The Castles and Fortresses of Puntland

Bosaso, bandar qasim, castles, forts, 1927

During the medieval and early modern periods, the regions of modern-day Puntland were especially renown for their numerous castles and fortresses. The Dervish state and the Sultanate’s of Migiurtinia and Obbia provided excellent examples of the different styles of Somali architecture that were characteristic to those eras.

Dervish State

In 1904, Sayyid Mohammed Abdullah Hassan met with Giulio Pestalozza, the Italian consul at Aden. In exchange for a promise of peace, he received a territory that started at the Nugaal coast on the Indian Ocean. On 5 March 1905, Italy signed a peace agreement and protection treaty with the Dervish at Illig, Nugaal, recognising Mohammed Abdullah Hassan as the ruler of the Nugaal Valley. The Illig Agreement of 1905 resulted in the Dervish making Eyl their first capital and headquarters from 1905 to 1909. This treaty allowed the Dervish to realize some of their state building ambitions.

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The historic Daarta Sayyidka fort in Eyl.

The best example of Dervish architecture is the fortified town of Taleh. Taleh served as the permanent capital of the Dervish state from 1913 to 1920. The Taleh fortresses were built between 1913 – 1915 and the stronghold consisted of a stone wall-ring of enormous strength and thickness, varying from 12 to 14 feet at the base to about 6 feet at the top. The main walled enclosure was surmounted by thirteen forts and protected by three 60-foot-high outlying forts at a distance of about 500 feet from the main construction. Within the main enclosure there was space for several hundred head of livestock. Each fortification also had its own wells and stone granaries.

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Sultanate of Migiurtinia

The Sultanate of Migiurtinia, established in the 18th century, had several important towns including Bandar Qasim (Bosaso), which was known for its stone structures of castellated style which were pierced with loopholes for musketry.

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Sultanate of Obbia

The first Sultan of Obbia, Yusuf Ali Kenadid, who formerly served as the Sultan of Alula, introduced a similar style of architecture to the central regions of present-day Somalia.

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Castles and Forts

From the castle town of Qandala to the fortress of Taleh, the regions of northeastern Somalia were rich in indigenous architectural styles. Below are a few examples of the different styles of architecture employed by the Sultanates and the Dervish state from various towns and cities.

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