The Dir are one of the six primary clans of the Somali people of Somalia. They are also considered to be the oldest Somali stock to have inhabited the region. Its members inhabit Djibouti, Somalia, Ethiopia (Somali, Harar, Dire Dawa, Oromia and Afar regions), and northeastern Kenya (North Eastern Province).
Like all Somalis, they claim descent from Samaale, the mythical founder of the entire ethnic group. Also like all other Somalis, they speak the Somali language and are Sunni Muslims.
The vast majority of the Dir, except for those who work in the major cities, are nomadic herders, who raise camels, sheep, and cattle. The Dir ethnic group, however, is subdivided into thousands of sub-clans and sub-sub-clans, and individual Dir feel far more loyalty to their local clan than to any larger collectivity of people.
Most Dir are concentrated in northwestern Somalia. The Gadabursi subclan of the Dir live in the Northern Región, while the Bimals can be found in the región of Merca. Many ethnologists consider the Issas* in Djibouti to be a Dir clan. The Dir in northern Somalia raise camels, while those to the south raise cattle.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, hundreds of thousands of Dir faced starvation because of the famine and civil war in Somalia. Political instability became endemic as centralized authority broke down in the face of severe clan and sub-clan rivalries. Somalia essentially became a nomads-land of misery and suffering, with no single individual or group enjoying enough power to impose any order. In 1991, many Dir joined the Somalí National Alliance, a group headed by General Mohammed Farrah Aidid, a member of the Hawiye clan. Even the intervention of United Nations troops in 1992 did not perma- nently restore stability to the región. Like millions of other Somalis, the Dir faced catastrophe.
Like the great majority of Somali clans, the Dir trace their ancestry to Aqil ibn Abi Talib (c. 580 – 670 or 683), a cousin of the prophet Muhammad (c. 570 – 632) and an older brother of Ali ibn Abi Talib (c. 600 – 661) and Ja'far ibn Abi Talib (c. 590 – 629). They trace their lineage to Aqil through Samaale (the source of the name 'Somali'), the purported forefather of the northern pastoralist clans such as the Dir, the Hawiye, and –matrilineally through the Dir– the Isaaq and the Darod. Although these genealogical claims are historically untenable, they do reflect the longstanding cultural contacts between Somalia (especially, though not exclusively, its most northern part Somaliland) and Southern Arabia.
I.M. Lewis and many sources maintain that the Dir, a Proto-Somali, together with the Hawiye trace ancestry through Irir son of Samaale. Dir is regarded as the father-in-law of Darod, the progenitor of the Darod clan Although some sources state it was the daughter of Hawiye who Darod married.
Dir clan lineages:
According to others, Dir had a fifth son, Qaldho Dir.
DNA analysis of Dir clan members inhabiting Djibouti found that all of the individuals belonged to the Y-DNA T1 paternal haplogroup.
For the first time since several centuries the Dir clan which widely dispersed in the Horn of Africa has successfully convened a meeting with all the major Dir subclans in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Suldaan Dhawal, of the Habr 'Affan Gadabuursi was elected the head and representative of the Dir clan in the Horn of Africa.