Flag of Ajuran Sultanate 13th Century AD/CE to 17th Century AD/CE

Capitals: Mareeg, Qelafo, Merca

Continent: Africa

Official Languages: Somali, Arabic

Established: 13th Century AD/CE

Disestablished: 17th Century AD/CE


The House of Garen was the ruling hereditary dynasty of the Ajuran Empire. Its origin lies in the Garen Kingdom that during the 13th century ruled parts of the Ogaden the Somali region of Ethiopia. With the migration of Somalis from the northern half of the Horn region to the southern half, new cultural and religious orders were introduced that influenced the administrative structure of the dynasty, a system of governance which began to evolve into an Islamic government. Through their genealogical Baraka, which came from the saint Balad (who was known to have come from outside the Garen Kingdom), the Garen rulers claimed supremacy and religious legitimacy over other groups in the Horn of Africa. Balad's ancestors are said to have come from the historical northern region of Barbara.

From the end of the 15th century until 1698 the Portuguese presence in Somalia was felt all over the coast on the entrance of the Red Sea. From a strategic point of view, the horn of Africa was crucial to the Portuguese to be able to control some of the richest routes of trade that connected Africa to Europe and China. The northen cities were attacked to mantain the portuguese dominance of the entrance of the Red Sea, and to mantain the connection between the Ethiophian allied state. Mogadishu and several other cities where attacked in the beginning of the 16th century. For decades there would be a war against the Ajuran and Ottoman empire for the control of the main coastal cities.

The European Age of discovery brought Europe's then superpower the Portuguese empire to the coast of East Africa, which at the time enjoyed a flourishing trade with foreign nations. The wealthy southeastern city-states of Kilwa, Mombasa, Malindi, Pate and Lamu were all systematically sacked and plundered by the Portuguese. Tristão da Cunha then set his eyes on Ajuran territory, where the battle of Barawa was fought. After a long period of engagement, the Portuguese soldiers burned the city and looted it. However, fierce resistance by the local population and soldiers resulted in the failure of the Portuguese to permanently occupy the city, and the inhabitants who had fled to the interior would eventually return and rebuild the city. After Barawa, Tristão would set sail for Mogadishu, which was the richest city on the East African coast. But word had spread of what had happened in Barawa, and a large troop mobilization had taken place. Many horsemen, soldiers and battleships in defense positions were now guarding the city. Nevertheless, Tristão still opted to storm and attempt to conquer the city, although every officer and soldier in his army opposed this, fearing certain defeat if they were to engage their opponents in battle. Tristão heeded their advice and sailed for Socotra instead. After the battle the city of Barawa quickly recovered from the attack.

Over the next several decades Somali-Portuguese tensions would remain high and the increased contact between Somali sailors and Ottoman corsairs worried the Portuguese who sent a punitive expedition against Mogadishu under João de Sepúlveda, which was unsuccessful. Ottoman-Somali cooperation against the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean reached a high point in the 1580s when Ajuran clients of the Somali coastal cities began to sympathize with the Arabs and Swahilis under Portuguese rule and sent an envoy to the Turkish corsair Mir Ali Bey for a joint expedition against the Portuguese. He agreed and was joined by a Somali fleet, which began attacking Portuguese colonies in Southeast Africa.

The Somali-Ottoman offensive managed to drive out the Portuguese from several important cities such as Pate, Mombasa and Kilwa. However, the Portuguese governor sent envoys to Portuguese India requesting a large Portuguese fleet. This request was answered and it reversed the previous offensive of the Muslims into one of defense. The Portuguese armada managed to re-take most of the lost cities and began punishing their leaders, but they refrained from attacking Mogadishu, securing the city's autonomy in the Indian Ocean. The Ottoman Empire would remain an economic partner of the Somalis. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries successive Somali Sultans defied the Portuguese economic monopoly in the Indian Ocean by employing a new coinage which followed the Ottoman pattern, thus proclaiming an attitude of economic independence in regard to the Portuguese.

In the mid-17th century, the Oromo Nation began expanding from its homeland around Lake Abaya in southern Ethiopia towards the southern Somali coast at the time when the Ajuran was at the height of its power. The Garen rulers conducted several military expeditions known as the Gaal Madow wars against the Oromo warriors, converting those that were captured to Islam. The Ajuran military supremacy forced the Oromo conquerors to reverse their migrations towards the Christian Solomonids and the Muslim Adalites, devastating the two warring empires in the process.

The Ajuran Empire slowly declined in power at the end of the 17th century, which paved the way for the ascendance of new Somali powers. The most prominent setbacks against the state were the dethronement of the Muzzaffar clients in Mogadishu and other coastal cities by the Hawiye Hiraab King, and the defeat of the Silis Kingdom by a former Ajuran general, Ibrahim Adeer, in the interior of the state who then established the Gobroon dynasty. Taxation and the practice of primae noctis were the main catalysts for the revolts against Ajuran rulers. The loss of port cities and fertile farms meant that much needed sources of revenue were lost to the rebels.

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