A Brief History of Brava
The True Brava
By: Mohamed Kalif Babou
Brava is an ancient city on the southern coast of Somalia. The town progressively prospered and became one of the Major Islamic centers in Horn of Africa. Many people considered the city to be the trade center of the whole region at the time, with farming and fishing being the leading resources of the area.
Chinese sailors and historians recorded a brief history about the coastal cities of Somalia such as Adale, Brava, Kismayo, Merca, and Mogadishu. The historians undeniably confirmed that in or around the beginning of 1400 A.D., a fleet of vessels used to visit and dock at the southern coasts of Somalia, particularly the harbor city of Brava
According to the Chinese travelers, a structured barrier surrounded the city on all sides. The architects used stone and bricks to construct the houses of this town. The primary economic resource of the region was from farming and fishing. The Chinese traders use to bring many goods such as Silk clothes, kitchen utensils, rice, and various textiles. In exchange, the sailors extracted profitable materials that consisted of Tiger skins, Lion skins, elephant tusks, fracases, myrrh, and other wild life coats.
Although there were many uncertainties from number of historians about the establishment of Brava city, the oral history transmitted from one generation to another recounts that Aw-Ali and his family to be the first group from the interior to settle in the area. Aw-Ali inhabited in a wooded area between Aro Gaduud and Deeho (The red sand and the white sand).
In early 900 A.D., before Aw-Ali settled in Brava, he observed large area between Goobwayn and Brava. Aw-Ali was looking for a place that best suited his family needs. One fact Aw-Ali could not resist was the freshness of the ocean breeze and immediately asked the collaboration of his people. With the help of his fellow clansmen, Aw-Ali cleared a wooded area in which he built several homes. Oral history relates before Aw-Ali moved into the city of Brava, most of the Tuni population and their livestock resided in an area that surrounded Brava and the surrounding vicinity. In fact, the Tuni presence in the territory played a big role in Aw-Ali's decision to choose Brava as his place of residence. Most historians believed that Aw-Ali himself to be from a Tuni clan. After Aw-Ali set the groundwork to his new residence more Tunismoved in to the area, most of them migrated from inland and ocean shores. Oral history recognizes that this group to be the first inhabitants to live in the city of Brava.
Gala Warday who was under King Brawt is the second group to move into the town of Brava. Many historians believe the name Brava comes from the Gala Warday's king Brawt. The Tuni clan and Gala Warday lived together and made a peace treaty that lasted 300 years.
Based on the oral tradition Tunis were the first to reside in Brava. However, the Tuni people themselves traveled from Adar through Qaraw near Ganaane River; this is the area, which is now known as Juba River. Around 891 A.D., before relocating to Brava Tunis resided in a place called Koyaama near Kismayo on southern region of Somalia. Soon after that, the tribe started their migration towards Brava. Although; some historians believe the Tuni people were living in Brava long before the year 800 A.D.
Half way into their trip toward Brava the Tunis halted in an area called Jamboo and broke into two groups. The first group consisted of the Goygaal and Dakhtira Sub clans opted to maintain their journey through the ocean shores. Second group consisted of Daafarad, Werile, and Hajuwa sub clan choosing a passage through the inlands.
After 300 years of living together in peace, the Tuni and the Gala Warday also clashed. The battle between these two tribes carried on for a long time. The fight finally ended with another alliance that was signed in Jumbo the place we now know as Goobwayn, between the Tuni and the Gala Warday. After the treaty was signed, the Tunissettled on the west bank of the river, and the Gala Warday settle on the opposite side of the river, which was the east bank. These two zones were known as KHAD TUNI AND KHAD GALA (Tuni limit and Gala limit). The land was also divided into three sections. One portion for the Tunis, another section for the Gala Warday and third portion was designated no man's land and was left for the livestock. No groups were allowed to go beyond their boundary; both clans lived that way until the Colonial Era.
According to Italian historian named Gerullo who wrote several books about the History of Banadir Region, acknowledged in his book the Tunis to be the largest population in Brava and the areas that surrounded Brava for ages.
In early 1281 A.D., the Biidda clan who were ethnically Middle Eastern relocated to Brava. This group arrived with boats from Arabian Peninsula, both the Tuni and the Gala accepted the new arrival. To communicate these groups developed a joint language called CHIMBALAZI. The vocabulary consisted of Tuni dialect, Maay dialect, and Mahaa dialect. This language is along the lines of the Swahili language spoken on the northern parts of Kenya.
The Biidda was accompanied by the Hatimi clan who appeared around 1481 A.D., the Hatimis emigrated from Yemen. This group was originally traveling to the Andulus Strip in Spain, where their famous Sheik Muhidiin Bin Arabi Tai was born. Later on, Mohamed Bin Sa'eed Bin Muslim who was Sheik Muhidiin's son and his children moved to Brava around 1481 A.D.
In the year 1506 A.D., the historians reported that a group of Portuguese Army came offshore and attacked the city trying to seize control of the town. Some people believed close to a 1000 men participated in the attack. The Bravanese and the people from surrounding villages defended the community from the Portuguese aggressors. The Historians also reported that the fight only lasted three days. Despite the horrendous act by the Portuguese army, the Bravanese people still dominated their attackers, even thought the Portuguese troops were using the most sophisticated weapons at that time.
Many people noted that the courageous Bravanese men and women used their conventional weapons such as knifes, arrows, bows, and slingshots to fight the invaders. The Historians believed people of Brava lost close to 1500 men in that battle; Portuguese Sailors raped the women and looted many valuables.
In early 1673 A.D., there was another party called Asharaf or Shariifs (the descendants of Prophet Mohamed SAAS) also moved to Brava. The Asharaaf clan moved out from Mogadisho, the modern day capital of Somalia about 250 km north of Brava. Besides the Hatimi there was also another group of Arabs called Omar Baa Omar, who emigrated from Yemen and moved into the already over congested city. On top of the above-mentioned groups, there was small Africana group, who to this day still live on the banks of the Shabele River.
The Hatimi and The Biidda who are called Laba Tol (The two kin) were fully accepted by the Tunis. They established a strong relationship that was by virtue of a mutual respect. The groups eventually became so close to one another which resulted on the inter marriage among the clans. The Biida clan allied with the Goygaal sub clan and the Hatimi allied with Daktira sub clan. Some people claimed that the Hatimis paid large amount of gold to settle in to the city, an account that was later dismissed.
There were unfounded reports that implied the Arab Descendants were given a piece of land that was measured with a cowhide. Apparently, the clever Arabs expanded the hide throughout the darkness of the night. Shariif Aydrus a Somali historian later dismissed this report and described the content of this report to be false and unjustified. This report is beyond anyone's imaginations that someone will treat guests like that. The Tunis will never let such act to occur in their soil.
Shariif Aydrus later ended in his report with the following quote "If Arabs would have done what they were accused of doing, the Tuniswould not have allow them stay in Brava a day longer. The people who were behind this rumor were exactly the same people who tried to drive a wedge between the groups." Another report revealed that the Hatimi use to be known as Dahab Soore (Gold Givers), the report advocated that this was because the Hatimi purchased the land with gold. This is clearly one of the other idiotic and unfounded reports, the oral history shows the Hatimis were named Dahab Soore merely because they did not have any currency to purchase food and the daily household needs, instead they traded gold for whatever needs they had at the time.
One significant element of this history is that Brava is not a Clan nor an ethnic group, Brava is simply a city that unites many migrant communities from different ethnic backgrounds. These individuals were clever enough to formulate a common language CHIMBALAZI to converse. These groups together they are called WAATU WA MIINI (People of Brava).
Languages Spoken in Brava
The main language is CHIMBALAZI also called CHIWMINI, a Bantu language that is only spoken in Brava. This is very similar to the SWAHILI (Swahili is widely spoken in Eastern African countries and parts of central Africa). Besides the CHIMWINI, there is the Somali language and the original Tuni Dialect.
The Tuni dialect is also widely spoken in the city of Bravaand the vicinity. The lingo is the same family of Maay, a language spoken in the southern parts of Somalia. The Maay alone has 17 different dialects, mainly the same with a few minor differences.
Close to 800 years, Brava was under the Tuni jurisdiction. The Egyptians, British, and Italian historians all agreed Brava to be a TuniLand without any uncertainty, as reported in the following history books:
The Modern History of SomaliLand by I.M. Lewis
The Shaping of Somaliaby Lee V Cassanelli
The Story of Somaliaby Shariif Aydrus
In 1873, Brava became under the Sultan Barqash Bin Said's regime. This was because the customary Tunis elder's acceptance of Said's Barqash's government and control over Brava. Many people recognized the city of Bravaas the Center for Islamic Studies. The Sultan summoned a native of Brava Sheik Mohidin Bin Sheik Abdullah to visit Zanzibar. The sultan talked to the Sheik into becoming the Magistrate of Zanzibar province and asked to share his Islamic Shari'a knowledge to the people of Zanzibar. The Sheik finally accepted the invitation knowing the people of Brava will not suffer in his absence.
Even though, Sheik Mohidin decided to move to Zanzibar, the Islamic practice and the following of the Shari'a in the city got stronger at the schools and the mosques. This is due to the students of the Sheik implementing his legacy and his teaching role. There were also other proud Muslim scholars emerging. They were courageous people who strongly believed in Islam and were never afraid to reveal the truth and most of all they were very powerful leaders.
In 1874, the Khidwiyin of Egypt took over the city without any bloodshed. However, the Khidwiyin rule lasted for three months and ten days, the beginning of the months of Ramadan through the tenth of Dul Hajj. This was an effort promoted by the British government to demolish Sultan Said Barqash's involvement in the slave trading from the Eastern region of Africa. After Eid-Al-Adha Said Barqash recovered control of the town again, this was due to Khidwiyin deserting the city.
In 1893, Brava fell under the Italian Fascist rule after a lengthy discussion with Banadir Elders and the Sultan of Zanzibar. This was the same year Sheik Faqi Bin Haaji Awisa Hassan Al-Dacfaradi traveled to Zanzibar, to sign an agreement that authorized Italians to take over the Brava Region. The Tuni elders made unanimous decision empowering the take over. The Banadir elder also came to the same conclusion of entitling the Italians to take over. This was not an easy decision but rather, an effort to safeguard lives and not fight the militarily powerful Italians.
After the Zanzibar treaty was signed, the Bravanese and the Italians maintained a good relationship that was based on a mutual respect. Italians did not try to interfere with people of Brava's religion and culture. The fact of the matter is the Italians helped the Bravanese build more mosques and extended facilities to those who wanted to go to Hajj (The pilgrimage to Mecca). Brava became the center of Islamic Studies for the whole region. Brava is also known to be a home for number of Muslim Scholars their knowledge reached beyond the limits of Brava. The scholars were very popular in and around the region. Many people distinguish the people of Brava to be very religious and peace loving, the Bravanese believe in the fine manners they inherited from their religious leaders such as Sheik Aweys Al-Qadiri the great Islamic Scholar, who many religious people knew him to be a Brava native. The other well-known and respected scholars include Sheik Nuurani Bin-Ahmed Sabir, Sheik Kassim Al-Barawa, Sheik Hajji Sadiq, Sheik Moalin Nur Hajji Abdulkadir, Sharif Mubiidi, Akhwaan Cabdow Munye, Sheik Omar Hiraale, Sheik Mohamed Gaduudow and many more whom cannot be descried in a single story. These scholars were all born and raised in city of Brava.
Not only many well-respected religious scholars came from the Brava Region, there were also several well-respected politicians. These Native Politicians included Abduikadir Sheik Saqawadiin and Mohamed Osman Baarbe, who were among the 15 founding fathers of Somali Youth League, the SYL. These politicians fought for the Independenceof our country.
The other known Bravanese figures who always stood up for their people, fought for peace, justice, and equal rights are Sultan Aw Faqi Hajji Awiis, Hajji Omar Shegow, Hajji Abdulkadir, Hajji Beytula and many more.
Many people in the region give consideration to remember the experience of Aw Munye Hajji Abdulkadir, his leadership and trusted judgments. When there is a dispute, the Bravanese still remember Aw Munye because he was a firm believer of justice and equal rights. The people of Brava and the surrounding cities still use his excellent ideas to resolve disagreements and other issues.
When Somaliaacquired their independence, Adda Munye who is from Brava was one of the first people who took over the front offices from the colonist. Mohamed Hajji Mumin is another citizen of Brava who became the first commander of the first police station. The Brave people have a long tradition of developing and becoming national and regional leaders. The people of Brava continue to lead the country despite the current difficulties that are facing our nation.
The many reasons why the bond between Italians and the people of Brava achieved that level of respect were that the Italians encouraged them to keep their own Islamic rule of law.
(Some of the above paragraphs were the script of Sheik Mo'allim Nur Al-Dacfaradi)