A self-governing region of eastern Africa. It occupies the Horn of Africa (Somali Peninsula), bounded on the north by the Gulf of Aden and on the southeast by Ethiopia. It declared itself independent of Somalia in 1991, but is still regarded internationally as part of Somalia. Before 1977, Somaliland included a greater portion of land in eastern Africa.
Somaliland was famous in ancient times for its trade in aromatic plants, ivory, and slaves. The Egyptians called it Punt. As early as the seventh century, Muslim Arab traders settled along the coast. By the 10th century, the Arab trading posts were thriving. Beginning in about the 12th century, the Somalis, a nomadic people, started migrating into the region from their homeland in Ethiopia. As these nomads gradually expanded over the area, they were converted to Islam. By the 18th century, they were the dominant people in Somaliland.
In the mid-19th century, European nations began to compete for territory in Somaliland. France obtained a port near the Bab el Mandeb in 1862 and gradually expanded its area of control. In the 1880's, by treaty, Great Britain established a protectorate along the northern coast, and Italy established one along the southeastern coast.
During World War II, Italy lost its protectorate, which was made a United Nations trust territory. Both British and Italian Somaliland became independent in 1960 and united to form the republic of Somalia. In 1967 French Somaliland became the French Territory of Afars and Issas; it became independent as Djibouti in 1977.