Ajuran Sultanate: The Story of The Royals from Somali

By National Museums of Kenya

Ajuran Sultanate: The Royals From Somali (2019) by Shujaa StoriesNational Museums of Kenya

Ajuran Sultanate of the Somali
In the midst of the vast Somali expanse in the 13th century, a great empire dwelt upon the land. Canals crisscrossed the Shebelle and the Juba rivers and the land was lush with crops. They were a marvel of hydraulic engineering like the land of the Pharaoh’s before them. For miles around, this great kingdom was the best, and the only empire in Africa that had bent rivers to its will.

Complementing its canals, were wells and cisterns that are still in use even to this day. With a centralized system of government, the Sultans at the helm and a strong military, not even the Oromo from the west and the Portuguese from the east could measure up to its might. This, was the Ajuran Dynasty.

At the peak of the European age of exploration, the European superpower, Portugal, was perhaps the most determined to test the strength of the Ajurans. Their conquest begun with the city-states of Mombasa, Malindi, Kilwa, Lamu and Pate. Some they plundered others they torched.

The overzealous Tristao da Cunha went as far as daring the Ajuran Empire itself in the battle of Barawa but the resistance was too stiff and the defenses too strong.

The Somalis from the Ajuran Empire fought fiercely and defeated the Portuguese with Tristao fleeing to nurse his injuries in the Socotra islands.

The Portuguese were not the type to take defeat easily. Tristao wanted to mount another attack on Mogadishu, the Ajuran capital and richest city in Africa. However, the Portuguese thought it a foolish idea to attack the Ajuran stronghold and advised against it. With that Tristao backed down and left the Ajurans in peace.

That was not the end of the Portuguese attempts on the Ajurans. Joao de Sepuvelda led a Portuguese battalion and tried to get into Mogadishu via the sea in what was the battle of Benadir. The Ajuran Navy too defeated him before he even reached the shores of Mogadishu.

By the 1580’s some of the coastal cities were already under Portuguese oppression. The Ajurans, a kind hearted people as they were, sympathized with the Swahili and Arabs living in those cities and called for help from the Turkish for a joint force against the Portuguese. Mir Ali Bey responded with his fleet and drove the Portuguese out of Pate, Mombasa and Kilwa.

The Portuguese also drew reinforcements from India and forced the Ajuran’s into defense. They avoided Mogadishu nonetheless, even after managing to retake the cities under their control. In the end, the Portuguese were overpowered for good.

In the 17th century, the expanding Oromo nation of Ethiopia reached the Southern Somali coast. At the same time, the Ajuran Empire was at the height of its power. The Garen rulers of the Ajuran Empire carried out military conquests known as Gaal Madow Wars against the Oromo warriors, converting whoever was captured into Islam.

The defeated Oromo had no option but to migrate elsewhere. No story on mighty empires of Africa can be complete without the mention of the Ajuran Empire.

Conservation message
When the lands of the Shebelle and Juba rivers were lush with crops, water flowed from Mount Kenya, feeding the rivers flowing north and east. There were trees growing all over the landscape.

Today the drylands do not produce as much, because water is used for farming and livestock before it reaches the drylands. Trees have been cut for charcoal. The use of water has to be regulated to meet the needs of both upstream and downstream users.

Credits: Story

Credits: Story
Research field work was undertaken in Samburu and Marsabit (for Gabbra, Samburu, Rendille, Saakuye, Dasanach, Elmolo, Waayu a.k.a Waata, and Burji superheroes/heroines), Embu and Tharaka (for Aembu, Tharaka, Ameru and Mbeere superheroes/heroines), Mombasa ( for Boni, Swahili, Pokomo, Segeju and Bajuni superheroes/heroines)and Taita-Taveta/Voi (for Taveta superheroes/heroines) capturing all information about the heroes from the 30 selected ethnic groups/communities by Museum’s research team.

National Museums of Kenya - Contributors
Mzalendo Kibunjia (PhD) - Director General
Purity Kiura (PhD) - Director Antiquities, Sites & Monuments
Julias Juma Ogega - Senior Curator/Research Scientist
Njuguna Gichere - Research Scientist
Lydia Gatundu - Art Curator
Emmanuel Kariuki - Exhibit Designer
Philemon Nyamanga - Curator/Research Scientist
Mercy Gakii - Curator/Research Scientist
Imelda Muoti - Curator/Archivist
Innocent Nyaga - Marketing Officer
Suzanne Wanjaria - Exhibits Designer
Ray Balongo Khaemba - Senior Collection Manager
Raphael Igombo - Education Officer

Nature Kenya - Other Contributors
The East Africa Natural History Society (EANHS)

Editing
Daisy Okoti - Shujaa Stories Ltd
Shani Mutarura - Shujaa Stories Ltd
Jeff Muchina- Shujaa Stories Ltd
Brian Kiraga - Shujaa Stories Ltd

Illustrations
Masidza Sande Galavu - Shujaa Stories Ltd
Martha Shavuya Galavu - Shujaa Stories Ltd

Photography
Eddy Ochieng - National Museums of Kenya
Linda Tambo - Shujaa Stories Ltd
Juelz Laval - Shujaa Stories Ltd

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Utamaduni Wetu: Meet the People of Kenya
From the cradle of mankind to the superheroes of today
View theme
Google apps