Somalia Travel Information

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Facts About Somalia

Background: A SIAD BARRE regime was ousted in January 1991; turmoil, factional fighting, and anarchy followed for nine years. In May of 1991, northern clans declared an independent Republic of Somaliland which now includes the administrative regions of Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed, Togdheer, Sanaag, and Sool. Although not recognized by any government, this entity has maintained a stable existence, aided by the overwhelming dominance of the ruling clan and economic infrastructure left behind by British, Russian, and American military assistance programs. The regions of Bari and Nugaal comprise a neighboring self-declared Republic of Puntland, which has also made strides towards reconstructing legitimate, representative government. Beginning in 1993, a two-year UN humanitarian effort (primarily in the south) was able to alleviate famine conditions, but when the UN withdrew in 1995, having suffered significant casualties, order still had not been restored. A Transitional National Government (TNG) was created in October 2000 in Arta, Djibouti which was attended by a broad representation of Somali clans. The TNG has a three-year mandate to create a permanent national Somali government. The TNG does not recognize Somaliland or Puntland as independent republics but so far has been unable to reunite them with the unstable regions in the south; numerous warlords and factions are still fighting for control of Mogadishu and the other southern regions.
Government type: none
Capital: Mogadishu
Currency: 1 Somali shilling (So. Sh.) = 100 cents

Geography of Somalia

Location: Eastern Africa, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, east of Ethiopia
Geographic coordinates: 10 00 N, 49 00 E
Area:
total: 637,657 sq km
land: 627,337 sq km
water: 10,320 sq km
Land boundaries:
total: 2,366 km
border countries: Djibouti 58 km, Ethiopia 1,626 km, Kenya 682 km
Coastline: 3,025 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 200 nm
Climate: principally desert; December to February - northeast monsoon, moderate temperatures in north and very hot in south; May to October - southwest monsoon, torrid in the north and hot in the south, irregular rainfall, hot and humid periods (tangambili) between monsoons
Terrain: mostly flat to undulating plateau rising to hills in north
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Shimbiris 2,416 m
Natural resources: uranium and largely unexploited reserves of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt
Land use:
arable land: 2%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 69%
forests and woodland: 26%
other: 3% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 1,800 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: recurring droughts; frequent dust storms over eastern plains in summer; floods during rainy season
Environment - current issues: famine; use of contaminated water contributes to human health problems; deforestation; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Endangered Species, Law of the Sea
signed, but not ratified: Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban
Geography - note: strategic location on Horn of Africa along southern approaches to Bab el Mandeb and route through Red Sea and Suez Canal

People of Somalia

As early as the seventh century A.D., indigenous Cushitic peoples began to mingle with Arab and Persian traders who had settled along the coast. Interaction over the centuries led to the emergence of a Somali culture bound by common traditions, a single language, and the Islamic faith.

Today, about 60% of all Somalis are nomadic or semi-nomadic pastoralists who raise cattle, camels, sheep, and goats. About 25% of the population are settled farmers who live mainly in the fertile agricultural zone between the Juba and Shebelle Rivers in southern Somalia. The remainder of the population (15%-20%) is urban.

Sizable ethnic groups in the country include Bantu agricultural workers, several thousand Arabs and some hundreds of Indians and Pakistanis. Nearly all inhabitants speak the Somali language, which remained unwritten until October 1973, when the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) proclaimed it the nation's official language and decreed an orthography using Latin letters. Somali is now the language of instruction in schools, to the extent that these exist. Arabic, English, and Italian also are used extensively.

Population: 8,591,629 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 44% (male 1,610,945; female 1,608,209)
15-64 years: 53% (male 1,938,263; female 1,892,752)
65 years and over: 3% (male 90,717; female 112,251) 
Population growth rate: 2.9% 
Birth rate: 47.7 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 18.69 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 125.77 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 46.23 years
male: 44.66 years
female: 47.85 years 
Total fertility rate: 7.18 children born/woman 
Nationality:
noun: Somali(s)
adjective: Somali
Ethnic groups: Somali 85%, Bantu, Arabs 30,000
Religions: Sunni Muslim
Languages: Somali (official), Arabic, Italian, English
Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 24%
male: 36%
female: 14% (1990 est.)

SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Somalia > Map Economy History