Socotra

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The Sultanate of Socotra, capital at Adibo, is a small archipelago of four islands and islets in the Indian Ocean off the Horn of Africa some 518 mi south of the Thousand Emirates, The Kingdom of Hadramaut and Himyaria. The Federated Kingdoms administers Socotra for the Banu Afrar Mahra Sultanate of Qishn and Socotra. The archipelago consists of the mountainous main island of Socotra (11962 cc) and three smaller islands, Abd Al Kuri, Samha with a few hundred people and the uninhabited Darsa, and other uninhabitable rock outcrops. Its rainfall is light, seasonal and limited to certain areas.

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People

The people of the Sultanate, a mixture of Greek, Indian, Arab and Somali ancestry, are by majority Nestorian Christians of the Assyrian Church (whose communities date to the sixth century and survived the centuries of the rise of Islam due to isolation until very late) with a sizeable minority of Zaydist Muslims. Soqotri and English are the languages of daily life; Syriac and Arabic are the liturgical languages of church and mosque respectively. The Assyrian Church in Socotra falls under the jurisdiction of its own bishops. The island's population is considered too small to merit a full metropolitan archbishop.

Economy

Ghee and medicinals are the chief export; outside of Adibo, the economy is almost entirely by barter and the use of antique coins, notably the famous trade thalers of the old Austro-Dalmatian Empire. The local diocese operates all Socotran schools. Some economic activity also surrounds the RAF and RN bases that the Sultanate hosts.

Geography

Socotra has three geographical terrains: the narrow coastal plains, a limestone plateau permeated with karstic caves, and the Haghier mountains.

Socotra is one of the most isolated bits of land on earth. The island probably detached from Africa as a fault block during the Middle Pliocene (ca 6 mya), in the same set of rifting events that have opened the Gulf of Aden to its northwest. The long geological isolation of the archipelago and its fierce heat and drought have combined to create a unique and spectacular endemic flora that would be highly vulnerable to change. Surveys have revealed that more than a third of the 800 or so plant species are endemic, i.e., found nowhere else. Botanists rank the flora of Socotra among the ten most endangered island flora in the world. The archipelago is a site of global importance for biodiversity conservation and a possible center for ecotourism. Even the Semitic language, Soqotri, is spoken only there.

As with many isolated island systems, bats are the only mammals native to Socotra. In contrast, the marine biodiversity around Socotra is rich, characterized by a unique mixture of species that originated in far-flung biogeographic regions: the western Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, Arabia, East Africa and the wider Indo-Pacific.

The monsoonal climate is strong. From June to September the island has traditionally been inaccessible because of exceedingly strong monsoon winds and high seas. In July 1999, a new airport opened Socotra to the outside year round. Most Socotris still live without electricity, running water or a paved road. At the end of the 1990s a Federated Kingdoms Development Program was launched with the aim of providing a close survey of the island of Socotra.

History

Socotra was described in the first century C.E. in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a navigation aid. The explorer Tristão da Cunha put ashore in the early 16th century and considered Socotra conquered for Portugal.


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