clear blue sea in somalia

7 Interesting Facts About Somalia

Somalia is the easternmost country in Africa, in what’s known as the Horn of Africa. It has endured a long and brutal history, with a neverending war, random attacks, and famine. Somalia’s also become infamous for its pirates, who seized ships in the Gulf of Aden during the 2000s. However, Somalia is so much more than that. It’s a beautiful country with a sad, complicated history. To get to know this country a bit better, here are 7 interesting facts about Somalia.

Interesting Facts About Somalia

1. Somalia has the longest coastline in mainland Africa

Somalia’s coastline stretches 3,025 km and is shaped like the number 7. The coastline lies next to the Indian Ocean to the east while the Gulf of Aden is towards the north. It would be the longest coastline in the entire continent if it wasn’t for Madagascar, where the coastline runs around the entire island. Along Somalia’s coastline, you can find some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Somalia was a popular tourist destination for its immense natural beauty and pristine beaches before the Civil War.

somalia beach

2. It has one of the highest fertility rates in the world

On average, a woman in Somalia will give birth to a whopping 6 children. Like many poverty-stricken countries, the majority of women don’t have access to modern contraception. But it’s difficult to say whether this would make much of a difference, as Somalian culture encourages big families. Childbearing is considered the primary duty of a woman in Somalia. However, due to poverty and poor healthcare, many children sadly die young.

mother walking with two children in somalia village

3. Madagascar got its name from Mogadishu

The capital city of Somalia is Mogadishu, which ended up being the inspiration for Madagascar’s name. Legend has it that the Venetian Merchant, Marco Polo, mistakenly confused Madagascar with Mogadishu. He arrived in Madagascar and thought he had arrived in Mogadishu, and then he misspelt it, leading to Madagascar as we know it.

people playing on the beach at mogadishu

4. It’s ranked as the second poorest country in the world

Sadly, Somalia consistently ranks as the second poorest country in Africa and the world. The first is Burundi. Around seven in ten Somalis live in poverty, while a huge 70% of the population is under 30. As a result of devastating poverty, the majority of the population is dependent on livestock and agriculture for income and food. Also, the country is lacking in official governmental statistics. And because of this and the ongoing civil war, it’s difficult to gauge the size or growth of the economy. Recently, Somalia has again been struggling with famine following four dry rainy seasons which has led to failed crops and the death of livestock.

woman with three children in camp in somalia

5. Somalis eat a banana with every meal

A banana comes with every dish. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Whether it’s rice or spaghetti, there isn’t a rule. Incidentally, Somalia has a strong pasta culture as a result of long Italian colonisation. The banana is either sliced up to be enjoyed mixed into the meal or served on the side. Bananas are Somalia’s leading export and many Somalis don’t consider a meal to be complete without a banana!

a traditional somalian meal with a banana

6. Prehistoric rock paintings dating back 5,000 years have been found in parts of Somalia

Somalia is home to Africa’s earliest known and most pristine rock art at Laas Geel. Although centuries have passed since artists swirled red and white paint on the cliffs of northern Somalia, the paintings still retain their fresh brilliance. These paintings depict an insight into life in Somalia over 5,000 years ago, detailing antelopes, cattle, giraffes, and hunters carrying bows and arrows. A group of local men actually live at the cave site, protecting the sacred paintings. They act as security guards, occasionally changing their roles to guide when a tourist comes along.

paintings at laas geel in somaliland

7. There is an ongoing civil war

There has been an ongoing civil war in Somalia since 1991. Therefore, it has been one of the most unstable, if not the most unstable, countries in the world. The civil war started following the overthrowing of the dictator, Siad Barre and extremist group Al-Shabaab has taken over ever since. It’s a bloody and brutal conflict, sadly claiming upwards of 500,000 lives over the past 30 years with over 3,000 people continuing to lose their lives each year. Somalia has only officially been a country since 1960, but borders were not clearly defined, and conflict has wracked the country ever since.

war stricken mogadishu

Aleyna Thompson

Aleyna is an appreciator of learning about a culture through its food, whether that's closer to home or being out there in the world. She’s always happiest when experiencing somewhere new, but her base in Manchester is a close second. A blend of her love of writing, food, travel, and culture has naturally led her to travel writing full time.

View stories