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The Somalia Terrain

The landscape consists largely of plains and plateaus. The Guban, a semiarid plain, runs parallel to the Gulf of Aden in the northern part of the country. It is scrub-covered and generally drab in appearance. The Golis and Ogo Mountains with their magnificent and often dangerous precipitous escarpments, which rise behind the coast, dominate the whole physical structure of Somalia. This range achieves a height of about 10,000 feet at points to the east and in the west where it joins the Ethiopian highlands. It rises further in the southeast to the Ogo Highlands, which contain the highest elevations in the country. Shimbir Berris, at 14,462 feet (4,408 meters), is the highest peak. On the hills in the north of the plateau, which includes the important centre of Hargeisa the rainfall is sometimes as high as twenty inches. To the south of Hargeisa, the northern plateau opens into that vast wilderness of thorn-bush and tall grasses known as the Haud, which are cooler and drier. The extreme south consists mainly of plains. Along the Indian Ocean coast is a stretch of permanent sand dunes. Wabi Shebelle and the Juba are the two major rivers.
The Wabi Shebelle or “Leopard” river extends for some 1,270 miles but does not enter the sea; after crossing the southern part of the Ogaden it flows eastwards as far as Balad, twenty miles from the Indian Ocean coast, where it veers to the south and covers a further 160 miles before disappearing a series of marshes and sand flats close to Jelib on the Juba. Only with heavy rains does the river join the Juba and thus succeed in reaching the sea. To the south of the Shebelle, the Juba river descends much more directly from the Ethiopian highlands to the sea where it enters as a strong stream some 280 yards wide near the port of Kismayu. It is navigable by shallow draft vessels from its mouth to the rapids a few miles beyond Bardera. In contrast to the wide belts of sub-bush and grassy plains, interspersed with lonely tall Acacias, which cover so mush of the country, these two rivers are lined in places by narrow lanes of attractive high forests. Here Elephant and Hippopotamus replace the multitude of Antelope species and smaller game, which are so abundant elsewhere in Somalia. The area between these two rivers is agriculturally the richest part of the country. The two largest northern streams are the Daror and the Nugaaleed.

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