Barbara (region)

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The northern Somali coast, referred to as Barbara in Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

Barbara,[1] also referred to as Bilad al-Barbar ("Land of the Berbers"), was an ancient region located in present-day northern Somalia. The area was inhabited by the Eastern Baribah or Barbaroi ("Berbers"), as the ancestors of the Somalis were referred to by medieval Arab and ancient Greek geographers, respectively.[1][2][3]

Along with the neighboring Habash (Abyssinians) of Al-Habash, the Barbaroi are recorded in the 1st century Greek document the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea as engaging in extensive commercial exchanges with Egypt and Pre-Islamic Arabia. The travelogue mentions the Barbaroi trading frankincense, among various other commodities, through their port cities such as Avalites (modern Zeila). Competent seamen, the Periplus' author also indicates that they sailed throughout the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden for trade. The document describes the Barbaroi's system of governance as decentralized, and essentially consisting of a collection of autonomous city-states.[4] It also suggests that "the Berbers who live in the place are very unruly",[5] an apparent reference to their independent streak.[4]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Raunig, Walter (2005). Afrikas Horn: Akten der Ersten Internationalen Littmann-Konferenz 2. bis 5. Mai 2002 in München. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 130. ISBN 3-447-05175-2. ancient Arabic geography had quite a fixed pattern in listing the countries from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean: These are al-Misr (Egypt) -- al-Muqurra (or other designations for Nubian kingdoms) -- al-Habasha (Abyssinia) -- Barbara (Berber, i.e. the Somali coast) -- Zanj (Azania, i.e. the country of the "blacks"). Correspondingly almost all these terms (or as I believe: all of them!) also appear in ancient and medieval Chinese geography 
  2. F.R.C. Bagley et al., The Last Great Muslim Empires, (Brill: 1997), p.174
  3. James Hastings, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics Part 12: V. 12, (Kessinger Publishing, LLC: 2003), p.490
  4. 4.0 4.1 Mohamed Diriye Abdullahi, Culture and Customs of Somalia, (Greenwood Press, 2001), pp.13-14
  5. Wilfred Harvey Schoff, The Periplus of the Erythræan sea: travel and trade in the Indian Ocean, (Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912) p.25