Burao, also spelt Bur'o or Bur'ao (Burr-OH; Somali: Burco, IPA: [Burˈʕo], Arabic: برعو) is the capital of the Togdheer region and the second largest city in Somaliland. Burao was the site of the declaration of an independent Somaliland on 18 May 1991.
The city originated as a well in the late 19th century used by nomads from the surrounding area. The town subsequently grew around the well.
For much of the 19th century, Burao served as the capital of the Habr Yunis Sultanate. Sultan Nur Ahmed Aman, Sutan Awad Deria and Sultan Madar Hersi ruled from Burao at different periods of time.
After leaving the Berbera coastlands and ascending the escarpments of the great inland plateau, the convoy followed the valley of the Tug Dayr as far as Burao, capital of a powerful but friendly Habr Gerhaji sultan.
Explorer Frank Linsly James, a guest of Sultan Awad Diiriye during his visit to Somaliland in 1884, describes a performance he witnessed by Habr Yunis Horsemen at Burao's Togdheer River.
During our stay at Burao, the Sultan collected a great many of his people together, and twice entertained us with some well-executed and characteristic evolutions on horseback. On the first occasion some forty mounted men were collected in the Tug before our zariba; but this did not satisfy the Sultan, and he arranged a second "fan- tasia," in which fully two hundred warriors were engaged. It was the best and most characteristic thing of the kind I had ever seen. A procession was first formed in the river's bed, and on a given signal all dashed off, brandishing their spears and shields. Dressed in tobes of many colours, and sitting loosely on their gaily caparisoned horses, they engaged in mimic contest with spear and shield, reining their horses upon their haunches when at full gallop, and with wild shouts flinging their spears into the air. Each warrior carried a short-handled whip with a broad raw hide thong, and with it lashed his steed unmercifully. Some of the riders went through regular circus feats, leaping from their horses when at full gallop, picking up objects thrown on the ground, and then remount- ing. After this had continued for some time they would gallop close to our zariba, and reining up, shout "Mort, mort" ("Welcome, welcome"), to which we replied, "Kul liban" ("Thanks").
The Dervish state was founded in Burao in 1899.
In the end of late August of that year the Dervish leaders and their clan followers assembled at Burao, Mohammed Abdullah Hassan with his followers from the Dhulbahante, the various Habar Jeclo sub clans with their principle headman Haji Sudi, and Sultan Nur Ahmed Aman with his followers from the Habr Yunis clan, declared open hostility. The assembled dervish and their clan allies sent the following stern letter to Captain Cordeauxe and James Hayes Sadler:
"This is to inform you that you have done whatever you have desired, and oppressed our well-known religion without any cause. Further, to inform you that whatever people bring to you they are liars and slanderers. Further, to inform you that Mahomed, your Akil, came to ask from us the arms we therefore, send you this letter. Now choose for yourself; if you want war we accept it, if you want peace pay the fine." September 1, 1899.
Burao Tax Revolt and RAF bombing
The people of Burao clashed with the British in 1922 after a heavy tax was imposed upon them. They revolted in opposition to the tax and this caused them to riot and attack British government officials. In the ensuing disturbances a shootout between the British and Burao residents broke out, Captain Allan Gibb, a Dervish war veteran and district commissioner, was shot and killed. The British fearing they could not contain the revolt requested from Sir Winston Churchill, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, to send troops from Aden and Airplane bombers in order to bomb Burao and livestock of the revolting clans to quell any further rebellion. The RAF planes arrived at Burao within two days and proceeded to Bomb the town with incendiaries, effectively burning the entire settlement to the ground.
Telegram from Sir Geoffrey Archer, Governor of British Somaliland to Sir Winston Churchill the Secretary of State for the Colonies:
I deeply regret to inform that during an affray at Burao yesterday between Rer Sugulleh and Akils of other tribes Captain Gibb was shot dead. Having called out Camel corps company to quell the disturbance, he went forward himself with his interperter, whereupon fire opened on him by some Rer segulleh riflemen and he was instantly killed..Miscreants then dissapered under the cover of darkness.
In order to meet the situation created by the Murder of Gibb, we require two aeroplanes for about fourteen days. I have arranged with resident, Aden, for these. And made formal application, which please confirm. It is proposed they fly via Perim, confining sea crossing to 12 miles. We propose to inflict fine of 2,500 camels on implicated sections, who are practically isolated and demand surrender of man who killed Gibbs. He is known. Fine to be doubled in failure to comply with latter conditions and aeroplanes to be used to bomb stock on grazing grounds.
Sir Winston Churchill reporting on the Burao incident at the House of Commons:
On 25th February the Governor of Somaliland telegraphed that an affray between tribesmen had taken place at Burao on the previous day, in the course of which Captain Allan Gibb, D.S.O., D.C.M., the District Commissioner at Burao, had been shot dead. Captain Gibb had advanced with his interpreter to quell the disturbance, when 1954 fire was opened upon him by some riflemen, and he was instantly killed. The murderers escaped under cover of falling darkness.
Captain Gibb was an officer of long and valued service in Somaliland, whose loss I deeply regret. From the information available, his murder does not appear to have been premeditated, but it inevitably had a disturbing effect upon the surrounding tribes, and immediate dispositions of troops became necessary in order to ensure the apprehension and punishment of those responsible for the murder. On 27th February the Governor telegraphed that, in order to meet the situation which had arisen, he required two aeroplanes for purposes of demonstration, and suggested that two aeroplanes from the Royal Air Force Detachment at Aden should fly over to Berber a from Aden. He also telegraphed that in certain circumstances it might become necessary to ask for reinforcements of troops to be sent to the Protectorate.
James Lawrence author of Imperial Rearguard: Wars of Empire writes
[Gibb]..was murdered by rioters during a protest against taxation at Burao. Governor Archer immediately called for aircraft which were at Burao within two days. The inhabitants of the native township were turned out of their houses, and the entire area was razed by a combination of bombing, machine-gun fire and burning.
After the RAF aircraft bombed Burao to the ground, the leaders of the rebellion acquiesced, agreeing to pay a fine for Gibbs death, but they refused to identify and apprehend the accused individuals. Most of the men responsible for Gibb's shooting evaded capture. In light of the failure to implement the taxation without provoking a violent response, the British abandoned the policy altogether.
1945 Sheikh Bashir Rebellion
The 1945 Sheikh Bashir Rebellion was a rebellion waged by tribesmen of the Habr Je'lo clan in the former British Somaliland protectorate against British authorities in July 1945 led by Sheikh Bashir, a Somali religious leader.
On 2 July, Sheikh Bashir collected 25 of his followers in the town of Wadamago and transported them on a lorry to the vicinity of Burao, where he distributed arms to half of his followers. On the evening of 3 July the group entered Burao and opened fire on the police guard of the central prison in the city, which was filled with prisoners arrested for previous demonstrations. The group also attacked the house of the district commissioner of Burao District, Major Chambers, resulting in the death of Major Chamber's police guard before escaping to Bur Dhab, a strategic mountain south-east of Burao, where Sheikh Bashir's small unit occupied a fort and took up a defensive position in anticipation of a British counterattack.
The British campaign against Sheikh Bashir's troops proved abortive after several defeats as his forces kept moving from place to place and avoiding any permanent location. No sooner had the expedition left the area, than the news traveled fast among the Somali nomads across the plain. The war had exposed the British administration to humiliation. The government came to a conclusion that another expedition against him would be useless; that they must build a railway, make roads and effectively occupy the whole of the protectorate, or else abandon the interior completely. The latter course was decided upon, and during the first months of 1945, the advance posts were withdrawn and the British administration confined to the coast town of Berbera.
Sheikh Bashir settled many disputes among the tribes in the vicinity, which kept them from raiding each other. He was generally thought to settle disputes through the use of Islamic Sharia and gathered around him a strong following.
The British administration recruited Indian and South African troops, led by police general James David, to fight against Sheikh Bashir and had intelligence plans to capture him alive. The British authorities mobilized a police force, and eventually on 7 July found Sheikh Bashir and his unit in defensive positions behind their fortifications in the mountains of Bur Dhab. After clashes Sheikh Bashir and his second-in-command, Alin Yusuf Ali, nicknamed Qaybdiid, were killed. A third rebel was wounded and was captured along with two other rebels. The rest fled the fortifications and dispersed. On the British side the police general leading the British troops as well as a number of Indian and South African troops perished in the clashes, and a policeman was injured.
After his death, Sheikh Bashir was widely hailed by locals as a martyr and was held in great reverence. His family took quick action to remove his body from the place of his death at Geela-eeg mountain, about 20 miles from Burao. A secondary school in Burao, called the Sheikh Bashir Secondary School, is named in his honour.
An elderly woman from Burao, after the city had been severely damaged during the Somali civil war, 1991
Burao is the second-largest city in Somaliland with a population of 288,211 according to the (2005) UN estimate
The main residents of Burao are the Habr Je'lo, Habr Yunis, Issa Musse and Arap, which are all subdivisions of the larger Isaaq Somali clan.
A fabric and carpet boutique in Burao's old section
The city's economy is primarily based on the export of livestock, with Burao and the nearby town of Yiroowe being home to two of the largest livestock markets, known in Somali as seylado in the Horn of Africa, with as many as 10,000 heads of sheep and goats sold daily in the city.
The city's central location serves as a hub that connects the nomadic interior of Somaliland and major cities like Erigavo, Aynaba and Las Anod to Somaliland's capital Hargeisa and its main port in Berbera. The central location of Burao has contributed to its economic revival. Goods travelling to the south, central and eastern parts of Somaliland all depart from the city's outskirts. Rural merchants also sell their produce on a daily basis, which attracts business. This along with the main livestock market of the city fuels Burao's economy.
In 2007, Burao's city authority (in conjunction with development organizations and local traders) opened the Burco Meat and Produce complex. One year in the making, the market has two main halls and can accommodate more than 2000 merchants.
Weather in Burao, much like other inland towns in Somaliland, is warm and dry year-round. The average daytime temperatures during the summer months of June and August can rise to 31 °C (95 °F), with a low of 20 °C (77 °F) at night. The weather is cooler the rest of the year, averaging 27 °C (80 °F) during the day and 13 °C (57 °F) at nighttime. The city's limited rainfall of 222 mm usually comes with two peaks during April–May and October–November.
The Togdheer River runs through the town. It is often dry but subject to flooding. The river divides the city in half, and can be crossed via a newly built bridge in the city center.
Burao's landscape is semi-desert and fairly flat.
|Climate data for Burao
|Average high °C (°F)
|Average low °C (°F)
|Average precipitation mm (inches)
|Source 1: Weatherbase
|Source 2: Climate Data.ORG
Due to the fertility and greenery of the region, wild animals come to the area either to breed or to graze on the grassland savannah. Prominent animals found locally include the kudu, wild boars, zebras, the Somali Wild Ass, warthogs, antelopes, the Somali sheep, wild goats, camels, and many different types of birds. Due south of Burao is a grassland savannah, which attracts many types of fauna to the region, including lions and leopards.
A residential area in Burao
Burao has a working bus system. Air transportation needs are served by the Burao Airport, which offers flights via Daallo Airlines to Hargeisa and other cities in the Horn of Africa, as well as international locations such as Addis Ababa and San'a. As of 2012, the airport's facilities are undergoing major renovations, supervised by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
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Habr Yonis. only major 'urban' centre is Bur'o, a town they share roughly equally with the Habr Je'lo and Issa Musse
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