The Somal invariably call Berberah the “Sahil,” (meaning in Arabic the sea-shore,) as Zayla with them is “Audal,” and Harar “Adari.”
5 This is the second great division of the Somal people, the father of the tribe being Awal, the cadet of Ishak el Hazrami.
The Habr Awal occupy the coast from Zayla and Siyaro to the lands bordering upon the Berteri tribe. They own the rule of a Gerad, who exercises merely a nominal authority. The late chief’s name was “Bon,” he died about four years ago, but his children have not yet received the turban. The royal race is the Ayyal Abdillah, a powerful clan extending from the Dabasanis Hills to near Jigjiga, skirting the Marar Prairie.
The Habr Awal are divided into a multitude of clans: of these I shall specify only the principal, the subject of the maritime Somal being already familiar to our countrymen. The Esa Musa inhabit part of the mountains south of Berberah. The Mikahil tenant the lowlands on the coast from Berberah to Siyaro. Two large clans, the Ayyal Yunis and the Ayyal Ahmed, have established themselves in Berberah and at Bulhar. Besides these are the Ayyal Abdillah Saad, the Ayyal Geraato, who live amongst the Ayyal Yunis,—the Bahgobo and the Ayyal Hamed.
13 The Habr Gerhajis, or eldest branch of the sons of Ishak (generally including the children of “Arab”), inhabit the Ghauts behind Berberah, whence they extend for several days’ march towards Ogadayn, the southern region. This tribe is divided into a multitude of clans. The Ismail Arrah supply the Sultan, a nominal chief like the Eesa Ugaz; they extend from Makhar to the south of Gulays, number about 15,000 shields and are subdivided into three septs. The Musa Arrah hold the land between Gulays and the seats of the Mijjarthayn and Warsangeli tribes on the windward coast. The Ishak Arrah count 5000 or 6000 shields, and inhabit the Gulays Range. The other sons of Arrah (the fourth in descent from Ishak), namely, Mikahil, Gambah, Daudan, and others, also became founders of small clans. The Ayyal Daud, facetiously called “Idagallah” or earth-burrowers, and sprung from the second son of Gerhajis, claim the country south of the Habr Awal, reckon about 4000 shields, and are divided into 11 or 12 septs.
As has been noticed, the Habr Gerhajis have a perpetual blood feud with the Habr Awal, and, even at Aden, they have fought out their quarrels with clubs and stones. Yet as cousins they willingly unite against a common enemy, the Eesa for instance, and become the best of friends.
We shook off our slumbers before dawn on the 27th. I remarked near our resting-place, one of those detached heaps of rock, common enough in the Somali country: at one extremity a huge block projects upwards, and suggests the idea of a gigantic canine tooth. The Donkey declared that the summit still bears traces of building, and related the legend connected with Moga Medir.7 There, in times of old, dwelt a Galla maiden whose eye could distinguish a plundering party at the distance of five days’ march. The enemies of her tribe, after sustaining heavy losses, hit upon the expedient of an attack, not en chemise, but with their heads muffled in bundles of hay. When Moga, the maiden, informed her sire and clan that a prairie was on its way towards the hill, they deemed her mad; the manoeuvre succeeded, and the unhappy seer lost her life. The legend interested me by its wide diffusion. The history of Zarka, the blue-eyed witch of the Jadis tribe, who seized Yemamah by her gramarye, and our Scotch tale of Birnam wood’s march, are Asiatic and European facsimiles of African “Moga’s Tooth.”
of Dabasenis, a hill half way between Bulhar and Berberah. On the summit I was shown an object that makes travellers shudder, a thorn-tree, under which the Habr Gerhajis 13 and their friends of the Eesa Musa sit, vulture-like, on the look-out for plunder and murder. Advancing another mile, we came to some wells, where we were obliged to rest our animals. Having there finished our last mouthful of food, we remounted, and following the plain eastward, prepared for a long night-march.
As the light of day waned we passed on the right hand a table-formed hill, apparently a detached fragment of the sub-Ghauts or coast range. This spot is celebrated in local legends as “Auliya Kumbo,” the Mount of Saints, where the forty-four Arab Santons sat in solemn conclave before dispersing over the Somali country to preach El Islam. It lies about six hours of hard walking from Berberah.
The Habr Tul Jailah (mother of the tribe of Jailah) descendants of Ishak el Hazrami by a slave girl, inhabit the land eastward of Berberah. Their principal settlements after Aynterad are the three small ports of Karam, Unkor, and Hays. The former, according to Lieut. Cruttenden, is “the most important from its possessing a tolerable harbour, and from its being the nearest point from Aden, the course to which place is N. N. W., —consequently the wind is fair, and the boats laden with sheep for the Aden market pass but one night at sea, whilst those from Berberah are generally three. What greatly enhances the value of Kurrum (Karam), however, is its proximity to the country of the Dulbahanteh, who approach within four days of Kurrum, and who therefore naturally have their chief trade through that port. The Ahl Tusuf, a branch of the Habertel Jahleh, at present hold possession of Kurrum, and between them and the tribes to windward there exists a most bitter and irreconcileable feud, the consequence of sundry murders perpetrated about five years since at Kurrum, and which hitherto have not been avenged. The small ports of Enterad, Unkor, Heis, and Rukudah are not worthy of mention, with the exception of the first-named place, which has a trade with Aden in sheep.”
Of the origin of Berberah little is known. El Firuzabadi derives it, with great probability, from two Himyar chiefs of Southern Arabia.6 About A.D. 522 the troops of Anushirwan expelled the Abyssinians from Yemen, and re-established there a Himyari prince under vassalage of the Persian Monarch. Tradition asserts the port to have been occupied in turns by the Furs7, the Arabs, the Turks, the Gallas, and the Somal. And its future fortunes are likely to be as varied as the past.
The present decadence of Berberah is caused by petty internal feuds. Gerhajis the eldest son of Ishak el Hazrami, seized the mountain ranges of Gulays and Wagar lying about forty miles behind the coast, whilst Awal, the cadet, established himself and his descendants upon the lowlands from Berberah to Zayla. Both these powerful tribes assert a claim to the customs and profits of the port on the grounds that they jointly conquered it from the Gallas. 8 The Habr Awal, however, being in possession, would monopolize the right: a blood feud rages, and the commerce of the place suffers from the dissensions of the owners.
Moreover the Habr Awal tribe is not without internal feuds. Two kindred septs, the Ayyal Yunis Nuh and the Ayyal Ahmed Nuh 9, established themselves originally at Berberah. The former, though the more numerous, admitted the latter for some years to a participation of profits, but when Aden, occupied by the British, rendered the trade valuable, they drove out the weaker sept, and declared themselves sole “Abbans” to strangers during the fair. A war ensued. The sons of Yunis obtained aid of the Mijjarthayn tribe. The sons of Ahmed called in the Habr Gerhajis, especially the Musa Arrah clan, to which the Hajj Sharmarkay belongs, and, with his assistance, defeated and drove out the Ayyal Yunis. These, flying from Berberah, settled at the haven of Bulhar, and by their old connection with the Indian and other foreign traders, succeeded in drawing off a considerable amount of traffic. But the roadstead was insecure: many vessels were lost, and in 1847 the Eesa Somal slaughtered the women and children of the new-comers, compelling them to sue the Ayyal Ahmed for peace. Though the feud thus ended, the fact of its having had existence ensures bad blood: amongst these savages treaties are of no avail, and the slightest provocation on either side becomes a signal for renewed hostilities.
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