Geographical map of Somalia
Somalia is an East African state located in the Horn of Africa.
This country borders with Djibouti to the north, Ethiopia to the west and Kenya to the southwest; it overlooks the Gulf of Aden to the north and the Indian Ocean to the east. It has the longest coastline in the entire continent and has a territory mainly composed of plateaus and plains.
Somalia has an estimated population of 11,757,124 as of July 2020.
The capital is Mogadishu with 2,282,000 inhabitants estimated by 2020.
Somalia occupies the eastern end of the continent, which extends with the peninsula of the Horn of Africa between the Gulf of Aden to the north and the Indian Ocean to the east, and borders Djibouti to the north-west, and Djibouti to the west. Ethiopia and southwest with Kenya.
The territory of this country constitutes the eastern fringe of the Ethiopian plateau; in fact, it is made up of a series of slopes inclined towards south-east, a natural continuation of the great plateau that rises to the east of the galla-dancala rift valley. The reliefs that form the coast of the Gulf of Aden continue the raised edge with which the plateau overlooks the dancala pit and bear the highest elevations (Surud Ad, 2408 m), which descend to the sea with a steep escarpment up to the rocky Capo Guardafui . From this mountainous edge the plateau declines to the south-east, passing through the Ogaden and Migiurtinia plateaus, which in turn lower into the vast peneplane of Mudug and the coastal plain of Benadir, bordered by long dune strings that hinder the outflow into the sea of the Uebi Scebeli, the largest Somali river. Geologically these lowlands constitute an ancient basement of crystalline rocks which, following a lowering, were invaded by the sea and covered with sedimentary layers of the Cenozoic and Neozoic, on which the floods due to surface erosion were then superimposed. Somalia can therefore be divided into two large natural regions: the northern one, characterized by strongly engraved plateaus and sloping down towards the ocean coast, and the southern one, where the low plateaus cross over to the great coastal plains.
In Somalia, hydrography is quite simple; there are two great rivers, the Uebi Scebeli and the Juba, descend from the heart of the Ethiopian plateau and flow almost parallel in the Somali plains, where the first, which is the richest in water, is forced by the dune strings to follow the coast line is a short distance away to merge much further south-west in the final stretch of the Juba, giving rise to coastal marshes. The Uebi Scebeli is the largest river in East Africa in terms of course length and basin width. Its flow rates, like those of the Giuba, however, are discontinuous throughout the year, with two flood seasons corresponding to the rainfall conditions of the Ethiopian plateau. However, their waters are of fundamental importance for Somalia’s agriculture. Thanks to the precious contribution of the two rivers, Somali «mesopotamia» is the most fertile and densely populated region in the country. Parallel to the two major rivers, other rivers descend to the coasts of the Indian Ocean, which have a distinct torrential character and are devoid of water for most of the year.
The climate of Somalia is affected by the proximity of the equator, which cuts through the extreme southern apex of Somalia, and by the presence of the oceanic mass, which mitigates the temperatures of the coastal strip and feeds a monsoon-like atmospheric circulation.
In this country, annual temperatures vary in Mogadishu between 25 and 27 ° C, but rise inland above 30 ° C. On the northern plateau the temperature is mitigated by the altitude. The rains are very scarce throughout the territory, generally below 500 mm per year, and this is because the monsoons blow alternately in a direction parallel to the course of the coast from north-east to south-west. Thus the southwest monsoon, which blows in the summer season by conveying masses of sea air, quickly discharges its humidity and brings scarce precipitations, which are rapidly exhausting towards the north-east. In turn, the dry but cool winter monsoon, which blows from the Asian continental mass, fades towards the south, becoming barely noticeable in Mogadishu. Extremely arid is northern Somalia, with less than 200 mm of annual rainfall, which drops to less than 100 mm along the slender coastal strip of the Gulf of Aden. The southern part of the country is between the isoiete of 200 and 500 mm, with the exception of the region between the two major rivers, where it slightly exceeds 500 mm.
In Somalia the general dryness of the climate strongly affects the vegetation. Savannah landscapes prevail, with xerophilous tree formations, which on the plateaus give way to grassy formations typical of the steppes, while the tropical forest is limited to the wetter parts of southern Somalia along the course of the two major rivers (gallery forests). Typical are some aromatic essences, such as incense and myrrh, together with euphorbia cactiforme and gumiferous essences. Characteristic humid environments are the marshes along the southern coast, parallel to the lower course of the Uebi Scebeli.
According to E. Chiovenda, three phytogeographic regions can be distinguished in the Somali territory, endowed with very peculiar climatic and floristic characteristics: northern, middle and southern Somalia.
In the Golis mountains (Northern Somalia) above 1500 m. there are juniper forests that some consider identical to Juniperus procera of Abyssinia and Kenya, while O. Stapf believes them similar to J. macropoda Beiss., an Asian species that reaches Nepal from the mountains of the Caucasus and Persia and is also in the mountains of Omān; in the easternmost part of the chain between 500 and 1200 m. at the bottom of the valleys there are or groves of Conocarpus lancifolius, which are associated with Grewia bicolor, Olea somalensis, Buxus Hildebrandtii, Ficus somalensis and salicifolia, Salvia somalensis, Tarchonanthus camphoratus, Pittosporum abyssinicum, Commiphora somalensis, Hyphainensis, etc.
These different elements, when isolated, have a shrubby appearance and do not exceed 3-4 m. of height, while when they come together in wooded formation they assume a development similar to that of the trees of our woods: this occurs especially near the water courses, where there are frequent scandalous species such as: Oxystelma Alpini, Salvadora persica, Caucanthus edulis, Ruthya fruticosa, Trematosperma cordatum.
On vertical rocks up to 1000 m. s. m. Boswellia Freereana abounds, which is the frankincense tree and Lavandula pubescens, Senecio Gunnisii, Dracaena schyzantha, etc. also grow together.
An examination of the flora of Migiurtinia reveals a great abundance of halophytes: Suaeda, Arthrocnemum, Nitraria, Statice, Avicennia, Juncus, etc .: it can be seen that the woody elements prevail over the herbaceous plants and there are abundant fruticose elements, which constitute the characteristic of this vast and sterile region. Furthermore, there is no lack of a fair number of succulents, which accentuate the xerophytism of the territory.
The flora of central Somalia reveals the extraordinary scarcity of atmospheric precipitation, so much so that in the plants that also grow in the adjacent territories, a great reduction is observed in all organs, but particularly in the caulinary internodes. The forest is totally missing, the bush is decreasing, the number of endemic species is increasing, because the climate and the physico-chemical conditions of the soil exert a limiting and insulating action similar to that which the sea exerts on the island flora. The presence on the mobile coastal dune of a large individual of Lycium persicum shows that many shrubs would rise to arboreal development if respected by humans and animals.
In southern Somalia the vegetation has great points of contact with that of Abyssinia: about 60% of the known plants are common with Ogadēn and with the country of the Boran.
The coastal flora varies in relation to the constitution of the coast, that is, depending on whether it is rocks facing the sea, sandy beaches with shifting dunes that are prevalent here, or swampy beaches that are found at the mouth of the Giuba near Giumbo. The first fixer of the sands is the Scaevola, which forms masses of globular windbreak vegetation; at the mouth of the Juba there is some mangrove formation, with Avicennia marina, Rhizophora mucronata, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, Suaeda monoica, Xylocarpus obovatus. On the Juba below Bardera there is a typical tropical gallery forest with Uvaria Denhardtiana, Garcinia Ferrandii, Sterculia Rivae, Grewia villosa, several species of Acacia, Albizzia, Combretum, Ficus, etc.
This forest vegetation of the banks of the Juba reaches almost as far as Dolo, but as it proceeds towards the interior, some species of southern Abyssinia are added such as: Tamarix aphylla, Maerua farinosa, Grewia Fenax, Cordia gharaf, Gymnosporia senegalensis, etc.
The plain for large stretches in the innermost part is covered by scrub, which is a more or less dense formation of often thorny shrubs: in some parts it disappears leaving a thin herbaceous vegetation of perennials with large tubers, bulbs or rhizomes capable of resisting the Drought. In the boscagiloa there are arboreal plants, shrubs 2-4 m high, scent elements, succulent vegetables and among these there is a herbaceous vegetation of Helichrysum glumaceum, Tribulus terrestris, Barleria acanthoides, Hypœstes verticillaris, Hibiscus cannabinus, Aerua lanata and brachiata , Conyza aegyptiaca, Crinum Somalense, Sansevieria, and as parasites there are several Loranthus and Striga.
In the marshes of the bush they live as floats: Aponogeton abyssinicus, Lymnophyton obtusifolium, Wollfia hyalina, Nymphaea lotus, etc .; in the marshes there are: Cyperus amabilis, distans, exaltatus; Scirpus articulatus, Heliotropium supinum. In the Burs there are many rupicolous species and in the scrubland of the inner Shebeli region there are several plants common with Ogadēn and southern Abyssinia.
Somalia, from a floristic point of view, belongs to the Ethiopian domain, which has the mountainous core of Abyssinia in the center, from which the fundamental floristic elements that reach the high equatorial mountains seem to radiate (Kilimanjaro, Kenya, Ruvenzori, Elgon, etc.) and on the plateaus existing between Kilimanjaro and Lake Victoria.
Of the 189 families of vascular plants included in the Ethiopian flora, only 112 exist in the Somali one and precisely:
– the Pteridophytes are very scarce also in the number of genera and species; Gymnosperms are represented only by Juniperus and Ephedra with a species for each. Of the Monocotyledons the aquatic families of the temperate and cold regions and those of the tropical forests are missing; of the Dialipetale and Monoclamidee the families of the temperate regions that in Ethiopia live in the high mountains are missing (Salicaceae, Miricaceae, Ranunculacee, Berberidaceae, Papaveraceae, Rosaceae, Linacee, Ossalidaceae, Cornaceae, etc.), some aquatic families (Ceratophyllaceae, Droseraceae, Podostem Callitricaceae) and other tropical families (Piperaceae, Opiliacee, Miristicaceae, Monimiacee, Connaracee, Begoniacee, Dipterocarpacee, Canellacee, Oliniacee, Alangiacee, etc.), the Frankeniacee and Cystaceae which are typical of the Mediterranean regions and whose representatives are found in the northernmost part of Ethiopia. Lauraceae are represented only by the parasitic genus Cassytha; the Barbeyaceae and Hernandiacee that exist in the Eritrean flora are completely missing here.
Of the Gamopetale, the Ericaceae, Primulaceae, Loniceracee, Valerianaceae, Mirsinacee, Ebenaceae, etc. are missing.
The number of endemics is noteworthy for the above reasons; the richest families of endemic species are: Capparidaceae, Malvacee, Burseracee, Papilionaceae, Rutaceae, Compote, Acantaceae, Euphorbiacee, Gigliacee, Graminaceae. Instead, they have only one endemic species: Violacee, Flacourtiacee, Tamaricaceae, Guttifere, Rutaceae, Simarubacee, Ramnacee, Saxifragacee, Turneracee, Acariacee, Aizoacee, Araliacee, Salvadoracee, Bignoniacee, Globulariacee, Idnacee, Irigonaceae.
There is no shortage of useful spontaneous plants, among which some species of Boswellia and Commiphora stand out, which give the gum-resins and particularly incense, myrrh, molmol, bdellium; oricello lichens that live in tufts on acacias in the bush and on the ground (Roccella Montagnei and R. fuciformis), some rubber acacias, etc.
Somalia’s fauna is abundant and includes, among mammals, the elephant, the giraffe, the leopard, the lion and the zebra, as well as numerous species of poisonous reptiles; the crocodile populates the rivers.
Among the animals most present on Somali territory there is the dromedary, a real founding element of the country’s nomadic culture.
In the nomadic cultures of the country the dromedary is a symbol of wealth and the power of the different families is also determined by the number of heads owned. In the wetter areas, however, there are also hippos and crocodiles.
The Somali peninsula represents some African fauna: cynocephalics and monkeys abound in the forests and on the cliffs, and there are also some nocturnal lemurs. Elephants and rhinos are still abundant in certain regions, the buffalo is frequent, the zebra and the giraffe are abundant, and the hippopotamus is very common in the two perennial rivers. Wild boars and warthogs are wherever the environmental conditions allow. The family of gazelles is innumerable, from the tiny dig dig of the bush to the massive balanca, which frequents the vicinity of the rivers, from the rare Ammodorcas, which from Nogal goes to the Uebi, to the flocks of Oryx and Kudu that graze in the bushy grasslands accompanied not infrequently from the gherenuc, the cobus, the damalisk and, in the Oltregiuba, the Grant’s gazelle. Among the felines, in addition to the lion and the leopard, the leopard, the cheetah, the lynx are frequent: among the canids the two species of hyenas (crocuta and striata), the jackal, the wild dog that lives in numerous flocks. Of the gnawing animals we remember the porcupine, the hare and a curious underground gnawing, characteristic of the region, the heterocephalus. Birds are plentiful especially in southern Somalia and on the highlands: various palmipeds and waders (including the marabou and the white herons of the precious aigrettes) near rivers and ponds; bustards and quail in the prairies; guinea fowl hens, partridges, francolins in the clearings of the bush; doves and turtle doves around the wells; ostriches in the driest and most uninhabited areas. The running waters are teeming with crocodiles and there is no shortage of turtles (Trionyx); a large Varanus is often observed in cool places; on the coastal cliffs, especially of Migiurtinia, lives the multicolored Aporoscelis, in the arid woods, especially of Obbia, chameleons and other small reptiles abound; snakes also abound, including large pythons and venomous trigonocephalics; up under the stones and in the ground the Anfisbene, apodic and blind worm-like reptiles take refuge. Finally, among the fish, in addition to the numerous and gigantic torpedoes and the singular prototypes of the Giuba and the Uebi Scebeli, the curious blind fish of some wells (Uegitglanis) are to be remembered. The sea is rich in fauna and the bagiuni of the Dundas Islands in the Oltregiuba fish for turtles by means of the remore, while along all the coasts, in addition to turtles, sharks are fished for their fins.
Of the invertebrates we remember only the tsetse fly, which near the waters propagates the disease of the nagana in animals; mosquitoes, intermediate hosts of malaria, also especially frequent in southern Somalia and Oltregiuba; and then scorpions, scolopendras, gigantic cockroaches and finally termites, who build their nests in the form of large piles of red earth, especially in the bush.