Published: May 4th 2008April 17th 2008
This is one of the Russian Mig fighters that bombed the city during the war against the South of Somalia. The whole city was reduced to rubble and over 50,000 people died in the city during that war.
Abdul (also known as Little King Kong).
"You are from Britain. You are welcome. You are my brother. This is your second home!"
Somaliland (Somali: Soomaaliland) is a de facto independent republic located in the Horn of Africa. The Republic of Somaliland considers itself to be the successor state of the former British Somaliland protectorate, which had an area of about 176,210 square kilometres (68,040 sq mi), which became independent on June 26, 1960, and united with Italian Somaliland five days later to form the Somali Republic. On May 18, 1991, the people of Somaliland declared independence from Somalia. However, it was not recognized by any other country or international organization
I was made to feel welcome in Somaliland, even if I sometimes felt like the centre of attention. Walking down the streets of Hargeisa everyone said "Hello". I remember a woman who was wearing a head scarf shout, "Hello, how are you?", from the window of a bus.
I flew into Hargeisa
from Djibouti - the plane looked like it should have been in a museum. There was old, dirty, cheap carpet stuck to the walls of the plane and I spent the 40 mins of the flight with my fingers in my ears because of the very loud noise from the engines. Although putting my fingers in my ears couldn't stop the vibration - even without the noise I could feel the engines.
At the airport in Hargeisa I was met by someone from the Hotel Ambassador who had organised my Visa for me. Although, Somaliland has no diplomatic representation anywhere in the world you still need a Visa to enter.
The Hotel Ambassador
is the most upmarket hotel in Hargeisa - it cost
On the beach...Berbera
In the foreground is Abdul (Little King Kong) my driver. In the background is Mohammed, the soldier I had to hire to travel outside of the capital city Hargeisa.
me $US40 a night. It always has a collection of Toyota Land-cruisers inside its enclosure, often white ones with the letters UN on the side. Its a really nice hotel with a high speed broadband wireless Internet connection. So, I was finally able to update the Sudan blog, which had been impossible in Ethiopia or Djibouti. I was pleasantly surprised by the telecommunications system in Somaliland. I saw cell phones everywhere and the cost of making calls was the cheapest I've found anywhere in the world.
Soon after arriving in Hargeisa I had a stroke of luck. I was asking at the reception about organising a trip to Las Geel which is a highlight of any trip to Somaliland. The caves at Las Geel were only discovered in 2003. Within these caves which are about 50km from the capital are hundreds of perfectly preserved Neolithic paintings. Anywhere else in the world Las Geel would be swamped with tourists. The Hotel reception told me that I would have to organise a permit to visit and hire a vehicle and soldiers as guards. But as I was talking someone walking past intervened. His name was
My friends in Berbera
On the left is my driver, Abdul (little King Kong). The other two are members of Berbera Community Concern Group.
Chairman: Jamac Abdilaah Aadan and Suleiman Abdulali Mohamed. If anyone wants to help with the groups work in Berbera I have their phone numbers and email addresses.
Tom. It seemed he was going to Las Geel that afternoon. He had a permit for 2 people but the person who was going with him couldn't. So, Tom asked me if I would like to take the second place in his car. How could I refuse?
When we got to Las Geel I was amazed. The paintings are so well preserved I was gob smacked. They looked as if they had been painted yesterday.
My second day in Hargeisa I took the local bus into the city centre from outside the compound of the Hotel Ambassador. The Hotel Ambassador is near the airport 4km from the city centre. I had a lot more difficulty though finding a bus back to the hotel. So, I asked around. A kind man led me across the city centre to the correct bus station, and found a seat for me on the correct bus. He then to my complete surprise gave me the bus fare. He not only didn't ask for anything for his help, but gave me money!
After 3 nights in the Ambassador I moved to
On the road from Hargeisa to Berbera
Next to the tank is Mohammed the soldier I had to hire to travel outside of Hargeisa.
the Hotel Oriental in the city centre which only charged $US15 a night. Not as flash as the Ambassador but it was still a very nice hotel. The owner of the hotel is well travelled and has worked abroad. Back in 1991 at the end of the war with Southern Somalia his hotel was just rubble. He has rebuilt the hotel from his own savings. I asked him why no one will recognise Somaliland. He told me he thinks its because they are African - if Somaliland was in Europe like the Balkans it might be a very different story. The Somalilanders voted for separation from Somalia. If the UN tried to re-unite Somaliland with Somalia it would be a disaster. There are too many bad memories. Hargeisa was totally destroyed during the war with the South. Over 50,000 were killed during the bombing of the city. The city was bombed by the government of Somalia from the nearby airport, 5km from the city centre. The same airport that I used to enter the country. At the end of the war nothing was left standing. The Government of Somalia bombed the city back to the stone age. One of the
Russian Mig fighters used to destroy the city is now a major landmark in the city centre. Everything in the city has been re-built from scratch without international assistance. Hargeisa now has one of the best telecommunication systems I've found in Africa - with several competing telecommunication companies.
Hareisa is not pretty but it is lively and I found its people very friendly and welcoming.
At the hotel Oriental I organised a trip to the port of Berbera. I was told that I needed to hire a soldier to travel outside of Hargeisa. It was very likely I would be turned back if I didn't hire a soldier as a guard. The cost of hiring a soldier was $US20 a day. Most of Somaliland is not dangerous, except near the border with Puntland. In fact Hargeisa must be one of the safest cities in the world. Theft is almost unknown. But in 2003 'terrorists' from Mogadishu illegally entered Somaliland and shot several aid workers. So, the authorities in Somaliland are over protective of foreigners because they do not want the country to lose its credibility internationally, which would harm their campaign for
So, the owner of the Hotel Oriental organised a car for me and a soldier as an official guard. The driver of my car was Abdul (little King Kong) and the soldier was Mohammed. Abdul spoke good English and also acted as my guide. Abdul charged $US60 a day and Mohammed costs me $US20 a day. Abdul told me that his grandfather fought in the British army during the second world war.
The trip to Berbera which is the principal port of Somaliland was interesting. The beach just outside the city is amazing and diving experts who have been to Somaliland say that the diving sites off the coast are some of the best in the world. All totally undeveloped.
Whilst I was in Berbera I was introduced to the Berbera Community Concern Group. The chairman is Jamac Abdilaah Aadan, tel. 0025224447800, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was also given a tour of the University of Berbera
, College of Fisheries and Maritime Studies by the academic staff. They are keen to make contact with academic institutions overseas. They have had to rebuild from
scratch. They are in desperate need of donations of equipment and books. I have a list on a file on my computer of all the equipment they need. Most of the donations they have received so far have come from the Somalilander diaspora. If anyone is interested I can email a copy of the file - which also explains the vision of the University. Either contact me or the University direct: For more information contact
Ahmed Abdulahi Yasir
The University Dean
Tel. : 002522740575
Berbera - Somaliland
Mr. Kombo Mghanga George
Mobile: 00 252 2 444 5221
There are more photos below