a southern Somali dialect) and Arabic with equal fluency. [18] [19] The Sultan also had a retinue of wazirs (ministers), legal experts, commanders, royal eunuchs, and other officials at his beck and call. [18]

Ibn Khaldun (1332 to 1406) noted in his book that Mogadishu was a massive metropolis city that served as the capital of the Ajuran Kingdom. He also claimed that the city of Mogadishu was a very populous city with many wealthy merchants, yet nomad in character. He referred to the characteristics of the inhabitants of Mogadishu as tall swarthy Berbers and called them the people of Al-Somaal. [20]

The ruler of the Somali Ajuran Empire sent ambassadors to China to establish diplomatic ties, creating the first ever recorded African community in China and the most notable Somali ambassador in medieval China was Sa'id of Mogadishu who was the first African man to set foot in China. In return, Emperor Yongle, the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), dispatched one of the largest fleets in history to trade with the Somali nation. The fleet, under the leadership of the famed Hui Muslim Zheng He, arrived at[Mogadishu the capital of Ajuran Empire while the city was at its zenith. Along with gold, frankincense and fabrics, Zheng brought back the first ever African wildlife to China, which included hippos, giraffes and gazelles. [21] [22] [23] [24]

Vasco Da Gama, who passed by Mogadishu in the 15th century, noted that it was a large city with houses of four or five storeys high and big palaces in its centre and many mosques with cylindrical minarets. [25] In the 16th century, Duarte Barbosa noted that many ships from the Kingdom of Cambaya sailed to Mogadishu with cloths and spices for which they in return received gold, wax and ivory. Barbosa also highlighted the abundance of meat, wheat, barley, horses, and fruit on the coastal markets, which generated enormous wealth for the merchants. [26] Mogadishu, the center of a thriving weaving industry known as toob benadir (specialized for the markets in Egypt and Syria), [27] together with Merca and Barawa also served as transit stops for Swahili merchants from Mombasa and Malindi and for the gold trade from Kilwa. [28] Jewish merchants from the Hormuz also brought their Indian textile and fruit to the Somali coast in exchange for grain and wood. [29]

The Portuguese Empire was unsuccessful of conquering Mogadishu where the powerful naval Portuguese commander called João de Sepúvelda and his army fleets was soundly defeated by the powerful Ajuran navy during the Battle of Benadir. [30]

According to the 16th-century explorer, Leo Africanus indicates that the native inhabitants of the Mogadishu the capital of Ajuran Sultanate polity were of the same origins as the citizens of the northern people of Zeila the capital of Adal Sultanate. They were generally tall with an brown skin complexion, with some being darker and spoke Somali. They would wear traditional rich white silk wrapped around their bodies and have Islamic turbans and coastal people would only wear sarongs, and use Arabic writing script as their lingua franca. Their weaponry consisted of traditional Somali weapons such as swords, daggers, spears, battle axe, and bows, although they received assistance from its close ally the Ottoman Empire and with the import of firearms such as muskets and cannons. Most were Muslims, although a few adhered to heathen bedouin tradition; there were also a number of Abyssinian Christians further inland. Mogadishu itself was a wealthy, powerful and well-built city-state, which maintained commercial trade with kingdoms across the world. The metropolis city was surrounded by walled stone fortifications. [31] [32]


Somali merchants from Mogadishu established a colony in Mozambique to extract gold from the mines in Sofala. [33]

Mogadishu currency. Horizontal Mogadishan Coins version.JPG
Mogadishu currency.

During the 9th century, Mogadishu minted its own Mogadishu currency for its medieval trading empire in the Indian Ocean. [34] [35] It centralized its commercial hegemony by minting coins to facilitate regional trade. The currency bore the names of the 13 successive Sultans of Mogadishu. The oldest pieces date back to 923-24 and on the front bear the name of Imsail ibn Muhahamad, the then Sultan of Mogadishu. [36] On the back of the coins, the names of the four Caliphs of the Rashidun Caliphate are inscribed. [37] Other coins were also minted in the style of the extant Fatimid and the Ottoman currencies. Mogadishan coins were in widespread circulation. Pieces have been found as far away as modern United Arab Emirates, where a coin bearing the name of a 12th-century Somali Sultan Ali b. Yusuf of Mogadishu was excavated. [34] Bronze pieces belonging to the Sultans of Mogadishu have also been found at Belid near Salalah in Dhofar. [38]

Upon arrival in Mogadishu's harbour, it was custom for small boats to approach the arriving vessel, and their occupants to offer food and hospitality to the merchants on the ship. If a merchant accepted such an offer, then he was obligated to lodge in that person's house and to accept their services as sales agent for whatever business they transacted in Mogadishu.

Sultans of Mogadishu

The various Sultans of Mogadishu are mainly known from the Mogadishan currency on which many of their names are engraved. However, their succession dates and genealogical relations are obscure. [39] The founder of the Sultanate was reportedly Fakr ad-Din, who hails from the Ajuran (clan) and was the first Sultan of Mogadishu Sultanate and founder of Garen Dynasty. [40] While only a handful of the pieces have been precisely dated, the Mogadishu Sultanate's first coins were minted at the beginning of the 9th century, with the last issued around the early 13th century. For trade, the Ajuran Sultanate minted its own Ajuran currency. [41] It also utilized the Mogadishan currency originally minted by the Sultanate of Mogadishu, which later became incorporated into the Ajuran Empire during the 13th century. [35] Mogadishan coins have been found as far away as the present-day country of the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East. [42] The following list of the Sultans of Mogadishu is abridged and is primarily derived from these mints. [43] The first of two dates uses the Islamic calendar, with the second using the Julian calendar; single dates are based on the Julian (European) calendar.

# Sultan Reign Notes
1Abu Bakr b. Fakhr ad Dinfl 850Founder of the Mogadishu Sultanate's first ruling house, the Garen dynasty.
2Ismail b. Muhammadfl 1134Golden age for Mogadishu Sultanate
3Al-Rahman b. al-Musa'idprobably 8th/14th century
4Yusuf b. Sa'idfl 9th/13th century
5Sultan Muhammadfl 9th/13th century
6Rasul b. 'Alifl 9th/13th century
7Yusuf b. Abi Bakrfl 9th/13th century
8Malik b. Sa'idunknown dates, style of 1th/13th century
9Sultan 'Umarfl 9th/13th century (?)
10Zubayr b. 'Umarfl c. 9th/13th century

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