The old city of Marka and its real stories


MarkaBeachThere are some legends in the old city of Marka of which one I read from a textbook when I was still a schoolboy at the Intermadiate School in Mogadisho in 1950s I mean the legendary young man member of Bimal community who had killed the most powerful man from the Ajuran community wellknown as Geedi Babo who ruled the old city for many years. According to that textbook, that ruler used to claim royal right on any vigin girl after the wedding. How ever, the young fellow of Bimal community meant to change this traditional order. Indeed, he did not hesitate to get rid of him and took refuge in one of the houses belonged to the inhabitants of the city. A that ancient time in the city besides Ajuuran and Bimal communities there were also the communities of “Gibilcad” (rer banaadir) and of Bantu who coexisted peacefully with the Bimal communities for centuries. According to Sharif Eidarus’s book both Amudi and Asharaf arrived in this part of territory 4 centuries ago where already were emerging the old coastal cities of Mogadisho, Marka, Brava, and Kisimaio. According the same book one of my forefathers namely Shamsuddin came to this territory on 113 Hijra, some 1323 years ago and many others who preceded him. All of them were of Arabia origin and remaining arabs from “Andalus” (Spain).

With the killing of the Ajuran ruler ended the era of Ajuran community in Marka city. Nevertheless, all those events presuppose that the Ajuran community controlled the affairs of the city before the Bimal community. As a student I took the opportunity to visit the old building in which Geedi babo was dwelling during his lifetime, and I saw many things that made me believe that the Ajuran community king’s story is not a fabricated one, but a true story. It’s worth mentioning here also the legendary resistance of the Community of Bimal to the Italian occupation. It’s well documented that the Bimal fighters put up fierce resistance against the Italian army although they had not been successful to reject the occupation. It’s likely that such resistance has been motiveted not only by desireto defend their own territory but also by allegiance to their religion. On other hand, it’s generally believed the resistance remained ingrained in the minds of Italians similar to the defeat they had suffered (in Adowa) at the hand of Miniliq, the late king of Ethiopia when the Italian colonist made an attempt for occupation of his country during the 18th century. Indeed, it happened as a prove of what I stated in connection with such resistance that the aids of the Italian Government sent to the country during the Somali crises made available, exclusively,to the Bimal community as two Italian ships carrying a huge quantity of food anchored at port of Marka to discharge the load; obviously, that was a tribute of Italians to Bimal community. Now I move to the descriptation of the city of Marka which regarded as one of the important coastal cities close to the capital not only for its distinguishable economic and social development, but also for panoramic vews of the places surrounding it.

Until recently, the inhabitants of the city of Marka as a whole and the city itself were a part of the socalled Banadir region which at that time comprised also the coastal cities from Warshikh to Kisimaio through the old cities of Mogadisho (the capital), Brava and all the surrounding fertile land between the two rivers namely Jubba and Shabeli. Before the Italian occupation in1889 the region was under Sultan of Zanzibar administration. Unfortunately,later on it reduced to comprise only Mogadisho city and from its remaining vast territory emerged other regions for the purpose to give opportunity to the migrants from other regions to be resettled to the fertile land, and all these had been done at the spent of the minority ethnic groups and, obviously, under the auspices of the the governments who came in succession after the country became independent in 1960. Indeed, in some places an entire community had been eradicated to leave space to the new comers the most advantaged now of the Fed. Government program concerning the establishment of autonomous states throughout the national territory. Undoubtedly, our wellbeloved leaders had not behave in the most reasonable and long sighted manner and in accordance with the moral basis of our principles as adherants of Muslim faith. On the other hand, It’s really unfair causing people to abandon their original homeland and let other people occupy their place. What happened during the course of the civil war I can say that was was a different story. It was most likely that the purpose of the such war was solely to invading the region belonged to an unarmed people for plunder and occupation.

Geografically, the city of Marka lies between the Indian Ocean coastal area and the agricltural area; both areas made it an important centre for commercial and cultural exchange already in ancient times a millennium ago. Obviously, at that time the port of the city of Marka was fully active likewise Mogadisho port due to intesive movement of the sail boats arriving everywhere full of various goods. As for sailing they depended on two monsoons , or the time in which the winds blow into different directions during the year. During the monsoon NorthEast the sail boats arrive from Gulf countries and from India while during the monsoon SouthWest the sail boats arrive from Mombasa and from Zanzibar. At that time the city of Marka began flourishing and became a very attractive place for businessmen from neighbouring countries. Indeed, Yemen immigrants came to the city and to Mogadisho under the auspices of the Italian government. Of these a great many were employed as a part of the army made available for the invasion of the neighbouring Ethiopia in 1937. Both the cities of Marka and Mogadisho welcomed other immigrants from Pakistan and from India. The Yemen immigrants took up residence not only in the city of Marka and its surrounding counterside, but throughout the Somali territory where they became well integrated and went into business. As a result, in a short time they became the dominating group elsewhere in the colony in terms of wealth and they had their own association. In 1947 when the territory went under British administration they tried to make their association a strong one politically after all the wealth of the colony concentrated in their hands and, by virtue of their wealth, they had a number of supports among the inhabitants. Indeed, their first step to achieve their objective was the foundation of a political party for themselves with a very ambitious program.

Inevitably, there had been a confrontation between the Yemen community and the Somalis resulting in committing many cruel deeds in the name of “Somali Hannolaato”, in vandalizing and looting the properties belonged to the lat ter, and all these forced them to renounce their political aspiration. I met a friend in Yemen where I had been living as a desperate Somali Banadir refuge with my family members after the tragic advent of civil war in 1991. My new friend was my neighbour in a locality wellknown as”Aden Taiz”that is a place I would not like to wish even my worst enemy to live in because of its hotest weacher and of its mosquito that does not allow you to sleep well not to mention its houses built at random. He described me the suburb where he lived in Mogadisho which he loved a lot for its nice weather; and, in short, he gave me an idea of his business, his large house and the life he conducted. In reality, it happened that the Yemen community in Somalia established their respected position in Somali society after the deadly confrontation of 1947 and many of its members managed to become not only the owners of largest commercial and industrial firms and import-export businesses, but also the highranking military offices and top government personnels before and after the independence. Similarly, members of Yemen community dominated the economic situation in Marka city due to their link to the businessmen of their community in Mogadisho who were to help them in supplying of all the necessary goods (such as food, clothes, building materials ect.) for the inhabitants of both the city and the villages surrouding it to meet their need. Nevertheless, what surprising was when members of Yemen community living in Somalia returned back to Yemen after the uprising in Somalia, they had not been privileged as they were when lived in Somalia. Nor they were in respected positions in the Yemen society though they had been granted the passports. What more surprising was that they opposed when members of Banadir community, or”Gibilcad” who were originally from Yemen, had been granted Yemen passports and they referred their cases to Immigration office. Indeed, the police confiscated those passports. However, when they went outside Yemen have claimed to be members of Banadir community, to easily win asylum in Western countries.

In 1950 a new era began for all the residents in Marka city following the arrival of foreign investors (made up mostly of Italians) for financing the cultivation of banana and other crops for export throughout all the cultivable land nearby the city of Marka; for the financing the enlargement of the port of Marka; and for the estalishment of shipyard for the construction of large boats for transportation of banana and other fruits to the ship, and for establishing an office for the management of the exportation of those agricultural products. By the end of the year in city of Marka was began the exportation of banana and with that the activity of the port of Marka increased and became the greatest source of income for a great many workers. Indeed, the ships for transportation of the banana were arriving to the port of Marka almost every week for that vitally important purpose. Undeniably, the investiment has brought prosperity to the city which was beneficial for all the residents involved, directly and indirectly, in cultivation and in exporting this our banana. On other hand, there is no doubt that many families who before were extremely poor had got incomes to rely on for living. Unfortunately, the greatest source of income was no longer existed after had been completed the construcction of Mogadisho port. As a native of the city of Marka I was really shaken by the government decision and the reaction of the entire population of the city of Marka to the decision was with no success, or awail. Actually, the Military regime meant the concentration of all productive sectors in Mogadisho and that was a wrong policy at the sight of the masses. Before that misfotune, there was the request of the company responsible for the exportation of the banana to Italy for replacement of old lorries for transportation of banana from the place of production to the port with new ones, ended with the disappointing acceptance of the request which caused the owners of old lorries to face serious financial problems.In addition, the story of new lorries was a deal signed with FIAT (Italy) which was facing lack of demand for those lorries both in the domestic and in the Internationa market for their inefficience and were not irresistibili.

From 1991 onwards the city of Marka became a refuge for many Somalis due to lack of stability and security in many parts of the country following a prolonged political crises. Undoubtedly, the city of Marka has been either in present time or in the past an attractive place to live, especially for low income earners for two main reasons. Firstly, for tolerance of its people. Indeed, no one can imagine how many Somalis came to the city for the purpose to estabilish, or estabilish their families without any difficulty with the inhabitants of the city of Marka origin. Secondly, the cost of living is, always, low in the city of Marka comparing with that of other cities including Mogadisho. The prices of food in general are low and one can rent an apartment of 3BR for USD.50/=monthly. Surely, a family can live in Marka city less than two hundred dollars a month. Nevertheless, the only thing which has been increasing since the Somali crisis is the cost of marriage, especially the cost of marriage with girls from the “Gibilcad” community after a phenomenal rise of interest in recent time in such a marriage among the Somalis men, especially those who managed to became the richest of the country and who meant to marry those girls who regarded to be good and respectable to became ideal wives after the wedding. For that reason, a high percentage of the girls of our community are now married with those lucky people. For necessity, the old fashion attitudes of our community toward the marriage with people from other regions have changed considerably and with it the traditional order that consented only the marriage between members of the same extended familiy.

Last year I have been to Mogadisho with intention to spend the whole month of Holy Ramadan in my native city of Marka and to find a girl for one of my sons for marriage. Unfortunately, I had to renounce to my planed visit to the city of Marka and, consequently, to ignore my promisedue to report of clash between two rival factions there. Apart from my diappoinment at not being successful to reaching the destination and not keeping my promise to my son, I got very upset after I had learnt of that bad news. I lived in Marka city with my family in a time when the action of a few individuals in good connection with the Government could nullify the efforts of thousands even millions though they were not at all native of the city, but there was no clash between those individuals and the inhabitants; there was, rather, tolerance and peaceful coexistance between all the inhabitants. In view of the establishment of SouthWes State we can make this city of Marka a happy place for all to live.

Written by:
Abucar S. Ababakar