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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.
During the Middle Ages, the Merca area was part of the Ajuran Sultanate's realm. The polity formed one of the largest kingdoms in the southern half of the Horn region. Various pillar tombs exist in the region, which local tradition holds were built in the 16th century, when the Sultanate's naa'ibs governed the district.
The first written reference to 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 Biimaal 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.
As of 2000, Merca had a population of around 230,100 inhabitants.
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.
- Cassanelli, Lee V. (1982). The Shaping of Somali Society: Reconstructing the History of a Pastoral People, 1600 to 1900. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 97. ISBN 0812278321. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
- 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. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
- "Istanbul conference on Somalia 21 – 23 May 2010 - Draft discussion paper for Round Table "Transport infrastructure"" (PDF). Government of Somalia. Retrieved 31 August 2013.