Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Wonders of Nature



Socotra (Arabic: سُقُطْرَى Suqura), also spelled Soqotra, is an island and a small archipelago of four islands in the Indian Ocean. Socotra is part of Yemen. It had long been a part of the Aden Governorate. In 2004 it became attached to the Hadhramaut Governorate, which is much closer to the island than Aden (although the nearest governorate was the Al Mahrah Governorate). In 2013, the archipelago became its own governorate.
The island of Socotra is about 95% of the landmass of the archipelago. It lies some 240 kilometres (150 mi) east of the Horn of Africa and 380 kilometres (240 mi) south of the Arabian Peninsula.[2] The island is very isolated and a third of its plant life is found nowhere else on the planet. It has been described as "the most alien-looking place on Earth".[3] The island measures 132 kilometres (82 mi) in length and 49.7 kilometres (30.9 mi) in width.[4]
There was initially an Oldowan culture in Socotra. Oldowan stone tools were found in the area around Hadibo by V.A. Zhukov, a member of the Russian Complex Expedition in 2008.[6][7][8]
Socotra appears as Dioskouridou ("of the Dioscuri[9]") in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a 1st-century AD Greek navigation aid. A recent discovery of texts in several languages, including a wooden tablet in Palmyrene dated to the 3rd century AD, indicate the diverse origins of those who used Socotra as a trading base in antiquity.[10]
In 2001 a group of Belgian speleologists of the Socotra Karst Project investigated a cave on the island Socotra. There, they came across a large number of inscriptions, drawings and archaeological objects.[11][12] Further investigation showed that these had been left by sailors who visited the island between the 1st century BC and the 6th century AD. Most of the texts are written in the Indian Brāhmī script, but there are also inscriptions in South-Arabian, Ethiopian, Greek, Palmyrene and Bactrian scripts and languages. This corpus of nearly 250 texts and drawings thus constitutes one of the main sources for the investigation of Indian Ocean trade networks in that time period.[13]
A local tradition holds that the inhabitants were converted to Christianity by Thomas the Apostle in AD 52. In the 10th century, the Arab geographer Abu Muhammad al-Hasan al-Hamdani stated that in his time most of the inhabitants were Christians. Socotra is also mentioned in The Travels of Marco Polo; Marco Polo did not pass anywhere near the island but recorded a report that "the inhabitants are baptised Christians and have an 'archbishop'" who, it is further explained, "has nothing to do with the Pope in Rome, but is subject to an archbishop who lives at Baghdad". They were Nestorians but also practised ancient magic rituals despite the warnings of their archbishop.[14]In 1737, Captain de la Garde-Jazier, commander of a French naval expedition to Mocha, was surprised to find Christian tribes living in the interior of Socotra during a five-week stopover on the island. He reported in a letter home that the tribesmen, "due to lack of missionaries, had only retained a faint knowledge of Christianity".[15]
In 1507, a Portuguese fleet commanded by Tristão da Cunha with Afonso de Albuquerque landed at the then capital of Suq and captured the port after a stiff battle. Their objective was to set a base in a strategic place on the route to India, and to liberate the presumed friendly Christians from Islamic rule. Tomás Fernandes started to build a fortress at Suq, the Forte de São Miguel de Socotorá. However, the infertility of the land led to famine and sickness in the garrison. Moreover, the lack of a proper harbour for wintering led to the loss of many moored Portuguese ships, the most important of which was the Santo António galleon under the command of captain Manuel Pais da Veiga.[16] Thus the Portuguese abandoned the island four years later, as it was not advantageous as a base.[17]

1893 map of the Bombay Presidencyincluding Aden Province and Socotra.
The islands passed under the control of the Mahra sultans in 1511.
Relations with Great Britain[edit]
In 1834, the East India Company, in the expectation that the Mahra sultan of Qishn and Socotra, who resided at Qishn on the mainland, would accept an offer to sell the island, stationed a garrison on Socotra. However, faced with the unexpected firm refusal of the sultan to sell, as well as the lack of good anchorages for a coaling station to be used by the new steamship line being put into service on the Suez-Bombay route, the British left in 1835. After the capture of Aden in 1839, the British lost all interest in acquiring Socotra.
In January 1876, in exchange for a payment of 3000 thalers and a yearly subsidy, the sultan pledged "himself, his heirs and successors, never to cede, to sell, to mortgage, or otherwise give for occupation, save to the British Government, the Island of Socotra or any of its dependencies". Additionally, he pledged to give assistance to any vessel, British or otherwise, that wrecked on the island and protect the crew, the passengers and the cargo, in exchange of a suitable reward.[18] In April 1886, the British government, concerned about reports that the German navy had been visiting various ports in the Red Sea
and the Indian Ocean for the purpose of securing a naval base, decided to conclude a protectorate treaty with the sultan in which he promised this time to "refrain from entering into any correspondence, agreement, or treaty with any foreign nation or power, except with the knowledge and sanction of the British Government", and give immediate notice to the British Resident at Aden of any attempt by another power to interfere with Socotra and its dependencies.[19] Apart from those obligations, this preemptive protectorate treaty, designed above all to seal off Socotra from competing colonial powers, left the sultan in control of the island. In 1897, the P&O ship Aden sank after being wrecked on a reef near Socotra, with the loss of 78 lives. As some of the cargo had been plundered by islanders, the sultan was reminded of his obligations under the agreement of 1876.[20]
In October 1967, in the wake of the departure of the British from Aden and southern Arabia, the Mahra Sultanate as well as the other states of the former Aden Protectorate were abolished. On 30 November of the same year, Socotra became part of South Yemen. Since Yemeni unification in 1990, it has been part of the Republic of Yemen.
Geography and climate[edit]


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