Somalia occupies the Horn of Africa bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean and is Africa's easternmost country. It is bounded by Ethiopia and Djibouti to the west and northwest and Kenya in the southwest. The country has a strategic location along southern approaches to the Bab el Mandeb straits and route through Red Sea and Suez Canal. Somaliland, a former British territory, is an autonomous region of about 137,600 km2 located in the northwest of the country which is regarded by all nations as being part of Somalia. The total area of Somalia is 637,657 km² of which 1.6 per cent is water. Somalia's terrain consists mainly of plateaus, plains, and highlands. A maritime semi-desert plain parallels the Gulf of Aden coast. Inland the plain rises to the precipitous northward-facing cliffs of the dissected highlands. These form the rugged Karkaar mountain ranges averaging about 1800m above sea level that extend from the northwestern border with Ethiopia eastward to the tip of the Horn of Africa. Southward the mountains descend, often in scarped ledges, to an elevated plateau. Southwestern Somalia is dominated by the country's only two permanent rivers with their sources in the Ethiopian highlands.

The political geography of the country is complex and contested: one autonomous region is de facto but not de jure independent, namely the Republic of Somaliland, a self-declared state that is internationally unrecognized; and a further highly autonomous region, Puntland, in dispute with Somaliland regarding the delimitation of their shared border.  There is also a longstanding, tribal and religiously-motivated, insurgency in other parts of this Federal country (and overlapping with neighbouring countries); this is the ongoing legacy of a civil war that started in 1991.


Somalia is divided geologically into two broad regions, one in the extreme northwest which comprises mostly crystalline (Proterozoic) basement rocks and minor components of a Mesozoic sedimentary marine succession and the remainder of the country comprising dominantly sedimentary sequences. The latter can be subdivided into a southern region which consists of a Phanerozoic basin enclosing an inlier of Proterozoic metamorphics and a northern basin of Cenozoic age. The northern Somali crystalline basement consists of metasedimentary sequences and plutonic complexes recording a complex tectono-metamorphic history involving juvenile Pan-African crust and older reworked terranes.