SOKOTRA (also spelt Socotra and formerly Socotora), an island under British protection in the Indian ocean. It is cut by 3o' N., 54° E., lies about 13o m. from Cape Guardafui, and is on the direct route to India by the Suez canal. It is 72 m. long by 22 m. broad and is the largest and most easterly member of a group of islands rising from adjacent coral banks, the others being Abd-el-Kuri, The Brothers (Semha and Darzi), and Kal Farun.
The centre of the island is formed of Archaean gneisses and granites with slightly younger schists. These form the highest peaks (the Haggier mountains 4,686 ft.). Resting on these rocks are Cretaceous and Eocene strata (chiefly limestone), which, scarcely disturbed, form an undulating plateau between i,000 and 1,500 ft. above sea level. Some of these limestones are pierced by dykes and in the south-east by a small volcanic centre with trachytic and rhyolitic lavas. At many parts of the north coast the edges of the plateau reach the shore in precipitous cliffs, but in others wide alluvial plains, dotted with bushes and date-palms, front the heights behind. There are no harbours but several fairly safe anchorages.
From October to May the weather is almost rainless except in the mountains, where there are nightly showers and heavy mists. During this season the rivers, which are roaring torrents through out the monsoon, are almost all lost in the dry, absorbent plains. The daily range of temperature of the coast area is from 65° to 85°, it may reach 95° ; and on the mountains (3,5oo ft.), from 52° to 72°. In the low grounds fever of an acute and hematuric form is very prevalent. The fauna contains no indigenous mam mals ; there is a wild ass, probably of Nubian origin ; while the do mestic cattle may be a race developed from cattle imported from Sind or Farther India. Of the flora aloes, dragon's-blood (Dra caena), myrrh, frankincense, pomegranate, and cucumber (Den drocycios) trees are its most famous species. The flora and also the fauna present not only Asian and central African affinities, but, what is more interesting, Mascarene, South African and Antipo dean-American relationships, indicating that the island represents part of Gondwanaland.
The inhabitants, about 12,00o, are composed of two, if not more, elements. On the coast the people are modern Arabs mixed with negro, Indian and European blood; in the mountains live the true Sokotri, supposed to be originally immigrants from Arabia. Some of them are as light-skinned as Europeans, tall,
robust, thin-lipped, straight-nosed, with straight black hair; others are shorter and darker, with round heads, long noses, thick lips, and scraggy limbs, indicating perhaps the commingling of more than one Semitic people. Their manner of life is simple in the extreme. Their dwellings are circular, rubble-built, flat, clay topped houses, or caves in the limestone rocks. They speak a lan guage allied to the Mahra of the opposite coast of Arabia. Both Mahra and Sokotri are probably daughter-tongues of the old Sabaean and Minaean. Sokotri is the older of the two languages, and retains the ancient form, which in the Mahran has been modi fied by Arabic and other influences. Hadibu (Tamarida), Kallan sayia (Gollonsir), and Khadup are the only places of importance in the island. Hadibu (pop. about 400) the capital, is picturesquely situated on the north coast at the head of the open bay of Tamarida on a semicircular plain enclosed by spurs of the Haggier mountains. A dense grove of date palms surrounds the village.
The chief export is ghi or clarified butter, which is sent to Arabia, Bombay and Zanzibar. Millet, cotton and tobacco are grown in small quantities. The most valuable vegetable products are aloes and the dragon's-blood tree. The Sokotran aloe is highly esteemed. The people live mainly on dates and milk.
Abd-el-Kuri island lies between Sokotra and Cape Guardafui, 6o m. from Sokotra and is 20 m. long by 31 m. in width. At either end the island is hilly. It is formed chiefly of Archaean rocks and on the north side is a sandy beach ; on the south cliffs rise abruptly from the ocean. The highest part (1,67o ft.) is towards its eastern end. It is largely arid and there are no perma nent streams. Its zoology resembles that of Sokotra, but the fauna includes land shells and scorpions peculiar to Abd-el-Kuri. The inhabitants (less than 20o), speak Sokotri and Arabic and are chiefly engaged in diving for pearl shell on the Bacchus bank. They live chiefly on turtle (which abounds in the island), fish and molluscs. The land is nowhere cultivated.