Somalia <<soh MAH lee uh>> is the easternmost country on the mainland of Africa. Its coastline forms the outer edge of the “horn” of Africa. The coast lies along the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Somalia borders the countries of Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Mogadishu is the capital and largest city.
Dry, grassy plains cover most of Somalia. A mountain ridge rises in the north. The weather is hot and dry the year around. There are often droughts, or times when no rain falls. Most of the land is good only for feeding animals, but some crops are grown near the rivers in the south.
Most Somalis belong to one of the four clans, or family groups, known as the Samaal. The Samaal are mostly nomads—people who move from place to place, feeding their herds of animals. The members of two other clans, called the Sab, live along the rivers in southern Somalia and farm for a living. Almost all of Somalia’s clans share the same language, culture, and religion, but there has been much fighting between the groups.
Somalia has very few natural resources and little industry. Its economy is based on the herding of camels, cattle, goats, and sheep. Bananas are grown on large farms called plantations along the rivers in the south.
The land that is now northern Somalia was well known in ancient times because it lay along a major trade route. This route connected the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea to the eastern lands of India and China.
In the 1800′s, the United Kingdom and Italy controlled the area that is now Somalia. In 1960, those countries gave their Somali territories independence. In the early 1990′s, drought and civil war resulted in widespread starvation, and the government collapsed. Fighting continued in the 2000′s. With no functioning government, Somalia became a haven for pirates and terrorists.