Located on the horn of East Africa, Somalia has been plagued by political unrest and violence for many years now. Local, clan-based political conflicts have been complicated by western interaction as pact of the 'War on Terror', but few comprehend these events that are taking place. Written by the global authority on Somalia, this succinct volume highlights the salient aspects of the history and culture of the Somali people, distilling for the non-specialist in a readily accessible form Ioan Lewis s vast erudition on all things Somali. He also addresses developments in the Somali political region since the collapse of the Republic in 1991, including accounts of the functioning and democratic state of Somaliland, which still awaits international recognition, of the various autonomous regions, such as Puntland, and of the Islamist movement that under the banner of the Islamic Courts Union brought a brief but astonishing period of stability to much of Southern Somalia in late 2006. There are also chapters on the urban culture of Benadiri Somalis that illustrate the complexity of what constitutes 'Somaliness'. In early 2007 America and its regional ally, Ethiopia, intervened militarily to install a regime in Mogadishu more to their liking than the allegedly Al Qaeda-influenced Islamic Courts government. This book provides the essential historical and political background to a little-understood culture and people whose predicament continues to hold the world s attention.