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Hafun juts out to the east of the mid-Bari region (in red) of Somalia

Hafun (Somali: Xaafuun) is a 40 km long low-lying peninsula in the Bari region of northern Somalia. The promontory juts out into the Indian Ocean, where it is known as Ras Hafun or Raas Xaafuun ("Cape Hafun"). The district is primarily inhabited by the Cisman Mahmoud and is the easternmost point in Africa.

The promontory is joined to the mainland at the town of Foar by a sand spit 20 km long, 1-3 km in width, and roughly 5 m above sea level. The fishing town of Hafun is located 2 km east of the sand spit and has a population of about 5,000 inhabitants.

Hafun in the Ancient World (Opone)

Ras Hafun is believed to be the location of the ancient trade centre of Opone. Opone was mentioned by an anonymous Greek merchant in the 1st century CE in his Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. Ancient Egyptian, Roman and Persian Gulf pottery has been recovered from the site by an archaeological team from the University of Michigan. Opone is in the 13th entry of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, which in part states:

Old mosque in Hafun, Somalia.
And then, after sailing four hundred stadia along a promontory, toward which place the current also draws you, there is another market town called Opone, into which the same things are imported as those already mentioned, and in it the greatest quantity of cinnamon is produced, (the arebo and moto) and slaves of the better sort, which are brought to Egypt in increasing numbers; and a great quantity of tortoiseshell, better than that found elsewhere.

In ancient times, Opone served as a port of call for merchants from Phoenicia, Egypt, Greece, Persia, Yemen, Nabataea, Azania, the Roman Empire and elsewhere, as it sat at a strategic location along the coastal route from the Arab trading centre of Azania to the Red Sea. Merchants from as far afield as Indonesia and Malaysia passed through Opone, exchanging spices, silks and other goods, before departing south for Azania or north to Yemen or Egypt on the trade routes that spanned the length of the Indian Ocean's rim. As early as 50 CE, it was well known as a centre for the cinnamon trade, along with the barter of cloves and other spices, ivory, exotic animal skins and incense.

Modern Hafun

Hafun today has a population of about 2,500 fisher folk. On 26 December, 2004, the town was struck by a tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. It was the worst affected area on the continent, and the only location west of the Indian subcontinent where the waves pulled away from the shore before rushing in. The low-lying western part of the town (which sits at approximately 2m above sea level) was flooded by about 2m. 812 houses were destroyed and another 400 reported damaged. 19 bodies were also recovered and another 160 inhabitants were reported missing. Parts of the sand spit connecting Hafun to the Somali mainland were flooded, but the spit was not overtopped by the waves.

External links

Coordinates: 10°25′0″N 51°16′0″E / 10.416667°N 51.266667°E / 10.416667; 51.266667

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