Hobyo (Somali: Hobyo, also known as Obbia in Italian), is an ancient port city in Galmudug state in the north-central Mudug region of Somalia. Hobyo serves as the main port of Galmudug State.



Location in Somalia
Coordinates: 5°21′05″N 48°31′32″E
Country Somalia
  TypeDistrict Council
  mayorAbdulahi Ali Fatax[1]
Time zoneUTC+3 (EAT)

Hobyo developed as a coastal outpost by the Ajuran Empire during the 13th century.[2] In the late 17th century the Hiraab successfully revolted against the Ajuran Sultanate who had been ruling Hobyo since the 13th century and established an independent Hiraab Imamate. [3] According to Dr. Bernhard Helander of Uppsala University, "the Imam of Hiraab is a hereditary position that traditionally is held by a person of the first-born branch."[4]

In the 1870s, Hobyo was conquered by Yusuf Ali Kenadid after overpowering the local hawiye clans and subsequently established the Sultanate of Hobyo which he ruled until 1925.[5]


Ajuuran Empire Period

Along with Mareeg, Hobyo developed as a coastal outpost by the Ajuran Empire during the 13th century.[2]

However, in the late 17th century the Hiraab successfully revolted against the Ajuran Sultanate and established an independent Hiraab Imamate[3] According to Dr. Bernhard Helander of Uppsala University, "the Imam of Hiraab is a hereditary position that traditionally is held by a person of the first-born branch."[4]

Lee Cassanelli in his book The Shaping of Somali society provides a historical picture of the Hiraab Immate. He writes:

"According to local oral tradition, the Hiraab imamate was a powerful alliance of closely related groups who shared a common lineage under the Gorgaarte clan divisions. It successfully revolted against the Ajuran Sultanate and established an independent rule for at least two centuries from the seventeen hundreds and onwards.[3]

The alliance involved the army leaders and advisors of the Habar Gidir and Duduble, a Fiqhi/Qadi of Sheekhaal, and the Imam was reserved for the Mudulood branch who is believed to have been the first born. Once established, the Imamate ruled the territories from the Shabeelle valley, the Benaadir provinces, the Mareeg areas all the way to the arid lands of Mudug[3]

The agricultural centres of Eldher and Harardhere included the production of sorghum and beans, supplementing with herds of camels, cattle, goats and sheep. Livestock, hides and skin, whilst the aromatic woods and raisins were the primary exports as rice, other foodstuffs and clothes were imported. Merchants looking for exotic goods came to Hobyo to buy textiles, precious metals and pearls. The commercial goods harvested along the Shabelle river were brought to Hobyo for trade. Also, the increasing importance and rapid settlement of more southerly cities such as Mogadishu further boosted the prosperity of Hobyo, as more and more ships made their way down the Somali coast and stopped in Hobyo to trade and replenish their supplies.[3]

By the late 19th century, the Imamate began to decline. By then, a young ambitious rebel called Sultan Kenadiid of the Majeerteen, managed to conquer Hobyo with foreign assistance and established The Kingdom of Hobyo in 1878.[5]

Sultanate of Hobyo period

From 1884 to 1925, Hobyo was ruled by Yusuf Ali Kenadid who established the Sultanate of Hobyo in 1870. As with the Majeerteen Sultanate, the Sultanate of Hobyo 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.[6][7] Both sultanates also maintained written records of their activities, which still exist.[8]

Initially, Ali Yusuf Kenadid's goal was to seize control of the neighboring Majeerteen Sultanate, which was then ruled by his cousin Boqor Osman Mahamud. However, he was unsuccessful in this endeavor, and was eventually forced into exile in Yemen. A decade later, in the 1880s, Kenadid returned from the Arabian Peninsula on an Italian ship with a band of Hadhrami musketeers and a group of devoted lieutenants. With their assistance, he managed to establish a sultanate in 1884.[9][2] [5]

In late 1888, Sultan Kenadid entered into a treaty with the Italians, making his realm an Italian protectorate. His rival Boqor Osman would sign a similar agreement vis-a-vis his own Sultanate the following year. Both rulers had signed the protectorate treaties to advance their own expansionist objectives. 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.[10]

The terms of each treaty specified that Italy was to steer clear of any interference in the sultanates' respective administrations.[10] In return for Italian arms and an annual subsidy, the Sultans conceded to a minimum of oversight and economic concessions.[11] The Italians also agreed to dispatch a few ambassadors to promote both the sultanates' and their own interests.[10]

However, the relationship between Hobyo and Italy soured when Sultan Kenadid refused the Italians' proposal to allow a British contingent of troops to disembark in his Sultanate so that they might then pursue their battle against the Somali religious and nationalist leader Mohammed Abdullah Hassan's Dervish forces.[12] Viewed as too much of a threat by the Italians, Sultan Kenadid was eventually exiled to Aden in Yemen and then to Eritrea, as was his son Ali Yusuf, the heir apparent to his throne.[13] 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.[14]


Hobyo has a population of around 11,800 inhabitants.[15] The broader Hobyo District has a total population of 67,249 residents.[16] The city is primarily inhabited by people from the Somali ethnic group, with the Habar Gidir well-represented.


Hobyo has a small seaport.[17]

For air transportation, the city is served by the Obbia Airport.[18]

In August 2019, Qatar initiated a project to build the port of Hobyo as part of the development agreements signed between Somalia and Qatar in December 2018.[19][20]


Hobyo has a hot arid climate (BWh) in Köppen-Geiger system.

Climate data for Hobyo
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 29.7
Average low °C (°F) 22.1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 4
Source: Climate-Data.org, altitude: 3m[21]

See also


  1. "Dhageyso Gudoomiyaha Hobyo oo ka Hadlay Shabaabka u dhow magaalada Hobyo…". 24 February 2017.
  2. Lee V. Cassanelli, The shaping of Somali society: reconstructing the history of a pastoral people, 1600-1900, (University of Pennsylvania Press: 1982), p.75.
  3. Lee V. Cassanelli, The shaping of Somali society, Philadelphia, 1982.
  4. Bernhard, Helander (1994-01-19). "The Hiraab Treaty". Somalia News Update. Uppsala, Sweden: Dr. Bernhard Helander, Uppsala University. Archived from the original on 2007-02-24. Retrieved 2009-03-31. The Imam of Hiraab is a hereditary position that traditionally is held by a person of the first-born branch, the Mudulod.
  5. Lea, David; Rowe, Annamarie (2001). A Political Chronology of Africa. Europa Publications. p. 378. ISBN 1857431162.
  6. Horn of Africa, Volume 15, Issues 1-4, (Horn of Africa Journal: 1997), p.130.
  7. Michigan State University. African Studies Center, Northeast African studies, Volumes 11-12, (Michigan State University Press: 1989), p.32.
  8. Sub-Saharan Africa Report, Issues 57-67. Foreign Broadcast Information Service. 1986. p. 34.
  9. Helen Chapin Metz, Somalia: a country study, (The Division: 1993), p.10.
  10. Issa-Salwe (1996:34–35)
  11. Hess (1964:416–417)
  12. The Majeerteen Sultanates
  13. Sheik-ʻAbdi (1993:129)
  14. Ismail, Ismail Ali (2010). Governance: The Scourge and Hope of Somalia. Trafford Publishing. p. xxiii. ISBN 1426983743.
  15. Somalia City & Town Population. Tageo.com. Retrieved on 2011-12-15.
  16. "Regions, districts, and their populations: Somalia 2005 (draft)" (PDF). UNDP. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  17. "Istanbul conference on Somalia 21 – 23 May 2010 - Draft discussion paper for Round Table "Transport infrastructure"" (PDF). Government of Somalia. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  18. "Obbia Airport (CMO)". World Airport Codes. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  19. "Qatar Plans to Build New Port in Central Somalia Town of Hobyo". Bloomberg. Retrieved 19 August 2019.
  20. "Qatar launches construction work in central Somalia port". Middle East Monitor. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  21. "Climate: Hobyo - Climate graph, Temperature graph, Climate table". Climate-Data.org. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
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