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Zeila Old Buildings Ruins Destroyed During Civil War Wasteland Foreground Somaliland

Zeila Old Buildings Ruins Destroyed During Civil War Wasteland Foreground Somaliland

Located on the Coast on the Northwestern part of Somaliland near to former French colony Djibouti, the port of Zeila is known for its beautiful natural setting: a large coral reef, mangroves as well as the cliffs and beaches surrounding the little port give Zeila a peculiar aspect.
With a population varying between 3,000 up to 7,000 in the cool season, it is a picturesque and cosmopolitan trading city since the 19th century, although Zeila port has been dethroned during the colonial time by French Somaliland port Djibouti and Southern Berbera port.
In the past, Zeila was the capital city of the Ifat sultanate, an influential power over the region from the 9th century on. It became a trade and learning hub in the 14th century, under the influence of Arab merchants settlement along the coast. The latter, supported by the coming of Muslim scholars from the Arabic peninsula, peacefully converted their trade partners to Islam. This is one of the ways Islam spread throughout Africa.
Later, Zeila was among the cities that flourished under the influence of Adal kingdom’s golden age with the construction of courtyards, mosques, shrines, and walled enclosures. The heyday was topped with the conquest of Christian Abyssinia in the 16th century. But it did not last and the Ethiopians eventually recouped the lost territories, leading to the displacement of Adal’s capital to Harar and the fall of Zeida.
Hardly anything remains of the old city since it was the bombed during the Somali civil war. Zeila hosts few tourists every year, who notably come for Scuba diving activities.
Formerly a British colony, Somaliland briefly reached its independence in 1960. It is one of the three Territories, with Puntland and former Italian Somalia that compose the current State of Somalia.
Somaliland proclaimed its independence in 1991, adopting its own currency, a fully independent government, working institutions and police. The authorities organized a referendum in 2001, advocating once again for full independence. However, to date, it is not internationally recognized.
Ethiopian Prime minister Meles Zenawi is the only one to speak about a Somalilander president, recognizing implicitly the existence of an independent State. Indeed the economy of neighboring Ethiopia dramatically depends on Somaliland stability, since the landlocked country’s main trade route passes through the Somalilander port of Berbera… And vice-versa, the economy of Somaliland largely depends on the taxes and duties it charges Ethiopia. Besides that, the principal economic activity of Somaliland is livestock exportation to the Arabian Peninsula. Most people are Sunni Muslims and speak Arabic, as well as some Somali dialect and many of them, English.Lastely, the East African demography being based on clan alliances, it is no surprise that the frontiers drawn by the colonists don’t match the ethnic divisions of territory, leading to open clashes. More broadly, this problem is recurrent across the African continent.

© Eric Lafforgue

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Photo taken on 20 November 2011 (© Eric Lafforgue / Flickr)

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