The Port of Berbera
The Port of Berbera was an integral part of Somali history; it is where trading occurred, expeditions began, and battles were fought. Trading routes are, however, one of the main reasons why Somalia was put on the map. The Port's convenient location is easily accessible through the bodies of water that surround it and for the different countries that border it. From before the early 16th century, the Port of Berbera was an area of high foot traffic. Its proximity to the Gulf of Aden made it a convenient place to trade for countries like China, and the UAE. It also made it easier to come to Africa as a whole. This Port has been an integral part of Somali history and will continue to be a vital asset to help the country grow in the future.
Backstory and Context
The Port of Berbera is located within the Somaliland Region of Somalia. This pseudo-country is not recognized on the international level but has internally claimed its independence from the rest of Somalia. This port was one of the most critical points located on the Horn of Africa during the 18th and 19th centuries. It is conveniently located on the Gulf of Aden and has proximity to the Red Sea. As the complications found within the Somali government increase and intensify, the Port is slowly being taken over and claimed by other, more powerful, countries. The Somali government continues to battle a variety of complex and multifaceted issues related to their internal and external affairs. Because of the complicated history regarding the country as a whole, assets such as the Port of Berbera are not prioritized. Another effect of this prioritization is the fact that physical monuments or structures are not created. Instead, as the Somali culture is one that is based on storytelling and word of mouth, areas such as the Port are known amongst people as essential. Rather than building actual memorials, critical points of interest that are significant in history and such have important high-traffic areas built upon them. The focus on practical places that attract people is more significant than monuments or art-installations that are meant to provoke thought and evoke memory.
To fully appreciate the Port of Berbera and its commodity, the past and history need to be analyzed and understood. Somalia is conveniently located near the Gulf of Aden and this Gulf served as a route between countries as far as China to areas such as Egypt. Throughout history, different empires and rulers traded with, and more importantly, through Somalia. They were nomads and merchants who had access to different types of wildlife and expensive items such as incense. The Ancient Egyptians referred to Ancient Somalia as The Kingdom of Punt; punt is what they called incense. In the Middle ages the Somali trading system slightly evolved, they began transporting goods by boat and further expanded their economy by doing so. Emperors began to visit the country through the port of Berbera as their main port of entry. As time progressed, and the ports became more relevant, different countries and empires gained interest in the country. It was located on the multiple different trading routes, one of the most famous being the Suez Canal and the Swahili Corridor.
While trading began to take off in Somalia, the countries that had traded with them began to occupy more and more land slowly. There came the point where the traders had settled and started to claim parts of Somalia. As a Nomadic Society, their government at the time was not secure enough to successfully fight back. In the early 16th century, the Portuguese came into southern-Somalia to try and take the wealthy ports. Many battles prevented the Portuguese from staying very long. Not only did the Portuguese occupy the country, but so did the French, British and after World War II, the Italians. Somalia is relatively new with its developed and westernized government; its official date of independence is July 1st, 1960. This is the day that the five different regions unified and became one country. Although this is the day that Somalia regained its independence from outside forces and governments, they are not entirely out of the picture. Somalia is considered to still be in a “state and civil society in crisis.” Unfortunately, when a country such as Somalia that is surrounded by other countries in a similar unstable state, it is capitalized on by stronger, more well-off countries, that keeps them further from reaching a point of stability.
While the country of Somalia currently deals with issues, such as terrorism, piracy, natural disasters, and arid land, unstable governments and external infiltration from more powerful nations, they do not have the resources or feel a pressing need to build monuments. Countries like the UAE and China are building off Somalia’s resources such as the Port of Berbera. The United Arab Emirates is planning on building a naval in Berbera. This naval is not being created to help the port; instead, it is being used strategically as an access point into Yemen and Djibouti. Somalia is still a relatively new country and is continuing to integrate itself into the world. As the country continues to stabilize and develop its assets will grow with them. The Port of Berbera was an integral area throughout history and will continue to be one as time progresses.
Andrew McConnell. 2007. A camel stands in front of a ruined building in Berbera. The scars of the civil war are still visible in Somaliland.. https://library.artstor.org/asset/APANOSIG_10313560615.
Chris Steele-Perkins. 1980. SOMALIA. 1980. SOMALIA. Children playing by refugee camp where they come to escape drought. 1980.. https://library.artstor.org/asset/AMAGNUMIG_10311501162.
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Chris Steele-Perkins. 1980. SOMALIA. 1980. Somalia. Migrating camel herd in Ogadon desert.. https://library.artstor.org/asset/AMAGNUMIG_10311500411.
Map: Swahili Corridor Trade routes. https://library.artstor.org/asset/ARTSTOR_103_41822001431004.
Petterik Wiggers. 05/01/13. People swim in the sea near the container dock.. https://library.artstor.org/asset/APANOSIG_10313976103.