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Muqdisho in the Nineteenth Century: A Regional Perspective

Edward A. Alpers
The Journal of African History
Vol. 24, No. 4 (1983), pp. 441-459
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/181253
Page Count: 19
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Muqdisho in the Nineteenth Century: A Regional Perspective
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Abstract

During the nineteenth century Muqdisho experienced a significant revival in its fortunes after several centuries of gradual decline from its medieval heyday. While it remained on the periphery of the Omani empire on the coast of East Africa, steady commercial penetration of Indian merchant capital based at Zanzibar inexorably drew the entire Benaadir coast into the Omani orbit. Massive infusions of slave labour transformed agricultural commodity production in the Benaadir hinterland and created a new basis for ruling-class collaboration between town and country. At Muqdisho these external factors intertwined with established internal rivalries which were based on moiety competition and the traditional search for supporting alliances in the hinterland. The end result of this complex process was increased competition and tension between the town moieties that affected both the spatial segregation of the two quarters and enabled first Omani Zanzibar and then Italy to insinuate themselves into a dominant mediating position within the urban community. At the end of the century the urban culture of Muqdisho had also been influenced by the incorporation of a large slave population. While all of these changes indicate that Muqdisho was integrally a part of the wider coastal region of East Africa, other cultural evidence establishes no less that it was still uniquely Soomaali within that context.

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