Sultanate of Mogadishu
Saldanadda Muqdisho (Somali)
سلطنة مقديشو (Arabic)
10th Century–16th Century
Flag of Mogadishu Sultanate
The banner of Mogadishu
The "City of Mogadishu" on Fra Mauro's medieval map.
The "City of Mogadishu" on Fra Mauro's medieval map.
CapitalMogadishu
Common languagesSomali Arabic
Religion
Islam
GovernmentSultanate
Sultan 
Historical eraMiddle Ages
• Established
10th Century
• Disestablished
16th Century
CurrencyMogadishan
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Barbaria (region)
Ajuran Sultanate
Today part ofSomalia

The Sultanate of Mogadishu (Somali: Saldanadda Muqdisho, Arabic: سلطنة مقديشو), also known as Kingdom of Magadazo,[1] was a medieval Muslim sultanate centered in southern Somalia. It rose as one of the pre-eminent powers in the Horn of Africa under the rule of Fakhr al-Din before becoming part of the powerful and expanding Ajuran Sultanate in the 13th century.[2] 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.[3]

Origin

Entrance of a coral stone house in Mogadishu.

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.[4][5][6][7]

The founding ethnicity of Mogadishu and its subsequent sultanate has been a topic of intrigue in Somali Studies. Ioan Lewis and Enrico Cerulli believed that the city was founded and ruled by a council of Arab and Persian families.[8][9][10] However, the reference I.M Lewis and Cerulli received traces back to one 19th century text called the Kitab Al-Zunuj, which has been discredited by modern scholars as unreliable and unhistorical.[11][12][13][14] More importantly, it contradicts oral, ancient written sources and archaeological evidence on the pre-existing civilizations and communities that flourished on the Somali coast, and to which were the forefathers of Mogadishu and other coastal cities. Thus, the Persian and Arab founding "myths" are regarded as an outdated false colonialist reflection on Africans ability to create their own sophisticated states.[15]

It has now been widely accepted that there were already communities on the Somali coast with ethnic Somali leadership, to whom the Arab and Persian families had to ask for permission to settle in their cities. It also seems the local Somalis retained their political and numerical superiority on the coast while the Muslim immigrants would go through an assimilation process by adopting the local language and culture.[16] This is corroborated by the 1st century AD Greek document the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, detailing multiple prosperous port cities in ancient Somalia, as well as the identification of ancient Sarapion with the city that would later be known as Mogadishu.[17] When Ibn Battuta visited the Sultanate in the 14th century, he identified the Sultan as being of Barbara origin,[18] an ancient term used to describe the ancestors of the Somali people. According to Ross E. Dunn neither Mogadishu, nor any other city on the coast could be considered alien enclaves of Arabs or Persians, but were in-fact African towns.[19]

There is no doubt that foreign settlers intermarried with the local natives, which is clearly represented in the rich genealogical traditions of the local people. These early settlers were later followed by waves of successive immigrants, who later gave origin to many tribal groups in the town. The 12th-century Syrian historian Yaqut al-Hamawi (c. 1220) wrote about Mogadishu and called it the richest and most powerful city in the region, and described it as being located in the country of the Berbers, certainly a reference to the Somalis.[20][21][22][23]

History

The Sultanate of Mogadishu dates back to at least the 10th century based on Mogadishan coins minted and bearing dates from that period.[24][25] These coins also bear reference to early sultans with the earliest being Isma’il ibn Muhammad during the period of 923-24.[26]

Following his visit to the city, the 12th-century historian Yaqut al-Hamawi visited Mogadishu and called it the richest and most powerful city in the region and described it as an Islamic center on the Indian Ocean.[27][28]

In the 13th century, the Sultanate of Mogadishu through its trade with medieval China had acquired enough of a reputation in Asia to attract the attention of Kublai Khan.[29] According to Marco Polo, Kublai Khan sent an envoy to Mogadishu to spy out the sultanate but the delegation was captured and imprisoned. Kublai Khan then sent another envoy to treat for the release of the earlier Mongol delegation sent to Africa.[30]

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,"[31] according to Richard Pankhurst.

A well known hypothesis for the origin of the name of Madagascar is that the name is a corrupted transliteration of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia and an important medieval port on the Indian Ocean. This would have resulted from 13th-century Venetian explorer Marco Polo confusing the two locations in his memoirs, in which he mentions the land of Madageiscar to the south of Socotra. This name would then have been popularized on Renaissance maps by Europeans.[32][33]

One of the first documents written that might explain why Marco Polo called it Madagascar is in a 1609 book by Jerome Megiser.[34][35] In this work, Jerome Megiser describes an event in which the kings of Mogadishu and Adal went to Madagascar with huge fleet of between twenty five twenty six thousand men, in-order to invade the rich island of Taprobane or Sumatra but a tempest threw them off course and they landed on the coasts of Madagascar conquering it and signing a treaty with the inhabitants. They remained for eight months and erected at different points of the island eight pillars on which they engraved "Magadoxo", a name which later, by corruption became Madagascar[36][34][37][35]

Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, a Dutch traveler who copied Portuguese works and maps, confirmed this event by saying "Madagascar has its name from 'makdishu' (Mogadishu)" whose "Shayk" invaded it.[38][34] In the 13th century, the Sultanate of Mogadishu through its trade with medieval China had acquired enough of a reputation in Asia to attract the attention of Kublai Khan.[29] According to Marco Polo, the Mongol Emperor sent an envoy to Mogadishu to spy out the sultanate but the delegation was captured and imprisoned. Kublai Khan then sent another envoy to treat for the release of the earlier Mongol delegation sent to Africa.[39]

Archaeological excavations have recovered many coins from China, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. According to Richard Pankhurst, the majority of the Chinese coins date to the Song dynasty, although the Ming dynasty and Qing dynasty "are also represented".[40]

Almanara Tower, Mogadishu.

In the early 13th century, Mogadishu along with other coastal and interior Somali cities in southern Somalia and eastern Abyssinia came under the Ajuran Sultanate control and experienced another Golden Age.[41] By the 1500s, Mogadishu was no longer a vassal state and became a full-fledged city under the Ajuran. An Ajuran family, Muduffar, established a dynasty in the city, thus combining two entities together for the next 350 years, the fortunes of the urban cities in the interior and coast became the fortunes of the other.[42]

During his travels, Ibn Sa'id al-Maghribi (1213–1286) noted that Mogadishu city had already become the leading Islamic center in the region.[43] 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.[44][45]

He also describes the hospitality of the people of Mogadishu and how locals would put travelers up in their home to help the local economy.[46] Battuta added that the city was ruled by a Somali sultan, Abu Bakr ibn Shaikh 'Umar,[47][48] who had a Barbara origin, and spoke the Mogadishan Somali and the Arabic language with equal fluency.[48][49] The sultan also had a retinue of wazirs (ministers), legal experts, commanders, royal eunuchs, and other officials at his beck and call.[48] Ibn Khaldun (1332 to 1406) noted in his book that Mogadishu was a massive metropolis. He also claimed that the city was a very populous with many wealthy merchants.[50]

This period gave birth to notable figures such as Abd al-Aziz of Mogadishu who was described as the governor and island chief of Maldives by Ibn Battuta[51][52][53] After him is named the Abdul-Aziz Mosque in Mogadishu which has remained there for centuries.[54]

Duarte Barbosa, the famous Portuguese traveler wrote about Mogadishu (c 1517–1518):[55]

It has a king over it, and is a place of great trade in merchandise. Ships come there from the kingdom of Cambay (India) and from Aden with stuffs of all kinds, and with spices. And they carry away from there much gold, ivory, beeswax, and other things upon which they make a profit. In this town there is plenty of meat, wheat, barley, and horses, and much fruit: it is a very rich place.

Yuan dynasty era Celadon vase from Mogadishu.

The Sultanate of Mogadishu sent ambassadors to China to establish diplomatic ties, creating the first ever recorded African community in China and the most notable 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 Chinese history to trade with the sultanate. The fleet, under the leadership of the famed Hui Muslim Zheng He, arrived at Mogadishu, 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.[56][57][58][59]

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.[60] 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.[61]

Mogadishu, the center of a thriving weaving industry known as toob benadir (specialized for the markets in Egypt and Syria),[62] together with Merca and Barawa also served as transit stops for Swahili merchants from Mombasa and Malindi and for the gold trade from Kilwa.[63] Jewish merchants from the Hormuz also brought their Indian textile and fruit to the Somali coast in exchange for grain and wood.[64]

In 1542, the Portuguese commander João de Sepúvelda led a small fleet on an expedition to the Somali coast. During this expedition he briefly attacked Mogadishu, capturing an Ottoman ship and firing upon the city, which compelled the sultan of Mogadishu to sign a peace treaty with the Portuguese.[65]

According to the 16th-century explorer, Leo Africanus indicates that the native inhabitants of the Mogadishu polity were of the same origins as the denizens of the northern people of Zeila the capital of Adal Sultanate.[66]

They were generally tall with an olive skin complexion, with some being darker. They would wear traditional rich white silk wrapped around their bodies and have Islamic turbans and coastal people would only wear sarongs, and spoke Arabic as a 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.[67][68]

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, and well-built city-state, which maintained commercial trade with kingdoms across the world.[69] The metropolis city was surrounded by walled stone fortifications.[70][71]

Trade

Mogadishu currency.

During the 9th century, Mogadishu minted its own Mogadishu currency for its medieval trading empire in the Indian Ocean.[24][25] 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 Ismail ibn Muhammad, the then sultan of Mogadishu.[26]

On the back of the coins, the names of the four Caliphs of the Rashidun Caliphate are inscribed.[72] 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.[24] Bronze pieces belonging to the sultans of Mogadishu have also been found at Belid near Salalah in Dhofar.[73] Coins from the Emirate of Harar were also used along the local currency in the 17th and 18th century[74]

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. Zheng He, the famous Chinese traveler obtained zebra and lions from Mogadishu and camels and ostriches from Barawa.[75]

Sultans

The various sultans of Mogadishu are mainly known from the Mogadishan currency on which many of their names are engraved. A private collection of coins found in Mogadishu revealed a minimum of 23 sultans.[76] The founder of the sultanate was reportedly Fakhr ad-Din, who was the first sultan of Mogadishu and founder of the Fakhr ad-Din dynasty.[77] While only a handful of the pieces have been precisely dated, the Mogadishu Sultanate's first coins were minted at the beginning of the 13th century, with the last issued around the early 17th century.

For trade, the Ajuran Sultanate and the Muzaffar dynasty also utilized the Mogadishan currency at the end of the 16th century.[25] Mogadishan coins have been found as far away as the present-day country of the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East.[78]

The following list of the sultans of Mogadishu is abridged and is primarily derived from these mints.[79] 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.

Influence in Madagascar and Mozambique

The gold mine of Sofala

A well known hypothesis for the origin of the name of Madagascar is that the name is a corrupted transliteration of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia and an important medieval port on the Indian Ocean. This would have resulted from 13th-century Venetian explorer Marco Polo confusing the two locations in his memoirs, in which he mentions the land of Madageiscar to the south of Socotra. This name would then have been popularized on Renaissance maps by Europeans.[32][33] However one of the first documents written that might explain why Marco Polo called it Madagascar is in a 1609 book on Madagascar by Jerome Megiser.[34][35] Sofala is located on the Sofala Bank in Sofala Province of Mozambique. It was founded by Somali merchants and seafarers. Sofala in Somali literally means "Go dig". This name was given because the area is rich with resources.[80]

In this work, Jerome Megiser describes an event in which the kings of Mogadishu and Adal went to Madagascar with huge fleet of between twenty-five twenty to twenty-six thousand men, in-order to invade the rich island of Taprobane or Sumatra but a tempest threw them of course and they landed on the coasts of Madagascar conquering it and signing a treaty with the inhabitants. They remained for eight months and erected at different points of the island eight pillars on which they engraved "Magadoxo", a name which later, by corruption became Madagascar[81][34][37][35] Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, a Dutch traveler who copied Portuguese works and maps, confirmed this event by saying "Madagascar has its name from 'makdishu' (Mogadishu)" whose "shayk" invaded it.[82][34] The legacy of this influence are the Antemoro people whose name derives from the word Temuru which has no grounds of being a Malagasy name.[83] A trace of this name was discovered by Enrico Cerulli in the Ethiopian epic song of Emperor Yeshaq I which mentions the Temur in connexion with the Somali. Even more interesting the Temur and Somali live as archaisms in the living speech of the Harari people. Thus the Somali people having ultimately sired the Antemoro.[84]

One of the oldest harbours documented in Southern Africa, medieval Sofala was erected on the edge of a wide estuary formed by the Buzi River (called Rio de Sofala in older maps). By the Somali merchants from Mogadishu established a colony in Mozambique to extract gold from the mines in Sofala.[85]

The Buzi River connected Sofala to the internal market town of Manica, and from there to the gold fields of Great Zimbabwe. Sometime in the 10th century, Sofala emerged as a small trading post and was incorporated into the greater global Somali trade network. In the 1180s, Sultan Suleiman Hassan of Kilwa (in present-day Tanzania) seized control of Sofala, and brought Sofala into the Kilwa Sultanate and the Swahili cultural sphere. Mogadishu merchants had long kept Sofala a secret from their Kilwan rivals, who up until then rarely sailed beyond Cape Delgado. One day, a fisherman caught a large bite off Kilwa and was dragged by the fish around Cape Delgado, through the Mozambique Channe, all the way down to the Sofala banks. The fisherman made his way back up to Kilwa to report to the Sultan Suleiman Hassan what he had seen. Hearing of the gold trade, the sultan loaded up a ship with cloth and immediately raced down there, guided by the fisherman. The Kilwan sultan offered a better deal to the Mwenemutapa, and was allowed to erect a Kilwan factory and colony on the island and nudge the Mogadishans permanently out. [86] The Swahili strengthened its trading capacity by having, among other things, rivergoing dhows ply the Buzi and Save rivers to ferry the gold extracted in the hinterlands to the coast.[87]

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  85. ^ pg 4 - The quest for an African Eldorado: Sofala, By Terry H. Elkiss
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