Island lying in the Indian Ocean, at the entrance to the Gulf of Aden. Socotra is 3,625 km² large, and belongs to Yemen. It lies about 340 km from the coast of the Yemeni mainland, and 250 off the Somali coast. The island has about 70,000 inhabitants (2008 estimate).
Photos from the extinct web site of Soqotra Karst Project.
The name of the island is believed to come from Sanskrit 'dvipa sakhadara', which can be translated with 'Island of Bliss'.
Socotra is part of an archipelago, but all the other islands are small. The largest of these are Abd al-Kuri and the Al-Ikhwan Islands.
The islands stand on coral banks. The interior of the island is dominated by the beautiful and green mountains called Hajhir, rising up to 1,503 metres above sea level.
To the north is the most inhabited part, yet it has the most narrow coast line. Both the northern and southern plains have little rainfall, which make these areas difficult for effective agriculture.
Socotra has been isolated biologically for several million years, and about 1/3 of the animals and plants are only found here. Examples of this are the 24 endemic reptiles, 6 types of birds, like the Socotra sparrow, centipedes, one sort of dragonfly, land crabs discoverd as late as 1997 at an altitude of 700 metres, and 25 types of jumping insects.
Socotra has a number of distinct flora species, like myrrh, frankincense and dragon's blood tree. Formerly, dragon's blood tree was an important ingredient in different types of dye, used for varnishing violins and making ink all over the world.
Society and Economy
The main sources for the local economy are fishing, pearl diving and small-scale agriculture. Exports go principally to the rest of Yemen, and include the butter called ghee, fish and frankincense. Despite its size, Socotra has nomads who live from their cattle and other animals, as well as doing some limited agriculture.
The only city on Socotra of some size is Hadibu. Important villages include Suq and Qalansiyya. These 3 are on the north coast, while Mahattat Nujad lies on the south coast. Infrastructure is badly developed, and connections to mainland Yemen are very limited. There are weekly flights, but these are victims to unstable weather about 6 months a year.
The ethnic origin of the people of Socotra is not quite established. The Russian scholar Vitaly Naumkin concludes that the people are a mix, and that they became isolated from the rest of Arabia, from where they must have most of their origin, between 1000 and 500 BCE. In addition to this, traders passing through, Indians, Portuguese, British must have given their contributions too. The people living in the extreme east, have blue eyes, and are believed to be descendants of Europeans.
1507: Socotra is occupied by the Portuguese.
1511: The Portuguese lose control over Socotra to the Mahra sultans.
17th century: A large conversion from Christianity to Islam starts, that changes the population that used to be Christians into becoming Muslims.
1886: Comes under British protection, which means that British interests are under the protection of present British officials. It was principally as an important strategic point and a stop-over that Socotra was used.
1967: With the independence of South Yemen, Socotra is loosened from the British, and becomes part of the new country.
1999 May: Inauguration of the International Airport Hadibu.