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Burco  (Somali)
برعو (Arabic)
Burao, Somaliland.jpg
Burao city
Burao city center
Burao City
Burao city
Burao shopping mall
Flag of Burao
Official seal of Burao
Interactive map outlining Burao
Burao is located in Somaliland
Location in Somaliland
Burao is located in Africa
Burao (Africa)
Coordinates: 09°31′40.4″N 45°32′04.2″E / 9.527889°N 45.534500°E / 9.527889; 45.534500Coordinates: 09°31′40.4″N 45°32′04.2″E / 9.527889°N 45.534500°E / 9.527889; 45.534500
Country Somaliland
 • MayorAbdirisaq Ibrahim Abdi
 • City42 km2 (16 sq mi)
1,037 m (3,402 ft)
 • City750,211[1]
 • Metro
Time zoneUTC+3 (EAT)

Burao, also spelt Bur'o or Bur'ao[2] (Burr-OH; Somali: Burco, IPA: [Burˈʕo], Arabic: برعو‎) is the capital of the Togdheer region[3] and the second largest city in Somaliland.[4] Burao was the site of the declaration of an independent Somaliland on 18 May 1991.[5]


The city originated as a well named Ceel-Gooni in the late 19th century used by nomads from the surrounding area. The town subsequently grew around the well.[6][7] The settlement was later on burned to the ground by British forces in 1900, with the modern settlement being re-established in 1910.[8][7]

19th century

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.[9][10]

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.[11]

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").[12]

Dervish movement

The Dervish movement 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.[13] 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.[14]

Burao Tax Revolt and RAF bombing

Captain Allan Gibb

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.[15] 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. [16][17][18][19]

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.[20]

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.[21]

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.[22]

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.[23][24][19]

1945 Sheikh Bashir Rebellion

Sheikh Bashir praying Sunnah prayer, 1920

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.[25]

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.[26]

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.[27]

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.[28]

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.[28]

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.[29] A secondary school in Burao, called the Sheikh Bashir Secondary School, is named in his honour.[30][31]


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[32]

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.[2]


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.[33]

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.[34]

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.[35]

Geography and climate

Burao's landscape is semi-desert and fairly flat.

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.

Weather in Burao, much like other inland towns in Somaliland, is very warm to hot and dry year-round. The city has a hot arid climate (Köppen BWh) in common with most of Somalia, although Burao’s weather is moderated by altitude. The average daytime temperatures during the summer months of June and August can rise to 31 °C or 87.8 °F, with a low of 20 °C or 68 °F at night. The weather is cooler the rest of the year, averaging 27 °C or 80.6 °F during the day and 13 °C or 55.4 °F at nighttime. The city's limited rainfall of 222 millimetres or 9 inches usually comes with two peaks during April-May and October-November.

Climate data for Burao
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 26.5
Average low °C (°F) 12.7
Average rainfall mm (inches) 2
Source 1: Weatherbase[36]
Source 2: Climate Data.ORG[37]


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).

Notable residents

See also


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 June 2018. Retrieved 23 June 2018.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ a b UNDP Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia (15 November 1994). "Report on Mission to Haud Area, Region 5". Retrieved 23 April 2012. Habr Yonis. only major 'urban' centre is Bur'o, a town they share roughly equally with the Habr Je'lo and Issa Musse
  3. ^ "Somaliland's Quest for International Recognition and the HBM-SSC Factor". Archived from the original on 28 May 2012.
  4. ^ "Somalia Districts". www.statoids.com.
  5. ^ "Somaliland History". World66. Internet Brands. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 17 July 2007. In 1991, after the collapse of the Somali government
  6. ^ James, F. L. (1885). "A Journey Through the Somali Country to the Webbe Shebeyli". Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography. 7 (10): 625–646. doi:10.2307/1801382. hdl:2027/hvd.hxdnwj. ISSN 0266-626X. JSTOR 1801382.
  7. ^ a b Tempra, Zeiske, O’Loghlen, Ombretta, Felix, Aisling (August 2009). "Burao Profile - first steps towards strategic planning" (PDF). United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT).CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Kusoo dhawow Burco - Welcome to Burco, retrieved 15 November 2021
  9. ^ British SomaliLand by Ralph E Drake Brockman, p.66
  10. ^ The Unknown Horn of Africa: An Exploration From Berbera to the Leopard River, By Frank Linsly james, p.62
  11. ^ The Academy, Volume 35, 1889, p.126
  12. ^ The Unknown Horn of Africa: An Exploration From Berbera to the Leopard River, By Frank Linsly james, p.67
  13. ^ Sessional papers Volume 48 p. 8
  14. ^ Sessional papers Volume 48. p. 15
  15. ^ Colonial Office, 11 April 1922
  16. ^ The British Empire as a Superpower By Anthony Clayton pp.223
  17. ^ Public Record Office file CO 1069/13 Part 1, by the first officer commanding "B" (Nyasaland) Company SCC).
  18. ^ The King's African Rifles by H. Moyse-Bartlett
  19. ^ a b Correspondence between Governor of British Somaliland and Secretary of State for the Colonies. Colonial Office, 26 March 1922.
  20. ^ Correspondence between Governor of British Somaliland and Secretary of State for the Colonies. Colonial Office, 28th February, 1922
  21. ^ 1922 Commons sitting. HC Deb 14 March 1922 vol 151 cc1953-4
  22. ^ Imperial Rearguard: Wars of Empire, 1919-1985 pp.168
  23. ^ British Somaliland: An Administrative History, 1920-1960 pp.110
  24. ^ Jaques, Tony (2007). Dictionary of battles and sieges P-Z, p.991. ISBN 9780313335396.
  25. ^ Mohamed, Jama (1996). Constructing colonial hegemony in the Somaliland protectorate, 1941-1960 (Thesis thesis).
  26. ^ of Rodd, Lord Rennell (1948). British Military Administration in Africa 1941-1947. HMSO. p. 481.
  27. ^ "Taariikhdii Halgamaa: Sheekh Bashiir Sh. Yuusuf. W/Q: Prof Yaxye Sheekh Caamir | Laashin iyo Hal-abuur". Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  28. ^ a b Sheekh Caamir, Prof. Yaxye (11 January 2018). "Taariikhdii Halgamaa: Sheekh Bashiir Sh. Yuusuf". Laashin.
  29. ^ Akyeampong, Emmanuel. K (2012). Dictionary of African Biography, Volumes 1-6. OUP USA. p. 107.
  30. ^ "Somali Youth Leaders Initiative, Quarterly Progress Report, Quarter 2, FY 2013" (PDF). USAID Somalia: 9–10. 30 April 2013.
  31. ^ "Competition Encourages Youth to Showcase Talents". BLOG. 11 May 2015. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  32. ^ "Regions, districts, and their populations: Somalia 2005 (draft)" (PDF). UNDP. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  33. ^ Project, War-torn Societies; Programme, WSP Transition (2005). Rebuilding Somaliland: Issues and Possibilities. Red Sea Press. ISBN 978-1-56902-228-3.
  34. ^ A Self-portrait of Somaliland: Rebuilding from the Ruins. Somaliland Centre for Peace and Development. 1999.
  35. ^ "Qaran News". www.QaranNews.com. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  36. ^ "Weatherbase: Historical Weather for Burao, Somalia". Weatherbase. 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  37. ^ "Climate: Burao, Somalia". Climate-Data.org. 2013. Retrieved 28 December 2013.

External links

  • Media related to Burao at Wikimedia Commons
  • Burao travel guide from Wikivoyage