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Socotra island

Socotra or Soqotra is a small archipelago of four islands and islets in the Indian Ocean off the
coast of the Horn of Africa some 190 nautical miles (220 mi; 350 km) south of the Arabian
peninsula, belonging to the Republic of Yemen. It has long been a part of the 'Adan
Governorate, but in 2004 it became attached to the Hadhramaut Governorate, which is much
closer to the island than 'Adan (although the closest governorate would be Al Mahrah).
The name of the island is believed to come from Sanskrit 'dvipa sakhadara', which can be
translated with 'Island of Bliss'.
THE ROOF OF ARABIA: One of the oldest inhabited regions worldwide transports visitors
back into the world of thousand and one nights. Close to nature and unspoiled natural beauty,
Yemen this age-old center of civilization preserves a way of life that has hardly changed since
the middle ages.
Geography and climate Socotra is one of the most isolated landforms on Earth of
continental origin (i.e., not of volcanic origin). The archipelago was once part of the
supercontinent of Gondwana and detached during the Middle Pliocene (ca 6 million years
ago), in the same set of rifting events that opened the Gulf of Aden to its northwest.
The archipelago consists of the main island of Socotra (3,625 km² or 1,400 sq mi), the three
smaller islands of Abd al Kuri, Samhah, and Darsa, and small rock outcrops like Ka’l
Fir’awn and Sabuniyah that are uninhabitable by humans but important for birds.
The main island has three geographical terrains: the narrow coastal plains, a limestone
plateau permeated with karstic caves, and the Haghier Mountains. The mountains rise to
5,000 feet (1,525 m). The island is a little over 80 miles (130 km) long east to west and
typically 18-22 miles (30-35 km) north to south.
The climate is generally tropical desert, with rainfall being light, seasonal (winter) and more
abundant at the higher ground in the interior than along the coastal lowlands. The monsoon
season brings strong winds and high seas.
Flora and fauna Socotra is considered the "jewel" of biodiversity in the Arabian sea.[2] The
long geological isolation of the Socotra archipelago and its fierce heat and drought have
combined to create a unique and spectacular endemic flora (which may, therefore, be
vulnerable to introduced species such as goats and to climate change). Surveys have revealed
that more than a third of the 800 or so plant species of Socotra are found nowhere else.
Botanists rank the flora of Socotra among the ten most endangered island flora in the world.
The archipelago is a site of global importance for biodiversity conservation and a possible
center for ecotourism.One of the most striking of Socotra's plants is the dragon's blood tree
(Dracaena cinnabari), which is a strange-looking, umbrella-shaped tree. Its red sap was the
dragon's blood of the ancients, sought after as a medicine and a dye. Another unusual plant is
Dorstenia gigas.The island group also has a fairly rich bird fauna, including a few types of
endemic birds, such as the Socotra Starling Onychognathus frater, the Socotra Sunbird
Nectarinia balfouri, Socotra Sparrow Passer insularis and Socotra Grosbeak Rhynchostruthus
socotranus.As with many isolated island systems, bats are the only mammals native to
Socotra. In contrast, the marine biodiversity around Socotra is rich, characterized by a unique
mixture of species that have originated in farflung biogeographic regions: the western Indian
Ocean, the Red Sea, Arabia, East Africa and the wider Indo-Pacific.
History Socotra appears as Dioskouridou ("of the Dioscurides") in the Periplus of the
Erythraean Sea, a 1st century A.D. Greek navigation aid. In the notes to his translation of the
Periplus, G.W.B. Huntingford remarks that the name Socotra is not Greek in origin, but
derives from the Sanskrit dvipa sukhadhara ("island of bliss").
A local tradition holds that the inhabitants were converted to Christianity by Thomas in AD
52. In the 10th century the Arab geographer Abu Mohammed Al-Hassan Al-Hamdani stated
that in his time most of the inhabitants were Christians[citation needed]. Socotra is also
mentioned in The Travels of Marco Polo according to which "the inhabitants are baptized
Christians and have an archbishop" who, it is further explained, "has nothing to do with the
Pope at Rome, but is subject to an archbishop who lives at Baghdad". They were Nestorians
but they also practiced ancient magic rituals despite the warnings of their archbishop[citation
In 1507, Portugal landed an occupying force at the then capital of Suq, to "liberate" the
assumed friendly Christians from Arab Islamic rule. However they were not welcomed as
enthusiastically as they had expected and abandoned the island four years later.
The islands passed under the control of the Mahra sultans in 1511. Later, in 1886 it became a
British protectorate, along with the remainder of the Mahra State of Qishn and Socotra. For
the British it was an important strategic stop-over. The P&O ship Aden sank after being
wrecked on a reef near Socotra, in 1897, with the loss of 78 lives.
In October 1967 the Mahra sultanate was abolished. One of the last living direct descendents
of the ruling Mahra sultanate, Dushi Parameswaran, is currently residing in Chicago, Illinois,
USA. On November 30th Socotra became part of the People's Republic of South Yemen
(later to become the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen). Today it is part of the Republic
of Yemen.

NATURE While the people help make Socotra a haven in a hostile world, the island is also a
natural wonderland. From the aqua lagoon at Qalansiya to the snow-white dunes at Ras
Momi, from the alpine meadows of the Haggier Mountains to the desolation of Nowgad,
Socotra is a land of surprising contrasts. Rising to over 1700 meters, the Haggier Mountains
loom over Hadibo, Socotra's administrative capital. The red granite of the peaks has been
stained a ghostly gray by the lichens, which grow thickly above tree line. Perennial streams
radiate from the misty heights, green ribbons of life teaming with endemic fish and
freshwater crabs. Limestone plateaus fan east and west, providing alkaline soils for the iconic
Dragon's Blood Tree. Bottle trees grow in such profusion that entire hillsides turn pink
following winter rains. Cucumber trees, statuesque relative of the melon, provide fodder for
starving animals during times of drought.