The Port City of Hobyo and The Dir Imaams
Qoraalkaan wax uu sheegayaa in Boqortoyadii Ajuuran ay Dir/ Abgaal/ Sheekal Imaamo ahayeen History of Hobyo The Port City of Hobyo In the present somali language Hobyo may mean: Ho = have and Biyo = water(Hobiyo = Have a water). Hobyo in this context indicates that the town had a wells to provide water and to offer to travelers. Probably the word may have derived from old Somali and may have evolved it this form. In the Periplus of the Eritrean Sea (an old Greek Merchant's dairy book) the name opone appears to correspond to old Hobyo. Hobyo is an ancient harbor, like many other Somali ports on the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, may had been frequented by Phoenicians, Egyptians, Persians,Yemanis, Greeks and Roman sailors. The dairy chronicled to AD50 contains a map of all the ports and their importance. It is shown that Opone(Hobyo) was a centre of the trade in cinnamon and spices. This trade seems to be evidence that the people were sea farers who traveled to the Far East, as far as the present Indonesia amd Malaysia. History of Hobyo It is not known why people settled at Hobyo shores but an obvious explanation could be trade. Apart from ivory, animal skins and incense, the rise of the coastal trading post was due to the commercial opportunities the port generated by the dhows trade. Oral traditions recall that Hobyo was the departure port of hundreds of pilgrims who wanted to visit Mecca and do the Islamic duties and worship. But the most plausible explanation for the size of the town was the commercial possibilities generated by the Ajuuraan Sultunate at Qalaafo, now in Ethiopia. Agricultural products grown in what is known locally as 'Shabeele, a region along both banks of the Shabeelle River, between Qalaafo and Buur Unkur ' was exported from this seaport. Hobyo was a prosperous town and thrived well during the Ajuuraan dynasty that ruled some parts of Somalia between 1400s and 1750s. The last Ajuuraan dynasty crumbled during the colonial period. Ancient migration routes joined Shabeelle to Hobyo (9:5). Archaeological evidence suggests that Hobyo may have been an important trading centre in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, participating in East Africa's trade with the Middle East and Asia. Its status, however, changed many times in the past. Hobyo had sea links with the Banaadir coast towns such as Mogadishu, Marka and Baraawe that were far more important during the 18th and 19th centuries (1:30). Hobyo was beyond the rule of the Omani rulers in Zanzibar who from 1698 to 1840 loosely ruled the Banadir coast. The Omani Sultans weakened gradually to give way to the Italian colonial rule. The ocean trade brought the town wealth, luxury and on occasions power. The coast could not produce enough for most everyday needs, and therefore, the hinterland supplemented the requirements. People grew mainly sorghum as the stable food, and beans and raised animals like camels, cattle, goats and sheep. Livestock, hides and skin, aromatic woods and raisins were exported, while rice, other foodstuff and clothes were imported. The luxury goods consisted predominantly of textiles, precious metals and pearls. This made the town vibrant(9: 9-10). Today it seems unlikely that ancient Hobyo communities were maritime people and the open-sea beyond the reefs were as much of their environment as were the coastlands. There were always movements of traders and settlers up and down the coast. People traveled with the northeast monsoons to Banaadir and the East African coast, and using the southwest monsoons traveled back to Hobyo, or to the Arabian Peninsula or India. The northeast monsoons bring many kinds of consumer goods from Arabia and India, while the southwest monsoon takes local products from the Swahili coast: spice, grain, ivory, hides and sometimes slaves. The size of the trade the Banaadir coast and Hobyo did was not comparable to the volume of trade from East Africa. The actual dates of the monsoon vary from year to year by several weeks, so that there is always the risk of ships becoming stranded at one end of the journey or the other. If the winds are seized at the right times, then overseas sailing is quick and easy. The Ajuuraan rulers collected tribute in the form of sorghum (durra) from cultivators who farmed on the coastal plains in Harardheere and El-Dheer, and demanded cattle, camels, goats or sheep from the nomads of the region. Also agricultural products from the other regions of the Ajuuraan Confederate was consumed or exported from Hobyo. The port of Hobyo was an income-generating source where the state received enormous revenue(4: 96-112) Hobyo's Ajuuraan rulers were in alliance with the rulers of Mogadishu Sultanate who were of Arab, Persian or Ajuuraan origin. Trade between Hobyo and the Banaadir coast flourished for some time. However, in around 1650s the Sultanate of Hobyo started to decline. Traditions mention that Hobyo was the starting point of the Hawiye rebellion against the Ajuuran rule, and contributed to the ultimate defeat. Many of the deep stone-walled wells, abandoned fortifications and other ruins are attributed to local tradition to Ajuuraan construction (4:97).Since that, for nearly two centuries the town prospered and gained fame in supplying fresh water to the sailing dhows. Probably, a new loose sultanate of the Hiraab took the reign, led by the Imaam. The Hiraab is a confederate of Hawiye clans and ruled with a clear division of power: The Imaams were from the Abgaal, the Faqhis and Qadhis were from the Sheeqaal or the Dir (although not considered from the Hiraab) and the army leaders or advisors were from the Habar Gidir or Duduble. But soon the arrangement overstretched in terms of area under control and dissolved. In the early 18th century, the Imaam was already in Mogadishu, and settled there. In 1878 Hobyo's glory attracted a young rebellious and ambitious man named Ali Yusuf. He was from the Majeerteen clan and approached peacefully to local headmen and elders of the local people. The man and his army built a fort and secretly smuggled in guns. After a short time, Ali Yusuf attacked the local tribesmen and pronounced the Sultanate of the Majeerteen in Hobyo.The sultanate was captured and pensioned off to Mogadishu in 1925 (4: 71). Since the fall of the Sultanate to the Italian colonial power, the town lost its historical roles, and started gradual declination. The Italians and the Somali governments after independence all marginalized the town, forgot its ancient history and neglected it. Caught in a declining and sinking town, the people had to emigrate to elsewhere in search for jobs and life. The centralized administration, and concentration of wealth and opportunities in the capital city made the people to flow out more rapidly.
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