Somalia Population, Main Cities and Geography

By | January 27, 2023

Somalia: population and cities



According to Countryaah website, the population of Somalia is around 15.9 million. The information about the exact number varies, especially since the last census is more than 30 years ago. The numerical information is based on statistical assumptions on demographic variables such as migration, population growth, etc. The UN even assumes a population of only 7.5 million.

The people who live in Somalia are referred to as Somalis, not Somali. Somali are just the ethnic Somali. This does not include the non-Somali minorities in the country.

60% of the Somalis live as nomads and semi-nomads. 25% are farmers, while the rest have settled in the urban regions of Somalia. In addition, there are actually around 1 million Somalis who have been driven from the country since 2007.

A Somali woman gives birth to an average of 6.1 children in her lifetime. What is serious, however, is maternal mortality, to which 1,600 women fall victim for every 100,000 births. This is the third highest maternal mortality rate in the world. With a child mortality rate of 225 per 1,000 (for children up to 5 years of age), Somalia is in a catastrophic 6th place of all comparable countries in the world. The health situation in the country is very bad and is determined by infectious diseases and malnutrition. It is estimated that around 70% of Somalis do not have access to clean drinking water and cannot access (adequate) medical care.

On the other hand, the proportion of people infected with HIV is “only” 0.5% – compared to other African countries – quite low, which may be due to the Islamic religion and the low level of immigration, because the education and knowledge about transmission and prevention HIV/AIDS is very low in Somalia.

Of all Somalis, only around 13% of boys and 7% of girls go to school because there is no official education system. Only Koran schools and private institutions cover the field of education, and it is only in the actually autonomous Somaliland that education has been expanded since independence.

Female genital mutilation is practiced across the country.

Ethnic groups

For a long time Somalia was considered to be one of the most homogeneous countries in Africa, but this situation has changed significantly. Although the majority of the population is still Somali, the differences between the various Somali clans and between Somali and ethnic minorities, especially in the south of the country, have widened considerably since the devastating civil war.

The Somali, by far the largest ethnic group, make up about 85% of the country. They also settle in eastern Ethiopia, in Djibouti and in northeastern Kenya. What is striking is their distinctive clan system, which has a significant impact on the country’s society. Every Somali – with paternal origin – belongs to a clan or tribe. The five big clan families (qaabiil) are the Hawiye, the Darod, the Isaaq, the Rahanweyn and the Dir. This social system, which offers protection to the individual, but also repeatedly conjures up vendettes, for example, is complicated by a large number of people Subclans and genders (Somali: reer)

In addition to the Somali, about 15% non-Somali minorities live in the country. They are provided by different black African groups, which the Somali collectively refer to as Jarir, i.e. as “hard-haired” or “curly-haired”. They are also called Somali Bantu.

In addition, there are the Swahili minorities and people of mixed origins. The latter include, for example, the Bajuni and the Brawanese. Finally, the Yibir and Midgan as well as Arab, Indian and Pakistani minorities should be mentioned.


In Somalia, Somali (Af-ka Soomaali-ga) is the main language. It has been the official language in the country since 1972. The Af-ka Soomaali-ga of the Somali people is also used by all other ethnic groups and minorities in the country. Arabic, Italian and English are only used as commercial and educational languages. A few Banti speak the Bantu language Zigula, while some minorities on the coast use dialects of Swahili.

It should also be mentioned that the transitional constitution of Somalia (2004) established Arabic as the official national language alongside Somali (Maay and Maha Tiri). Since then, Italian and English have been considered working and secondary languages.


Somalia is almost 100% Islamic. In doing so, the people follow the Sunni direction. The Muslims are divided into about 80% Shafiites and 20% Hanafis. Sunni Islam was determined as the official religion of Somalia’s transitional constitution in 2004, which also applies in the de facto autonomous Somali country. It was also determined that the people should live according to the law of the Sharia. While Islam in village and nomadic structures is more moderate and closely linked to the customary law of the clans or tribes, there has been a growing influence of radical Wahabi Islam, as it was in Saudi Arabia, since the mid-1970s, especially in the urban parts of the country. Arabia is the state religion.

Nevertheless, during the civil war, the Islamic institutions emerged as the main institutions for guaranteeing education, justice and medical care, which, for example, had different effects on the situation of women. If Islamic jurisprudence gives them a better position than customary law, and if some clergymen have spoken out vehemently against female genital mutilation, women are increasingly encouraged to veil and pushed out of the public space.

In addition to the overwhelming Muslim majority, there are a few hundred Christians living in the country, most of whom belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The Roman Catholic diocese of Mogadishu dissolved during the civil war after the last bishop was shot in the cathedral of the Somali capital in 1989.

Capital and other cities

Mogadishu (also Muqdisho)

Mogadishu – The capital of Somalia, so poetically referred to as the “seat of the Shah”, is classified as a lawless and dangerous city and should not be visited under any circumstances. In the deeply chaotic and bizarre city, for example, you can buy uncontrolled weapons alongside the most mundane things at Bakara Market. Mogadishu, located in the south of the country on the Benadir coast of the Indian Ocean, once the largest city in Somalia with millions and millions, was hit extremely hard by the civil war, which set in motion a devastating movement of refugees and migrants. Cautious estimates assume that around 1 million people now live in Mogadishu, including those who fled here. Mogadishu has still remained the economic center of Somalia. According to Abbreviation Finder, SOM stands for Somalia in English. Click to see other meanings of this 3-letter acronym.

It should be remembered that the Federal Border Guard Unit GSG 9 stormed the Lufthansa “Landshut” aircraft, which was hijacked by 4 Palestinians on October 13, 1977 and flown here, and freed the hostages.

The pilot Jürgen Schumann had previously been shot by the hostage takers.

Baidoa (also Baydhabo)

The capital of the Bay region, with a population of around 135,000, is located in southwest Somalia. From 2005 onwards, Baidoa, which was fiercely contested in the civil war, even acted with interruptions as the provisional seat of the interim government of Somalia. Because of the dramatic circumstance that during the famine from 1991 to 1993 around 500,000 people died of starvation in the region around the city, Baidoa was also known for a time as the “city of death”.

Beledweyne (also Beled Weyne, Belet Uen or Belet Huen)

About 108,000 people live in Beledweyne, the capital of the Hiiraan region in central Somalia. The city, which was heavily affected by the civil war, served as a station for the German Somalia Support Association in 1993 and 1994. This was in the country as part of the UNOSOM II mission. In 2009 Beledweyne was conquered by the Somali transitional government, which ousted the Islamist al-Shabaab. Incidentally, two people who are important for Somali history come from Beledweyne: Aden Abdullah Osman Daar, the first President of Somalia, and Mohammed Farah Aidid, one of the most important warlords during the Somali civil war.

Boosaaso (also Bender Cassim)

The port city of Boosaaso, located in northern Somalia on the Gulf of Aden, functions as the capital of the Bari (Puntland) region and is inhabited by between 100,000 and 500,000 people. The population figures fluctuate considerably, especially since it is also assumed that around 30,000 people are currently living in camps. Boosaaso, a kind of economic center in the Somali northeast, has a fairly good infrastructure, an important export port and has remained fairly stable during the civil war. Probably the fastest growing city in Somalia is a popular destination for war refugees, economic migrants and boat refugees who want to cross the Gulf of Aden into Yemen.

Burao (also Burco or Bur’o)

The often dry Togdheer River flows through Burao, the capital of the Togdheer region in Somaliland. About 101,000 people live in the city in the north of Somalia, where an important gathering of clan elders took place in 1991, which was crowned with the declaration of independence of Somaliland from the rest of Somalia. Since then, the growing Burao has been rebuilt and the city has been provided with a functioning electricity and water supply. There is also an airport in the university town, through which Somali Daallo Airlines connect to Hargeisa.

Hargeisa (also Hargeysa)

Hargeisa is the capital of Somaliland, which broke away from the rest of Somalia in 1991. Between 500,000 and a million people live in Hargeisa, which is considered to be the safest city in Somalia. The city, which was badly damaged by the Somali military in the civil war, was rebuilt after the declaration of independence and is much more progressive and western than the state capital Mogadishu. Hargeisa is also the second most important business location in Somaliland after Berbera and has a very good infrastructure. There is also an international airport with flights to Djibouti and Dubai. The city is home to four universities – the University of Hargeisa, the Somaliland University of Technology, the Gollis and the Hope University – and more touristy than many other places in Somalia.

Merka (also Marka)

Merka is a port city in the Somali south that spreads out on the Indian Ocean. The capital of the Shabeellaha Hoose region is inhabited by between 65,000 and 100,000 people and is dominated by interesting Arabic architecture. The white limestone buildings, which in all probability gave the city the nickname Marka Cadey (German: White Merka), are also impressive. Merka was also ravaged by the civil war, but the city was spared from destruction.

Somalia: geography, map

Somalia is located in the northeast of the continent, on the so-called Horn of Africa on the Somali Peninsula. The country covers a total area of 637,657 km². Check topmbadirectory for politics, flags, famous people, animals and plants of Somalia. Thereof:

  • ForestAround 14% of the country are forest and scrubland.
  • Meadows and pasturelandAround 45% of the land is used as meadows or pastureland.
  • Fields and fieldsAround 2% of the land is used as arable land or fields, especially for growing bananas and cotton as well as maize, sorghum (sweet millet) and other types of grain.

Somalia shares a border with the following three countries.

  • Ethiopia with a length of 1,600 km
  • Djibouti with a length of 58 km
  • Kenya with a length of 682 km.

Tidal range

On the coast of Somalia the tidal range is around 3 m.

For detailed explanations of ebb and flow, see Tides, Ebb and Flow.


The world’s highest tidal range can be found in the Bay of Fundy in Canada, where it is up to 16 m, and at spring tide even over 20 m. The Bay of Fundy is located on the Atlantic between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, which is called Nova Scotia in German and whose capital is Halifax. On the German North Sea coast it varies between 1 m and 3 m. In the western Baltic Sea, on the other hand, the tidal range is only 0.3 m, while it is barely noticeable in the eastern Baltic Sea.

Longitude and latitude

Somalia extends over the following geographical latitude (abbreviation Δφ) and geographical longitude (abbreviation Δλ):

Δφ = from 01 ° 40 ‘to 12 ° north latitude Δλ = from 041 ° to 051 ° 23′ east longitude

You can find detailed information on this subject under Longitude and Latitude.

Time of the country

For Somalia, the following value applies to Central European Time (CET), i.e. the time (without summer time) in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. A minus sign means that it is earlier there, a plus sign that it is later than CET:

Δt (CET) = + 2 h

Further and detailed explanations of the time can be found under Time zones, time.

The highest point of the sun in Mogadishu

Mogadishu is located at a north latitude of around φ = 02 ° and thus in the middle of the tropics.

If the declination of the sun has the value of δ = 02 ° N, and so the image point of the sun is exactly above the city, the sun is perpendicular there. This happens exactly twice a year, roughly 8 days after March 21st and 8 days before September 21st.


If the image point of the sun and thus the declination δ is north of the latitude of Mogadishu, the sun is not in the south at noon, as in our latitudes, but in the north. In this case, the sun moves from east to north to west, where, like us, it sets.


Surud Ad

The highest mountain in the country is the Surud Ad with a height of 2,416 m. Other high mountains are:

  • Buuraha Surud Cad (Shimbiris) with a height of 2,407 m
  • Baxaya with a height of 2,200 m
  • Bur Afaf with a height of 2,073 m
  • Qar wager with an altitude of 2,000 m.


Webi Shebeli

The longest river in the country is the Webi Shebeli with a length of around 2,010 km. Other major rivers in the country are the Juba and Dhud.


There are no larger lakes in Somalia. Some very small lakes are:

  • Was was a sea
  • Yameyska lake
  • Yiblane lake
  • Warreray Lake
  • Shanley Lake


Raas Xaafuun

On the north coast of the country is the island of Raas Xaafuun with an area of about 350 km².

Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean

Somalia has a coast to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean with a length of about 3,300 km.

A detailed description of the Gulf and the Indian Ocean can be found under the following links:

– Indian Ocean

– Gulf of Aden

Somalia Population