26 interesting facts about Somalia

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The most interesting facts about Somalia include a gigantic coastline, prehistoric rock paintings and a tragic and troubled history.

facts about Somalia injera
Interesting facts about Somalia include its cuisine (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Federal Republic of Somalia
Capital city: Mogadishu
Population: 12.7 million
Area: 637,657 sq km
Major languages: Somali, Arabic, Italian, English
Major religions: Islam
Time zone: UTC+3 (East Africa Time)
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

Interesting facts about Somalia

1. Somalia is the easternmost country of Africa, located in what is known as the Horn of Africa.
(Source: Britannica)

2. The northern and eastern Somali coasts have been open to the outside world for centuries. Somalia formed part of Punt, an ancient region of Africa known as ‘the land of aromatics and incense’. It was cited in ancient Egyptian and Greek scripts.
(Source: Britannica)

3. Between the 7th and 19th centuries Somalia was ruled by a series of sultanates following the arrival of Islam in the 7th century.
(Source: BBC News)

Map of Somalia
The country’s location accounts for many interesting facts about Somalia (Shutterstock)

4. Somalia was created in 1960 from an Italian colony and a former British protectorate.
(Source: BBC News)

5. Following the overthrow of the military regime in 1991, Somalia collapsed into anarchy and has been struggling to recover ever since.
(Source: BBC News)

6. In 1992 it was estimated that 350,000 Somalis had died of disease, starvation or civil war. Reacting to news images of the famine and war, U.S. President George H.W. Bush ordered emergency airlifts of food and supplies to Somalia.
(Source: The Atlantic)

7. Recently, Somalia has again been struggling with famine following a two-year drought that ended in 2017. Millions are at risk of hunger following dry rainy seasons which has led to failed crops and the death of livestock.
(Source: The Guardian)

Mogadishu in Somalia
Somalia’s capital city, Mogadishu (Shutterstock)

8. In 1993, US Army Rangers were killed when Somali militias shot down two US helicopters in Mogadishu. In the ensuing Battle of Mogadishu, hundreds of Somalis and 18 Americans died.
(Source: The Smithsonian)

9. The event was depicted in the 1999 book by Mark Bowden, Black Hawk Down, and a 2001 movie by Ridley Scott.
(Source: The Smithsonian)

10. England’s first female Muslim football referee is from Somalia. Jawahir Roble used to live in Mogadishu but now referees football matches in northwest London.
(Source: The Guardian)

11. In 1991, Somaliland declared unilateral independence from Somalia. Although not officially recognised, Somaliland is far more stable and open to foreign visitors.
(Source: Lonely Planet, The Guardian)

Aerial view to Hargeisa in Somalia
Hargeisa is the biggest city of Somaliland (Shutterstock)

12. Injera (pictured above) is a traditional bread in Somalia. The spongy flatbread is usually topped with meat and vegetable curries such as okra, chickpeas and lentils.
(Source: Mohamed Diriye Abdullahi. (2001). Culture and Customs of Somalia. Greenwood: California)

13. Madagascar got its name from the Somali capital city of Mogadishu. Famous 13th-century explorer Marco Polo confused the island of Madagascar with Mogadishu and called it ‘Madageiscar’ – a corrupted transliteration of Mogadishu.
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

14. Somalia has a very simple flag consisting of a white star on a light blue background. The light blue was inspired by the United Nations flag as it played an intrinsic role in supporting Somalia’s move towards independence. The white star is the Somali national symbol. Each of its five points represents a Somali homeland.
(Source: Britannica)

The Somali flag
The Somali flag (Shutterstock)

15. An intrinsic part of Somali culture is the camel. Camels provide milk, transportation, income and status for owners. Camel meat is also a delicacy in Somali cuisine.
(Source: Africa Peace and Conflict Journal (PDF), LA Times)

16. At over 800kg, Somalia’s camels are the largest in Africa.
(Source: LA Times)

17. Throughout the 2000s pirates operated in the busy shipping lanes of the Gulf of Aden regularly seizing ships and taking hostages. Piracy in the region reached its peak in 2010 when Somali pirates hijacked 49 ships and took over 1,000 hostages.
(Source: CNN)

A scene from Captain Phillips
Tom Hanks, Faysal Ahmed and Mahat M Ali in Captain Phillips (Columbia Pictures)

18. The 2009 highjacking of the Maersk Alabama inspired the 2013 movie, Captain Phillips.

19. Somalia is currently ranked the fifth poorest country in the world (after Burundi) according to 2018 GDP per capita.
(Source: World Bank)

20. Prehistoric rock paintings dating back 5,000 years have been found in parts of Somalia, including one of the earliest known depictions of a mounted hunter.
(Source: The Guardian)

Prehistoric rock paintings
Prehistoric rock paintings (Shutterstock)

21. With 3,025km of coastline, Somalia has the longest coastline on Africa’s mainland. The only African country with more coastline is the island of Madagascar.
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

22. In 2010, it’s believed that Mike Spencer Bown became the first tourist to visit Somalia since 1990. When he arrived, officials didn’t believe he was a tourist and accused him of being a spy.
(Source: Smithsonian)

23. Mo Farah, one of Britain’s most successful Olympic athletes, is from Somalia. He was born in Mogadishu in 1983 and moved to the UK in 1991.
(Source: The Telegraph)

Mo Farah holds a British flag which says "Fly Mo"
Mo Farah celebrates gold at the European Athletics Championships in 2010 (Shutterstock)

24. Livestock accounts for over 66% of Somalia’s exports. Sheep and goats account for 44% with bovine (cattle) exports accounting for 22%.
(Source: OEC)

25. Somalia is the fifth-highest source country of refugees. In 2018 over 900,000 people fled the country.
(Source: UNHCR via Statista)

26. Somalia is among the 10 most dangerous countries in the world according to the International SOS Travel Risk Map. It has been assessed as carrying an ‘extreme travel security risk’.
– Source: The Independent

These facts about Somalia have been carefully corroborated using primary sources. If you find an error or have any questions, please contact us.