Dir (clan)

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Main article: Somali people
Regions with significant populations
 Somalia n/a
 Djibouti n/a
 Ethiopia n/a
 Kenya n/a
 United Kingdom n/a
Islam (Sunni, Sufism),
Related ethnic groups
Isaaq, Darod, Hawiye, Rahanweyn, other Somali people

The Dir (Somali: Dir, Arabic: در‎), Dhar, or Theyr bin Abdalla as mentioned in the book Futuh ul-Habasha, is a Somali clan. Its members mostly live in northwestern, central and southern Somalia and Djibouti, in addition to the Somali Region of Ethiopia and the North Eastern Province in Kenya.

The main sub-clans of the Dir are the Issa of Djibouti and Ethiopia, as well as the Gadabuursi, Akisho (Akishe), Biamal (Biyomaal), Surre and Gurgura. Although often recognized as a Dir sub-clan, the Isaaq clan claims paternal descent from one Shaykh Ishaq ibn Ahmad al-Hashimi (Sheikh Isaaq).[1]


I.M. Lewis maintains that "strictly speaking… the Dir… together with the Hawiye are linked as 'Irir [Samaale]' at a higher level of genealogical grouping.".[2] Together with the Hawiye they trace ancestry through Irir Samaale to Arabian origins with Aqiil Abu Talib ibn Abd al-Muttalib.[3][4]

Dir is reputed to be the uncle of Esa Madoba, the patriarch of the Issa Dir sub-clan, as well as the brother of Hawiya Irrir, who founded the Hawiye clan.[5] In addition, Dir is regarded as the father-in-law of Darod, the progenitor of the Darod clan.[5] Other accounts indicate that Dir is the father of Esa Madoba.[3][4]


Dir had four sons named:

  • Haytham "Madahweyne"
  • Salah "Mandaluug"
  • Nuur "Madoobe"
  • Khalid "Meha"

According to others, Dir had a fifth son, Qaldho Dir.

The Northern Dir consist of the Gadabuursi (Samaroon Siciid), the Issa Madoobe Dir of Djibouti, and the Isaaq. The Southern Dir and Western Dir of Ethiopia number over eleven clans who mostly come from the Madahweyne Dir or Meha Dir.

Geographical distribution[edit]

Madahweyne in Ethiopia[edit]

The Dir in Ethiopia are represented by the Madahweyne Dir. The subclans of the Madahweyne (Madahweyne Dir) include: Gariir, Gurgura clan, Layiile, and Akisho (Gurre). Other Dir clans in Ethiopia are the Issa of Madoobe Dir, Samaroon Siciid (Gadabuursi) of Mandaluug Dir, Garre-Quranyow Maxamed, Gadsan, Fiqi Muhumand, Fiqi Yahye and Fiqi Cumar (Qubeys), Fiqi Khairre (Saleban Abdalle) of Meha Dir and others.

Most of the Dir clans in Ethiopia live in the Dire Dawa area, the Jijiga Zone, and along the Awash River. The rest of the Ethiopian Dir clans live in southern parts near the Somali border near Dolo Odo and as far as Guure Dhamoole and Negele Boran where the Garre Quranyow Maxamed Xiniftire subclans of Meha Dir live. Also the Guure(Akishe) are the dominant Somali clan in the Liben Zone at the extreme south of the Somali Region.

Surre clan[edit]

Main article: Surre (clan)

The majority of western scholars (both Italian and British) simply referred to the Surre as the "Dir of central Somalia" without differentiating them, but recent studies in Somalia revealed that the majority of the Dir in Mudug Hiiran, Gedo and Jubba are divided into two branches, the Qubeyes and Abdalles, both descendants of Surre. Qubeys and Abdallahs, both Surre subclans, inhabit central Somalia, with Qubeys being mainly local to Puntland regions such as Mudug.[6]

Biamal in southern Somalia[edit]

Other branches of the Dir include the ancient Biamal clan, which occupy an area from 35 km from Mogadishu south to Jilib and Kismaayo, not far from border with Kenya. The Biamal fought against the Italian colonial rulers of Southern Somalia in a twenty-year war known as the Biamal Revolt, in which the Dir assassinated several Italian governors.


Fiqicilmi is one of the main subclans of Biamal. The Fiqicilmi clan inhabits Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. And the Fiqicilmi has the following subclans:

  • Omar Faqi
  • Adan Faqi
  • Abdirahman Faqi
  • Ibrahim Faqi
  • Mohamoud Faqi
  • Diini Faqi


Gaadsan, a subclan of Biamal, is one of the largest clans of the Dir. Their homelands are divided amongst three countries: Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. In Ethiopia, Gaadsan clan reside in three woredas: Liben (Jarrati, Waladaya, Doolow and Guuredhamole), Gode (Iimey and Boola), and Misraq Gashamo (Nusdariiq, Marsin, Kabtinuur and Qabridhare). The Gaadsan in Somalia mainly live in Bakool, Gedo, Middle Jubba and the Lower Juba Regions. In Kenya there is a third division of Gaadsan, known as Gaadsan-Kenya, the brother of Wardey Clan (subclan of Madaxweyne Dir). Both Gadsan and Wardey have settled on the largest and wealthiest lands of Somali Kenya such as Bangal, Garseeni, and Hoolla.

Gurgura Madahweyne Dir in Dire Dawa[edit]

The Gurgura Dir is a sub-clan of the Madahweyne Dir. The Gurgura, Madigan (Gasare subclan) and the Barsuug Madaxweyne Dir are among the Somali Dir clans mentioned in the Fatuh ul-Habasha, the account of Imam Ahmed Gragn's campaigns against the Christians of the Ethiopian highlands in the 16th century.[page needed]

Political groups[edit]

Political groups associated with the Dir clans include the following groups in Somalia and Ethiopia:

Clan tree[edit]

There is no clear agreement on the clan and sub-clan structures and many lineages are omitted. The following listing is taken from the World Bank's Conflict in Somalia: Drivers and Dynamics from 2005 and the United Kingdom's Home Office publication, Somalia Assessment 2001.[7][8]

In the south central part of Somalia the World Bank shows the following clan tree:[9]

  • Dir
    • Isaaq
      • Garhajis
      • Habar Je'lo
      • Habar Awal
      • Habar Tol
    • Gadabursi
    • Isse
    • Biyomal
    • Gadsan
    • Qubeys
    • Abdalla

See also[edit]


  1. ^ I.M. Lewis, A Modern History of the Somali, fourth edition (Oxford: James Currey, 2002), p. 22
  2. ^ Lewis, I.M. (2008). Understanding Somali and Somaliland Society: Culture History and Society. Hurst. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-85065-898-6. 
  3. ^ a b Ahmed, Ali Jimale (1995). The Invention of Somalia. Lawrenceville, NJ: The Red Sea Press Inc. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-932415-98-1. 
  4. ^ a b Lewis, Ioan. M. (1994). Blood and Bone: The Call of Kinship in Somali Society. Lawrenceville, NJ: The Red Sea Press Inc. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-932415-92-9. 
  5. ^ a b Hunt, John Anthony (1951). A general survey of the Somaliland Protectorate 1944-1950: final report on 'An economic survey and reconnaissance of the British Somaliland Protectorate 1944-1950,' Colonial Development and Welfare Scheme, Part 484. To be purchased from the Chief Secretary. p. 151. OCLC 3011788. Dir, the father-in-law of Darod, is said to be the uncle of Esa Madoba and brother of Hawiya Irrir, who founded the Esa tribe of Zeila and the Hawiya of Somalia respectively. Ram Nag, the great-grandfather of Dir, and Samarone the patriarch of the Gadabursi, are of unknown origin, but probably Arabians who landed at Zeila. 
  6. ^ Uppsala Conflict Data Program. "Qubeys subclan (Dir) - Suleiman subclan of Habar Gidir clan (Hawiye)". UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia. Uppsala University. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  7. ^ Worldbank, Conflict in Somalia: Drivers and Dynamics, January 2005, Appendix 2, Lineage Charts, p.55 Figure A-1
  8. ^ Country Information and Policy Unit, Home Office, Great Britain, Somalia Assessment 2001, Annex B: Somali Clan Structure, p. 43
  9. ^ Worldbank, Conflict in Somalia: Drivers and Dynamics, January 2005, Appendix 2, Lineage Charts, p.56 Figure A-2