Italy in the Horn of Africa and the Ethiopian Islamic literary tradition: L. Robecchi Bricchetti and his collection of manuscripts

Author : A. Gori

Year : 2009

1. Luigi Robecchi Bricchetti: some general biographical data Luigi Robecchi Bricchetti was born in Pavia on the 21st of May 1855 and in his native town in Northern Italy died on the 31st of May 1926. He was a graduated engineer of the Polytechnic Institute in Zurich.

His first long trip was to the Libyan Desert in Egypt in 1885-86. He reached the oasis of Siwa, where the famous temple of Jupiter Ammon is located. He visited the ancient ruins whose structure and decoration he described in a series of beautiful sketches. During his stay in Siwa, Robecchi Bricchetti stealthily managed to entered the wide necropolis beside the temple and to collect thirty skulls which are still nowadays kept in the Anthropological Museum of Florence and in the Civic Anthropological Museum of Pavia.

In 1888-1889 carried out his stay in Harar with which I deal at some length in the following lines.

In 1890 supported by the “Italian Geographical Society” he travelled to the Benadir region (an Italian protectorate since 1889). He landed in Hobyo where he was hosted for a month by the local sultan, Yusuf ‘Ali. From Hobyo he headed northwards to explore, for the first time ever, the valley of the Nogal river which he described from a geographical, anthropological, geological and environmental point of view.

In 1891 he was once again in Hobyo by Yusuf ‘Ali. From there, he went south to the Webi Shabelle which he started exploring: however, the full exploration of the river valley was realized only later by Luigi Amedeo di Savoia Duca degli Abruzzi in 1928-9 (Enrico Cerulli took part in this expedition). Robecchi Bricchetti tried to penetrate the Somali hinterland: his idea was to reach Harar from Somalia. He did not succeed, due to the Ethiopian pressure on the Somali regions. He thus decided to completely change direction and moved northwards to Berbera and the “Aromatica regio” (the land of the perfumes: the ancient Punt, where myrrh and frankincense are produced). He explored the Somali coastal regions on the Gulf of Aden and came back to Italy. This was his last travel to the Horn.