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  • Haji Sharmarke Ali Saleh was a prominent 19th-century Somali leader, merchant, and governor.

  • He ruled the ports of Zeila and Berbera between 1841 and 1861.

  • Known as 'The African Rothschild,' he was one of the wealthiest men on the African continent during his time.

  • Sharmarke played a significant role in regional politics and trade, influencing areas as far as Harar and Abyssinia.

  • He was involved in a notable incident in 1825 where he rescued British crewmen from a plundered brig, which helped establish relations with the British government.

  • Sharmarke's governance was marked by his efforts to monopolize trade and his strategic alliances with local and foreign powers.

  • He died in 1861 under mysterious circumstances while being transported for trial by the French.

Early Life [1]

  • Birth: Sharmarke Ali Saleh was born around 1775 in the coastal town of Maydh.

  • Clan: He belonged to the Habr Yunis sub-clan of the Garhajis clan within the larger Isaaq clan.

  • Early Career: Sharmarke started as a Nakhuda (captain) of a Somali vessel and a trader.

  • Notable Incident: In 1825, he rescued British crewmen from a plundered brig, which helped establish relations with the British government.

Governorship of Zeila [1]

  • Acquisition: Sharmarke purchased the rights to Zeila from the Ottoman governor of Mocha and Hodeida.

  • Conflict: He deposed the Arab Governor, Syed Mohammed Al Barr, in 1841.

  • Trade: Sharmarke monopolized regional trade, with significant activities in Southern Arabia and India.

  • Restoration: After being deposed by his rival Abu Bakr in 1855, Sharmarke was restored to power in 1857 and ruled until his death in 1861.



Rule in Berbera [1]

  • Prominence: Sharmarke rose to prominence as a dominant native trader during the Berbera fair.

  • Conflict: He supported the Reer Ahmed Nuh sub-clan in a conflict over Berbera's trade control.

  • Control: Sharmarke's support helped the Reer Ahmed Nuh drive out their rivals and declare themselves the sole commercial masters of Berbera.

  • Political Maneuver: His actions were a political ruse to control Berbera for himself, which he achieved for several years.







Trade and Commerce [1]

  • Nickname: Sharmarke was known as 'The African Rothschild' due to his immense wealth.

  • Trustworthiness: He was known for his trustworthy conduct in trade and commerce.

  • Vessels: Out of the twenty local vessels docked in Zeila, ten were owned by Sharmarke.

  • Trade Routes: He had significant trading activities with Southern Arabia and India, including large trading dhows conveying goods to Bombay.







Political Influence [1]

  • Allies: Sharmarke had many allies in the interior of the Somali country and Abyssinia.

  • Shewa: He had great influence with the rulers of Shewa, including convincing Sahle Selassie's son to imprison 300 Harari citizens.

  • Danakil Coast: Sharmarke had significant influence among the Danakil (Afar) population.

  • Tribute: He collected a substantial annual tribute from the inhabitants of Tadjourah.

Downfall and Death [1]

  • Deposition: Sharmarke was deposed by his rival Abu Bakr in 1855 but was restored to power in 1857.

  • French Involvement: The French believed Sharmarke was involved in the murder of Henri Lambert, a former French consular agent.

  • Arrest: Sharmarke and his supporters were arrested and handed to the French navy for trial.

  • Death: Sharmarke died during the journey to trial, and the exact circumstances of his death remain unclear.

Legacy [1]

  • Descendants: Sharmarke's descendants became traditional leaders of the Musa Arreh sub-clan of the Habr Yunis clan.

  • Historical Impact: Sharmarke's efforts in trade and politics significantly shaped the history of the Somaliland coast.

  • Cultural Influence: His nickname 'The African Rothschild' reflects his lasting legacy as a symbol of wealth and influence.

  • Historical Records: Sharmarke's life and achievements are documented by various historical figures, including Richard Francis Burton.

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