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Merca (Somali: Marka, Arabic: مركة) is an ancient port city in the southern Lower Shebelle province of Somalia. Facing the Indian Ocean, it is the main town in the province. It is located approximately 109 km (68 mi) to the southwest of the nation's capital, Mogadishu.
Merca was established in the 5th century. The first Somalis arrived in the city in the 3rd century BCE and gained control of the area and the local trade. During the Middle Ages, the area was one of several prominent administrative centers of the Ajuran Sultanate. The polity formed one of the largest kingdoms in the southern half of the Horn region.
The first written reference to the Merca dates back to a 13th-century document by the Arab geographer, Ibn Sa'id, who described the town at the time as the "capital of Hawiye country". The 12th century cartographer Muhammad al-Idrisi may have referred to the Hawiye as well, as he called Merca the region of the "Hadiye", which Herbert S. Lewis believes is a scribal error for "Hawiye", as do Guilliani, Schleicher and Cerulli.
The Bimaal Sultanate of Merca fought against the colonial authorities in Italian Somaliland in a twenty-year war known as the Bimaal revolt. Monuments erected in memory of slain soldiers can still be found in Merca.
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.
- Herbert S. Lewis, "The Origins of the Galla and Somali", in The Journal of African History. Cambridge University Press, 1966, pp 27–30.
- Somalia City & Town Population. Tageo.com.
- "Istanbul conference on Somalia 21 – 23 May 2010 - Draft discussion paper for Round Table "Transport infrastructure"". Government of Somalia. Retrieved 31 August 2013.