Merca (Somali: Marka, Maay: Marky, Arabic: مركة) is a historic port city in the southern Lower Shebelle province of Somalia. It is located approximately 109 km (68 mi) to the southwest of the nation's capital Mogadishu. Merca is the traditional home territory of the Bimal clan and was the center of the Bimal Revolt or Merka Revolt.[2]


Merca beachside
Merca beachside
Marko cadey
Merca is located in Somalia
Location within Somalia
Merca is located in Horn of Africa
Location within the Horn of Africa
Merca is located in Africa
Location within Africa
Coordinates: 01°41′00″N 044°45′00″E / 1.68333°N 44.75000°E / 1.68333; 44.75000Coordinates: 01°41′00″N 044°45′00″E / 1.68333°N 44.75000°E / 1.68333; 44.75000
Country Somalia
State South West
RegionLower Shabelle
 • City230,100
 • Urban
Time zoneUTC+3 (EAT)



The city of Essina is believed to have been the predecessor state of Merca. It used to be an ancient Proto-Somali emporium city-state.[3] It is mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a Greek travel document dating from the first century AD, as one of a series of commercial ports on the Somali littoral.[4] According to the Periplus, maritime trade already connected peoples in the Merca area with other communities along the Somali Sea coast.[5]

Medieval PeriodEdit

Minaret and moonrise in Merca

According to 12th century author Al-Idrisi the Hawiye occupied the coastal areas between Ras Hafun and Merca, as well as the lower basin of the lower Shabelle river. Al-Idrisi's mention of the Hawiye is the first documentary reference to a specific Somali group in the Horn. Later Arab writers also make references to the Hawiye clan in connection with both Merca and the lower Shabelle valley. Ibn Sa'id (1214–74), for instance, considered Merca to be the capital of the Hawiye, who lived in fifty villages on the bank of a river which he called the nile of Mogadishu, a clear reference to the Shabelle river. Yaqut al-Hamawi, another thirteen-century Arab geographer also mentions Merca, which he says belonged to the Black Berbers considered ancestors of modern Somalis.[6]

During the Middle Ages, the area was one of several prominent administrative centers of the Ajuran Sultanate. The polity formed one of the largest kingdoms in the Horn region. Various pillar tombs exist in the region, which local tradition holds were built in the 15th century, when the Sultanate's naa'ibs governed the district.[7] According to Ibn Sa'id in the thirteenth century described nearby Merca as one of the three most important cities on the East African coast along with Mogadishu and Barawa all serving as the commercial and Islamic centers for the Indian Ocean.[8]

Following the decline of Ajuran Sultanate. In the vicinity of Merca, a mysterious group known as the El Amir believe to be from the Abgaal origin made its appearance in the late 17th century. According to an account collected by Guillain in 1847, a leader known as Amir formed a following which invaded the territory of Merca and expelled the Ajuran clan. The El Amir then ruled for thirty-four years until the Biimaal expelled them and definitively occupied Merca.[9]

Early ModernEdit

One of the most powerful sultanates to have emerged from Southern Somalia called the Geledi Sultanate centered in Afgooye in the late 17th century. It incorporated the Merca territory into its kingdom until the Bimaal rebelled in the mid-1800s for independence. The Sultanate of Geledi tried to attack and destroy the Bimaal clan many times to try and re-capture the coastal city of Merca. But the Bimal of Merca managed to defeat the Geledi Sultanate 2 times. In 1843 Yusuf Mahamud, Sultan of Geledi, vowed to destroy the Bimaal for once and for all and mobilizes the Geledi army. In 1848 the sultan of the Geledi, Yusuf Mahamud was is killed at Adaddey Suleyman, a village near Merca, in a battle between the Bimaal and Geledi Sultanate. His son Sultan Ahmed Yusuf tried to see revenge but was also killed in 1878 at Agaaran, near Marka by the Bimal. This caused a steady decline in the Geledi Sultanate.[10]

The walls of Merca photographed in 1928 the traditional stronghold of the Bimaal

Bimal RevoltEdit

The Bimal revolt, Bimal resistance, or Banadir resistance was a guerrilla war against the Italian Somaliland in southern Somalia. It was fought from the years 1896 to 1926 and largely concentrated in the Lower Shebelle, Banadir and Middle Shebelle. The war was centered around Merka and Danane.

It is compared to the war of the Mad Mullah in northern Somalia.[11][12] Named after the Bimal clan since they were the major element in the resistance.[13]

Notable elders and the Sultan belonging to the Bimal clan in Merca

For more about Bimal or Merca revolt see:


In the 1930s a group of Italian Somalis established residency in Merca. The Port of Merca was the oldest port in Italian Somalia and was nicknamed the "port of bananas" due to its status as a key exporter of bananas from Somalia to Europe.[14] In the city of Merca there was a huge economical development in the 1930s, due mainly to the growing commerce of the port of Merca connected by small railway to the farm area of Genale.[15]

Merca was abandoned by government forces and captured by Al-Shabaab in February 2016.[16] It was recaptured by the Somali National Army along with African Union troops, a few days later. A small battle was fought in which a Somali soldier, several militants, and four civilians died.[17]


According to the UNDP in 2005 Merca had a population of around 63,900 inhabitants.[18] it is primarily inhabited by Somalis from the Bimaal sub-clan of Dir.[19]


Merca has a jetty-class seaport, the Port of Merca.[20]

The nearest airport to the city is the K50 Airport in the Lower Shebelle province.

Notable peopleEdit

  • Asha Jama, social activist, and former TV reporter and journalist.
  • Sheikh Abibakar Gafle, described as one of the best known resistance leaders in Southern Somalia and from Merca.[21]
  • Ali Maow Maalin, the last person known to have been naturally infected by Variola minor smallpox

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ PopulationStat Population of Merca, city and urban area
  2. ^ Marka is the traditional home territory of the Dir clan Biimaal (Lewis 2008, p. 5).
  3. ^ Ptolemy's Topography of Eastern Equatorial Africa, by Henry Schlichter Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography © 1891 - p. 443
  4. ^ Jama 1962, p. 19.
  5. ^ Huntingford 1980, p. 94.
  6. ^ Fage, J. D.; Oliver, Roland; Oliver, Roland Anthony; Clark, John Desmond; Gray, Richard; Flint, John E.; Roberts, A. D.; Sanderson, G. N.; Crowder, Michael (1975). The Cambridge history of Africa: Fage, J. D. p. 137. ISBN 9780521209816.
  7. ^ Northeast African Studies. African Studies Center, Michigan State University. 1989. p. 115.
  8. ^ The Cambridge History of Africa, Volume 3 - Page 138
  9. ^ Cassanelli, Lee (1973). The Benaadir Past Essays in Southern Somali History. University of Wisconsin Madison.
  10. ^ Mukhtar, Mohamed Haji (25 February 2003). Historical Dictionary of Somalia. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810866041.
  11. ^ Ciisa-Salwe, Cabdisalaam M. (1996-01-01). The collapse of the Somali state: the impact of the colonial legacy. HAAN. p. 19. ISBN 9781874209270.
  12. ^ Kusow, Abdi (2004-01-01). Putting the cart before the horse: contested nationalism and the crisis of the nation-state in Somalia. Red Sea Press. p. 82. ISBN 9781569022023.
  13. ^ Kusow, Abdi (2004-01-01). Putting the cart before the horse: contested nationalism and the crisis of the nation-state in Somalia. Red Sea Press. p. 86. ISBN 9781569022023. the Bimal clan was the major element in the resistance. See: Gherardo Pantano, Nel Benadir: La Citta di Merca e la Regione Bimal,
  14. ^ "La colonizzazione agricola nella Somalia italiana 1920/39". March 30, 2015.
  15. ^ "Map of Genale (green area was the farm concessions) and Merca in the 1930s".
  16. ^ "Al-Shabaab militants retake Somali port". February 5, 2016 – via
  17. ^ "Somali troops 'retake' key port city of Merca from al-Shabab - BBC News". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  18. ^ "Population data" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-07-18.
  19. ^ Landinfo Somalia: Lower Shabelle. Landinfo Somalia: Lower Shabelle
  20. ^ "Istanbul conference on Somalia 21 – 23 May 2010 - Draft discussion paper for Round Table "Transport infrastructure"" (PDF). Government of Somalia. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  21. ^ Marchal, Roland (1997). Studies on Governance. United Nations Development Office for Somalia.

External linksEdit