Majeerteen Sultanate

The Majeerteen Sultanate (Somali: Suldanadda Majeerteen, Arabic: سلطنة مجرتين), also known as Majeerteenia and Migiurtinia, was a Somali kingdom centered in the Horn of Africa. Ruled by Boqor Osman Mahamuud during its golden age, the sultanate controlled much of northern and central Somalia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The polity had all of the organs of an integrated modern state and maintained a robust trading network. It also entered into treaties with foreign powers and exerted strong centralized authority on the domestic front. Much of the Sultanate's former domain is today coextensive with the autonomous Puntland region in northeastern Somalia.

Majeerteen Sultanate

Suldanadda Majeerteen
𐒈𐒚𐒐𐒆𐒖𐒒𐒖𐒆𐒆𐒖 𐒑𐒖𐒃𐒜𐒇𐒂𐒜𐒒
سلطنة مجرتين
c. 1800–1924
Coat of arms
The Majeerteen Sultanate in the late 19th century.
StatusSomali Sultanate
Protectorate of Italy (1889–1924)
Bargal (seasonal)
Common languagesSomali · Arabic
 mid-19th century–1926
Osman Mahamuud
c. 1800
 Campaign of the Sultanates
October–November 1924
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Adal Sultanate
Sultanate of Hobyo
Italian Somaliland
Today part of Somalia



The Majeerteen Sultanate was established around 1800 by Somalis from the Majeerteen Darod clan.[1] It reached prominence during the 19th century, under the reign of the resourceful Boqor (King) Osman Mahamuud.[2]

Majeerteen-British agreement

Due to consistent ship crashes along the northeastern Cape Guardafui headland, Boqor Osman's kingdom entered into an informal agreement with Britain, wherein the British agreed to pay the King annual subsidies to protect shipwrecked British crews and guard wrecks against plunder. The agreement, however, remained unratified, as the British feared that doing so would "give other powers a precedent for making agreements with the Somalis, who seemed ready to enter into relations with all comers."[3]

Sultanate of Hobyo

Osman Mahamuud's Kingdom was under attack in the mid-19th century due to a power struggle between himself and his ambitious cousin, Yusuf Ali Kenadid. After almost five years of battle, the young upstart was terribly defeated and finally forced into exile in Yemen. A decade later, in the 1870s, Kenadid returned from the Arabian Peninsula with a band of Hadhrami musketeers and a group of devoted lieutenants. With their assistance along with aid and weaponry from Boqor Osman, he managed to overpower the local Hawiye clans and establish the separate Sultanate of Hobyo (Obbia) in 1878.[2][4]

Majeerteen-Italian treaties

In late 1889, Boqor Osman entered into a treaty with Italy, making his kingdom a protectorate known as Italian Somaliland. His nephew and rival Sultan Kenadid had signed a similar agreement vis-a-vis his own Sultanate of Hobyo the year before. Both Boqor Osman and Sultan Kenadid had entered into the protectorate treaties to advance their own expansionist goals, with Sultan Kenadid looking to use Italy's support in his ongoing power struggle with Boqor Osman over the Majeerteen Sultanate, as well as in a separate conflict with the Omani Sultan of Zanzibar over an area to the north of Warsheikh. In signing the agreements, the rulers also hoped to exploit the rival objectives of the European imperial powers so as to more effectively assure the continued independence of their territories.[5]

The terms of each treaty specified that Italy was to steer clear of any interference in the sultanates' respective administrations.[5] In return for Italian arms and an annual subsidy, the Sultans conceded to a minimum of oversight and economic concessions.[6] The Italians also agreed to dispatch a few ambassadors to promote both the sultanates' and their own interests.[5] The new protectorates were thereafter managed by Vincenzo Filonardi through a chartered company.[6] An Anglo-Italian border protocol was later signed on 5 May 1894, followed by an agreement in 1906 between Cavalier Pestalozza and General Swaine acknowledging that Baran fell under the Majeerteen Sultanate's administration.[5] With the gradual extension into northern Somalia of Italian colonial rule, both Kingdoms were eventually annexed in the early 20th century.[7] However, unlike the southern territories, the northern sultanates were not subject to direct rule due to the earlier treaties they had signed with the Italians.



As with the Sultanate of Hobyo, the Majeerteen Sultanate exerted a strong centralized authority during its existence, and possessed all of the organs and trappings of an integrated modern state: a functioning bureaucracy, a hereditary nobility, titled aristocrats, a state flag, as well as a professional army.[8][9] Both sultanates also maintained written records of their activities, which still exist.[10]

The Majeerteen Sultanate's main capital was at Alula, with its seasonal headquarters at Bargal. It likewise had a number of castles and forts in various areas within its realm, including a fortress at Murcanyo.[11]

The Majeerteen Sultanate's ruler, however, commanded more power than was typical of other Somali leaders during the period. As the primus inter pares, Boqor Osman taxed the harvest of aromatic trees and pearl fishing along the seaboard. He retained prior rights on goods obtained from ship wrecks on the coast. The Sultanate also exerted authority over the control of woodland and pastureland, and imposed both land and stock taxes.[12]


In the early 19th century, Somali seamen on the northern coast barred entry to their ports, while engaging in trade with Aden and Mocha in adjacent Yemen using their own vessels.[13]

According to official reports from 1924 commissioned by the Regio Governo della Somalia Italiana, the Majeerteen Sultanate maintained robust commercial activities before the Italian occupation of the following year. The Sultanate reportedly exported 1,056,400 Indian Rupees (IR) worth of commodities, 60% of which came from the sale of frankincense and other gums. Fish and other sea products sold for a total value of 250,000 IR, roughly equivalent to 20% of the Sultanate's aggregate exports. The remaining export proceeds came from livestock, with the export list of 1924 consisting of 16 items.[14]


In addition to a strong civil administration, the Majeerteen Sultanate maintained a regular army. Besides protecting the polity from both external and internal threats, military officials were tasked with carrying out the King's instructions. The latter included tax collection, which typically came in the form of the obligatory Muslim alms (seko or sako) ordinarily tithed by Somalis to the poor and religious clerics (wadaads).[12][15]


Established in 1998, the autonomous Puntland region in northeastern Somalia now administers much of the former territories of the Majeerteen Sultanate (Migiurtinia).[16]


Rulers of the Majeerteen Sultanate:[17]

1Suldaan Cismaan "Bah-Dir"1815–1842Also known as Cismaan I
2Suldaan Yuusuf "Bah-Yaaquub"1842–1844Also known as Yuusuf I. Brief reign of only two years.
3Suldaan Maxamuud Suldaan Cismaan Maxamuud1844–1860
4Suldaan Cismaan Suldaan Maxamuud Suldaan Cismaan1860–1927Also known as Osman Mahamuud or Cismaan II Maxamuud. Long reign of almost 70 years. Last Sultan of the Majeerteen Sultanate

See also


  1. Fergusson, James (2013-05-01). The World's Most Dangerous Place: Inside the Outlaw State of Somalia. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0306821583.
  2. Helen Chapin Metz, Somalia: a country study, (The Division: 1993), p.10.
  3. David D. Laitin, Politics, Language, and Thought: The Somali Experience, (University Of Chicago Press: 1977), p.71
  4. Lee V. Cassanelli, The shaping of Somali society: reconstructing the history of a pastoral people, 1600-1900, (University of Pennsylvania Press: 1982), p.75.
  5. Issa-Salwe (1996), 34–35.
  6. Hess (1964), 416–17.
  7. The Majeerteen Sultanates
  8. Horn of Africa, Volume 15, Issues 1-4, (Horn of Africa Journal: 1997), p.130.
  9. Michigan State University. African Studies Center, Northeast African studies, Volumes 11-12, (Michigan State University Press: 1989), p.32.
  10. Sub-Saharan Africa Report, Issues 57-67. Foreign Broadcast Information Service. 1986. p. 34.
  11. S. B. Miles, On the Neighbourhood of Bunder Marayah, Vol. 42, (Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The Royal Geographical Society (with the institute of British Geographers): 1872), p.61-63.
  12. I. M. Lewis, A pastoral democracy: a study of pastoralism and politics among the Northern Somali of the Horn of Africa, (LIT Verlag Münster: 1999), p.208.
  13. James Hingston Tuckey, Maritime geography and statistics, or A description of the ocean and its coasts, maritime commerce, navigation, &c, (Printed for Black, Parry, and Co.: 1815), p.30.
  14. Transformation towards a regulated economy, (WSP Transition Programme, Somali Programme: 2000) p.62.
  15. Luling, Virginia (1993). The Use of the Past: Variation in Historical traditions in a South Somalia community. University of Besançon. p. 178.
  16. Istituto italo-africano, Africa: rivista trimestrale di studi e documentazione, Volume 56, (Edizioni africane: 2001), p.591.
  17. "Somali Traditional States". Worldstatesmen. Retrieved 5 April 2015.


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