Figure 3. Topography and Drainage
Mountains near Merca, southwest of Mogadishu
Courtesy Hiram A.Ruiz
Mountains west of Mogadishu, midway toward Luuq
Courtesy Hiram A. Ruiz
Africa's easternmost country, Somalia has a land area of
637,540 square kilometers, slightly less than that of the state
of Texas. Somalia occupies the tip of a region commonly referred
to as the Horn of Africa--because of its resemblance on the map
to a rhinoceros's horn--that also includes Ethiopia and Djibouti.
Somalia's terrain consists mainly of plateaus, plains, and
highlands. In the far north, however, the rugged east-west ranges
of the Karkaar Mountains lie at varying distances from the Gulf
of Aden coast
fig. 3). The weather is hot throughout the
year, except at the higher elevations in the north. Rainfall is
sparse, and most of Somalia has a semiarid-to- arid environment
suitable only for the nomadic pastoralism practiced by well over
half the population. Only in limited areas of moderate rainfall
in the northwest, and particularly in the southwest, where the
country's two perennial rivers are found, is agriculture
practiced to any extent.
The local geology suggests the presence of valuable mineral
deposits. As of 1992, however, only a few significant sites had
been located, and mineral extraction played a very minor role in
(see Undeveloped Sectors
, ch. 3).
Somalia's long coastline (3,025 kilometers) has been of
importance chiefly in permitting trade with the Middle East and
the rest of East Africa. The exploitation of the shore and the
continental shelf for fishing and other purposes had barely begun
by the early 1990s. Sovereignty was claimed over territorial
waters up to 200 nautical miles.