Somalis are a homogenous race of mainly nomads and occupy a vast but sparsely populated territory between Djibouti on the red Sea and Tana River in the north-eastern Kenya. Believed a member of the Eastern Cushitic group, which also includes the Afar, Oromo, Rendille and others, somalis generally became fanatics defence of Islam, Somalis tend to be rather liberal in practice. around 615 AD some of Companions of Muhammad reportedly migrated to the Horn of Africa only a few years after Islam’s appearance in its birth-place of Mecca. To this day, however, the faith is yet to make a significant impact on the lives of these hardy nomads and appears to blend well with some age-old pagan traditions.
Historically, very little was known about the Somali people’s pre-Islamic past. Despite recent fossil and genetic evidence which strongly advocate the theory that mankind originated in Africa, and East Africa in particular, there was relatively little archeological study of the Somali peninsula. Most archeologists and paleontologists tended to concentrate their search on the more hospitable and tourist-friendly countries of Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia. The logically more potential and geologically older terrain of Somalia was somehow ignored. The inhabitants of the Somali coasts were known to have contact and trade relations with the two known oldest civilizations of the world, namely ancient Egypt and Sumaria. Unlike ancient Egypt where scholars were able to uncover and translate numerous writings and records, our knowledge of Sumaria remained relatively scant and inadequate. The author, however, thought it of interest that Sumarian huts which were made of woven reed were an exact replica of a Somali nomad’s collapsible hut. Also strangely enough, the most important Sumarian deity, MARDUKH or MARDUK in Old somali MAR-DUUG literally meant in Somali ‘The one who was once buried’.
Perhaps the earliest and most detailed historical record of Somalia was that of the famous Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut’s voyage to the Land of Punt in 1500 BC. On arrival there, however, the king and queen of Punt enquired of her why she came after her ancestors forsook them for a long time. Apparently, contact between the two countries did not begin with the queen’s visit but existed much earlier.
Ancient Egyptian records narrate how would-be Pharaohs were ritually required to go on a pilgrimage to ‘The Land of the Gods’/Pund prior to their ascent to the throne. The name ‘The Land of the Gods’ and this ritual were apparently lost to historians who failed to appreciate the fact that the country was an important centre of religion and the cradle of idol worship.
Sadly, Egyptologists often worked on the premise that the ancient Egyptian civilization began along the fertile Nile Valley where farming and other so-called pre-requisites for civilizations were possible. Without disputing the fact that this civilization made tremendous development and reached its zenith along the Nile Valley, its humble beginnings could have originated elsewhere where time and conditions obliterated any visible signs of its existence. With its huge obelisks, gigantic pyramids, ruined cities and other priceless archaeological treasures, Egypt no doubt provided everything scholars ever dreamed of and much more – and they never looked beyond since.
While the mysterious ‘Punt’ was probably the ancestor of the Somali speaking people (? The Biblical Phut in Genesis), it was mainly ‘The Land of the Gods’ which captured the imagination of the author. It was an indisputable fact that, in ancient civilizations, religion dominated the lives of people and formed the pillars of their culture. Little wonder that most of ancient Egypt’s gods as well as the most important components of their culture came from the country they knew as ‘The Land of the Gods’.
Paintings of their gods show at least six held the common Somali nomad’s HANGOOL – a handy stuff hook-shaped at one end and a V-shaped at the other traditionally used for handling thorn bushes. Another three gods held the slender Somali spear. Ancient Egyptian traditional dresses, the Royal scarf worn around the waist as well as the (Ivory) headrest all reminds one of the present day Somalia. Curiously enough, the beautifully decorated scarf to this day remained part of a Somali nomad girl’s ceremonial attire and was called BOQOR. The word BOQOR was also the only Somali word for king. While the method of burying the dead with their belongings was also a pre-Islamic Somali tradition, there where the persistent reports of the existence of man-made hills in north-east Somalia- a probable predecessor to ancient Egypt’s geometrical pyramids.
Apart from the ancient Egyptian records, the only mention of pre-Islamic Somalia was that by the Greek geographers and travelers Herodotus, Strabo, Pliny, Ptolemy and cosmos Indicopleustas who visited the Red Sea coast between Barbaria and its people were Barbars. The name Berber was apparently a corruption of Barbar and, therefore, Barbaria must have been the original homeland of the North African Berbers.
In all probability, the Red Sea Port city of Berbera was Barbara, the most important town in Barbaria. Perhaps it would be of interest to note here that the ancient Egyptian Hieroglyph was also called BARBA. Incidentally, BARBA in Somali meant ‘teach to write’ and was still in use in the old quarter of Mogadishu. BAR in Somali means ‘teach’ and BA was the first letter of the Hieroglyph as well as the Somali orthography. While the word Barbarism and Barbaric found its way into some European dictionaries in their correct spelling, they obviously referred to the hostile and ‘savage’ conduct of the North Africans who then were the only Barbars in contact with Europe.
Another unexpected source which the author found valuable was the two Holy Books of the two main monotheistic religions, namely the Bible and Qur’an. In the opinion of the author, the age of the two books and their reference to historical events renders them a valuable source which could not simply be ignored or dismissed. As a matter of fact, the two books provided some useful hints which added to the mounting etymological evidence at hand. For instance, the Biblical YAHWE (later turned Yehova and Jehova) was evidently the same as the Somali YAHU – traditionally invoked to ward off evil or danger. While the Cananite god ‘Pal’ was still present in Somalia in the same sense in one or two words, the ancient Aramaic name for the almighty, EBBE, was to this day the most commonly used names for God besides the Islamic ‘Allah’. The Biblical TUBAN-CAIN, whose profession was to make instruments (Genesis 4:22) was obviously a Greek mispronunciation of TUMAL, the Somali iron-monger.
According to the earliest interpretations of the Quran, the place where Cain slew his brother, Abel, was ‘GERIYAT’ which reportedly meant ‘The place of Death’. Incidentally, the hottest most desolate piece of desert in North-Western Somalia was called and thus also meant in Somali. GERIYAT (GEERIYAAD) lies about 25km south of the historical Red Sea Port of Zeila (probably the Biblical Zillah, the mother of TUBAL-CAIN). Also according to the Holy Quran, WAD(the ancient Hamite god) was one of the five idol-gods worshipped during the time of Prophet Noah. There was now etymological evidence that WAD was a Somali deity as also was HOBAL and several of ancient Egypt’s gods