Historical name for the region of eastern Africa between the Equator and the Gulf of Aden that includes Somalia, Djibouti, and southeastern Ethiopia. It has an area of about 300,000 sq mi (777,000 sq km). The region probably formed part of the Land of Punt known to the ancient Egyptians. Between the 7th and 12th centuries, Muslim traders from Arabia and Iran settled on the coast and formed sultanates. The nomadic Somali, who occupied the northern part of the country between the 10th and 15th centuries, adopted Islam and served in their armies. Gradually the sultanates themselves came under Somali control. In the late 19th century, France, Italy, and Britain partitioned the region among themselves. In 1960 British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland were united to form the Republic of Somalia. French Somaliland became independent as the Republic of Djibouti in 1977. In 1991 British Somaliland announced that it was becoming an independent state, the Republic of Somaliland; it was not internationally recognized.