Lugh Aw Maadow: Seat of the Gasaargude Sultanate

February 27 00:27 2011 Print This Article

One of the most important commercial and political centers in the hinterlands of Somalia is Lugh, located about 260 m Northwest of Mogadishu, and 104 m from Baidoa. The name Lugh in Somali literally means a “loop” or an enclosure, and in fact the town is located on a piece of land surrounded on three sides by the waters of the river Jubba. A series of hills shape the river’s course into a loop which leaves only a narrow neck of land leading to the main land; Lugh was built within this loop.

The town is also nicknamed Ganane by the locals after the name of the river, which was historically known as the Webi Ganane.

Lugh was the site of the royal residence of the Gasaaragude Sultans, who took the royal title of Gereed. According to local tradition, the first Gereed to reside in Lugh was Gereed Kalafow, popularly known as Aw Maadow, which is another name for the city. Most Reewin people even today call the city Lugh Aw Maadow.

According to the oral tradition of Gasaaragude, Gereed Kalafow is the great great-grandson of Muhammad known as Muhammad Garsaagude, meaning “connoisseur,” who is also the eponymous ancestor of the Gasaaragude tribe.

There is another account about the foundation of Lugh and the origin of the sultanate. In this account, an Arab Sheikh called Diin Abubakar landed in Mogadishu. He was accompanied by four of his children and their families: Jamal, Fakhr, Umur and Shams.

The first three sons continued the journey. Jamal set- tled in Lamu and established the Jamal Diin dynasty there. Fakhr travelled inland and settled in Afgoi establishing Fakhr Diin Sultanate, known later as the GeJedi. Umar continued further toward the Northwest and founded Lugh, establishing Umur Diin Sultanate, known later as Gasaaragude.

Kalafow in this version is still recognized as the first to use the Title Gereed, and he is the great great grandson of Umar Diin, who in turn is the great great grandfather of Muhammad Gasaaragude. This appears to be one of the typical Somali traditions which traces clan ancestry back to an Arab founder, and it is probably a myth designed to establish the legitimacy of a dynasty or to claim religious superiority over another clan.

Gereed Kalafow is said to have died c. 839 AH (about 1435 CE) and his grave is visited in Lugh even today. His reign is associated with the foundation of the city and the construction of the royal residence. It is also remembered as the era of the great conquests.

His sovereignty reached as far as TiyegJow to the northeast and Buur Heybe in the south. He defended the sultanate from Digoodi, Ogadeen and Marehaan attacks, and after defeating the Boran he claimed to be the great Gereed of both sides of the River.

Most Reewin clans paid homage to the Gasaaragude Gereeds. A common saying among the Reewin clans is Gasaaragude Gob Reewin, which could mean one of two things: Gasaaragude are the nobility of all Reewin; or they are the law enforcers of Reewin.

In either interpretation, the idea is that the Gasaaragude constitute the highest authority in the Reewin community, particularly among the Mirifle. Indeed, there is a widespread belief that Gasaaragudes are the supreme authority among the Mirifle, just as the Geledis are among the Dighil.

Another common saying goes like this: Doo leedey Lugh Seew, which means: “the case is over, if you wish, you can proceed to Lugh.” This saying is usually uttered following a judgment at the highest level of the clan. If the defendant is not yet satisfied with the outcome, he can appeal to the supreme authority of Lugh, to the Gasaragude Gereed, and that is the ultimate authority in Reewin or Mirifle/and.

Gereed Liibaan succeeded his father Gereed Kalafow. However, he possessed none of his father’s abilities and was overthrown by his cousin Ali Hir. This led to a series of succession crises in the sultanate, which hindered further economic progress and political stability in the region.

The sultanate suffered from a devastating civil war, in which it lost most territories gained during the reign of Gereed Kalafow. Nonetheless, this dynasty founded by Kalafow ruled much of the Reewinland from fourteenth century to the nineteenth. According to oral tradition, most of the Gasaaragude Gereeds were descended from the line of Gereed Kalafow. He left behind six sons: Liban, Hilowle, Umur, Amin, Keerowand Maadow. In fact, Gasaragude is divided until today into six sub-clans named after the sons of Gereed Kalafow.

Historically, the town was separated from the mainland by a wall 3m high with only one wooden gate. The gate was closed to outsiders from dusk to dawn. The Italians also found this strategic location very favorable and built a stronger brick wall and towered fortress.

Western Kenya, southern Ethiopia and central Somalia, Lugh was the meeting point where mer- chants could exchange goods. The river Ganane (Jubba) served to transport products going to or coming from the hinterlands to the Indian Ocean.

Mohamed H. Mukhtar,

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