Soqotra: original features of an isolated culture as reflected in the botanical and ethnobotanical peculiarities
The authors discuss some characteristic aspects of the culture of the island of Soqotra, located in the Indian Ocean, 400 Km from the coast of Yemen and the main island of a small archipelago that looks like the natural extension of the Horn of Africa.
The geo-physical configuration of the island provides for a great variety of climates; consequently, its flora is extremely rich and it includes an impressive percentage of endemic species.
The main source of sustenance for the Soqotri population is goat farming, since the land is not suitable for agriculture; fishing has become increasingly important after the construction of paved roads and the diffusion of modern means of transport, thus reducing the distance between coast and inland areas.
Wild plants have always been very important for the survival of the inhabitants of Soqotra, who used them as remedies for both people and animals. This central role of plants is reflected in the botanical knowledge of the islanders: the different uses of plants are well known and plants that have the same uses share the same name.
In the past commercial trading was extremely developed; historically trade linked Soqotra with the Horn of Africa, Egypt, Rome and India. In more modern times the commercial importance of the island stems from its strategical position in the Indian Ocean. Not only goods moved, but people too. The case of the Soqotra fishermen is often cited as an example: some of them are the descendants of ancient African settlers.
Even the Soqotri language, now endangered, tells a story of ancient contacts.
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