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Merca (Somali: Marka, Arabic: مركة) is an ancient port city in the southern Lower Shebelle (Shabellaha Hoose) region of Somalia. Facing the Indian Ocean, it is the main town in the province. It is located approximately 109 km (68 mi) southwest of the nation's capital, Mogadishu.
Merca was established in the 5th century by the Biyomaal and Hawiye clans of present day Somalia. The first Somalis arrived in the city in the 3rd century BCE and gained control of the area and the local trade. The city of Merca was one of several prominent administrative centers in the Ajuuraan Empire which united the clans of Biyomaal with the Hawiye where they managed to form one of the most successful East African empires in the region.
The majority Biyomaal of Merca fought against the Italian colonialists of Italian Somaliland in a twenty-year war known as the Biyomaal in which many of their warriors assassinated several Italian governors. During the Biyomaal Revolt, several prominent leaders were killed. Monuments erected in their memory can still be found in Merca.
In the late 20th century, the town gained a reputation as a beach resort. On 13 November 2008, Al-Shabaab took control of the city. It was later recaptured on 27 August 2012 by Somali National Army (SNA) forces assisted by AMISOM troops.
As of 2000, Merca had a population of around 230,100 inhabitants. Local residents hail from various clans including the Biyomaal, Rahanweyn and Hawiye (Mudulood, Habar Gidir), as well as ethnic minority groups.
Although visual art is not popular in Somalia due to prevailing beliefs that it contradicts Islam's proscription on all forms of idolatry, a lot of the known visual art in the country derives from the small historical town of Merca. Known for its beautiful white sandy beaches and orange dunes, the city's picturesque contrast of colors serves as an inspiration for local visual artists. Merca still up to this day hosts buildings erected by the Ajuuraan State, with many dating back centuries.
- Alan Boswell, Abdi Ibrahim (27 August 2012). "Al Shabab flees Somali port of Merca ahead of African Union troops". McClatchy Newspapers. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
- Somalia City & Town Population. Tageo.com. Retrieved on 2011-12-15.
- "Istanbul conference on Somalia 21 – 23 May 2010 - Draft discussion paper for Round Table "Transport infrastructure"". Government of Somalia. Retrieved 31 August 2013.