Somalia - Somalilanders will hate me

Self-declared but internationally unrecognised Republic

From Djibouti, it is only a 40 minutes flight to get to Somalia Airport in Hargeisa. I was a bit sick and limited in movement to see what I planned. Especially not in the Somali heat. But there are interesting things are around the city of Hargeisa also.

The area of Somaliland is safe when comparing it to the rest of Somalia. So I was not too worried about this visit.

As Somaliland is worrying for its own security, it managed to keep trouble out of the territory very well. People in Hargeisa and in the territory of Somaliland would say they are their own country and don't belong to Somalia, however, Somalia still claims that Somaliland belongs to Somalia.

Is Somaliland the same as Somalia?

Yes, Somaliland officially belongs to Somalia. Almost no country around the planet recognizes Somaliland as an independent and own country. But it’s a confusing situation with Hargeisa, Somaliland, and Somalia.

People of Somaliland hate when people are saying Somaliland is Somalia!

The UN doesn't help in this either. Somalilanders don’t like that but it's how it is. They are fighting for independence and their own country but it didn’t happen until now.

They even have their own police and soldiers and started having their own currency. So they are on the best way to soon becoming their own country.

One of the reasons why other countries do not recognize them as independent is because of the repeating effect when areas of other countries get inspired and also want to become their own country, like their role model Somaliland. When other countries follow the same scheme, there will be several new wars coming up in Africa.

Tourist Guide Map of City Hargeisa in Somaliland

April 23 - Day 1 - Arriving in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland

I arrived in Hargeisa in the early morning from Djibouti.

On the plane was half of the people continuing to Mogadishu but I was happy to leave here in Hargeisa, cause the Air Djibouti plane was a bit distrustful. The co-passengers were a bit strange too.

Also, Mogadishu is a different story when it comes to safety, for locals and visitors. Since a few months, it is too dangerous to be there. So better to get off here in Hargeisa and maybe visit Mogadishu another year when terror calms down.

The airport in Hargeisa is small and there was no money exchange.

How to get a Somaliland visa?

The Somaliland visa was very easy to get. During the planning I read different information regarding the visa requirements and that it has changed frequently in the last few months and years.

To stay on the safe side I contacted "Damal Hotel" in Hargeisa, asking them to organize the Visa “pre-authorization” which is something like an equivalent of an approved visa on arrival but only pre-authorized.

After their clarifications with the government, they told me that with my nationality (Swiss) I don’t need anything but my passport. So no Visa “pre-processing” process and no fee was necessary to pay. Damal Hotel charges for the service normally 40 USD (payable in Cash in the hotel), whereas "Oriental Hotel Charges 50 USD"  (and requires the amount be paid upfront via world-remit service) – in addition to that, an official service the Visa fee (60 USD) has to be paid at the airport.

So fast-forward from that pre-authorization process topic, when I finally arrived today in the airport immigration, they indeed only asked me to fill out a form and put a photo on it.

They put the stamp in the passport and I had to pay the 60 USD in cash. Quick and easy.

Hargeisa symbol for readyness to fight for freedom
Somalia Human International CollegeHargeisa Street ViewView from Damal Hotel with Hargeisa in BackgroundSomaliland has a soccer teamHectic streets in SomalilandHills in Hargeisa with Hotel

Downtown Hargeisa, the capital of country Somaliland

It's only 15 minutes taxi ride from the airport to downtown. The shuttle from Damal Hotel took a long time to show up. When I arrived at the Hotel I was relieved about having chosen this hotel. It seemed safe, has good A/C and was very comfortable. Perfect to fully recover from the cold I caught some days ago in South Sudan.

But who comes all the way to Somalia to only stay inside the hotel? If I would have felt better I probably would have gone to Las Geel, a place with a cave with ancient paintings. But not sure, cause even when I would have been fit and up and running, I was thinking if it is really worth paying 160 USD to get to that dry cave, which is a few hours away by driving through an unsafe territory

So having that cold made the decision easy to skip the cave of Las Geel. Another option was Barbera, a town on the ocean side. But that is even further than Las Geel.

Also in Hargeisa, I found out there are some things which interesting to see.

Especially with being sick, I was happy not to have a huge city in front of me with too much to see.

View over Hargeisa, from the roof top of Damal Hotel.

Two Somalia Mountains seen from Hargeisa
Because of high altitude seldom experiences very hot or very cold weatherPlace of presidential palace and government ministriesSomali and Arabic are the official languagesEnglish is widely spoken but they dont want to speakWas shot in the war against SomaliaFootball is played on a sand field

Islamic prayer speakers sound like an air attack siren

Several times during the day the speakers of the mosques call for Islamic prayer and the one in the afternoon is the most strangest.

There are so many mosques in Hargeisa and each has its own Imam who sings his individual songs. Due to the echoes from each of the speakers and the overlappings, it gets very loud and the mix sounds like a siren to warn for air strike attacks.

One of the mosques is just beside the Oriental Hotel and that's another reason why I'm happy not to have a room there. Once had dinner at Oriental Hotel (it was good), but the sound of the mosque "festival" was so loud it was probably impossible to have a proper night of sleep.

Damal Hotel behind MIG-Monument.

Set up to show Somaliland breakaway attempt in the 1980
80 percent of the building in the town were destroyed50000 were killed in the war of SomalilandFights between Somaliland and Somalia were bloodyHot but not too dustyHargeisa has lots of noise in the streets

Friendly cultural behaviors toward strangers

The locals are very friendly here. I guess I've never been greeted as many times as here in Somalia.

They're all curious and friendly and want to know where I'm from and also random people want to pay for food as a welcome present for strangers (no joke). In a supermarket, I just went looking around what there is to buy as I was curious about available brands of goods and what they have to offer and then some other customer was like:

Where are you from? What do you like.. sprite? I will pay for you.

I frankly denied it, knowing that people here don't have any money. But just the fact that poor people even offer something to complete strangers like me, white, from a western country, always surprises me positively again when traveling in this part of the world.

Typical work day in Somalia, with restaurants shut down at lunchtime

Also here n Somalia, it’s the same as in Saudi Arabia. They shut down almost every restaurant before lunchtime and food is not available anymore.

People stop work by lunchtime and go for coffee and tea while chewing khat. 

After that, they go sleeping and do not go back to work until about 3pm. This is normal and between 12 and 3pm, almost everything is shut down – even banks. Gladly I was prepared and at a chicken and chips stall before 12pm, so my normal western European lunch behavior continued.

There is no alcohol available and it's even prohibited to have it. Consuming alcohol will be punished by whippings and just a few weeks ago a Canadian tourist was sentenced to a few dozen leashes.

After chewing Khat, everybody turns Zombie

In the afternoon people become more unpredictable.

They still come along friendly but the big amount of consumed khat (drugs) deactivated their brains and it's almost impossible to talk with them as they get angry when they aren’t understood with khat mouths.

When applying some sunscreen on my arms, a local who clearly ate too much khat saw me using sunscreen in the street. He probably didn't know what sunscreen is but asked to have some. Gave him and he used it on his hands while commenting: 

"This is good soap, very good soap!"

After 3pm most people try to go back to work but as the fresh daily Khat delivery is arriving in Hargeisa at 5pm, not many go back to work for the rest of the day. So when the fresh Khat arrives in the afternoon with many honking trucks in a row, people know it's officially time to go home and chew another round of Khat until late in the evenings.

Not very well equipped but has some Khat
Shops show whats available depending on paintingsAre waiting for selling and buying foodWaiting for customers to sell them old car parts

Paintings on the wall of shops 

Once the shops and restaurants are open it's easy to spot from far in which store what product can be found. Many of the buildings have paintings on the wall of what is to expect inside.

The pharmacy has the medicine painted on it and the restaurants the chicken and the bowl of rice, the garage the oil and spare part.

Of course, also the Khat shop has its product painted on the wall outside in artistic nice paintings.

Pharmacy also shows what is inside available
It has bread and other goods insideGarage paints its oil can on the wallThey have their own method of advertismentSome nice paintings reveal the food in the marketSome restaurants paint their product on the wallVisible that it sells burkas from outside

Camel market

There is the big camel and cattle market after walking through the central market and a bit out of the center.

This camel market is the biggest in Somaliland and they have hundreds of animals here. Goat, cow, lamb, camel and many other animals. I was surprised to hear that one camel costs USD 1000 and a goat USD 80. That’s quite expensive for their standards.

Not cheap for Somaliland circumstances such a goat
For sale for 1000 USD such a camelAnimal were traded in Somaliland like breadWalks through the Somaliland Camel MarketThey like goatsCamel market is busy and they dont like white foreignersCow does not have much meat to eat

Taking photos there in the market as a white westerner is almost automatically leading to a confrontation with locals.

I didn’t know that beforehand but I could imagine that it will be like that.

After the first few meters walking in there, I had a normal discussion with a group of locals and briefly asked the for allowance of taking photos in the market.

One of them then accompanied me all the time through the market and every time I took a photo he explained and calmed down the locals who were immediately jumping along and asking what I'm doing and why I take a photo. What a difference such a befriended local can make. 

It felt like with that local I had a "permit" to take photos and walk through the market freely. However, having the locals keep off the mob wasn’t for free, which was obvious without being told. So I offered the guy a bottle of Coca-Cola from the store in the camel market and he was happy.

Somaliland farmers look for new camels
in the Somaliland Camel MarketA lot of money is walking in form of camels in HargeisaSomalilanders require camels for live so that they have milk for coffeeThey also transport milk and other camelsSomaliland used camels to go to warSomalia had camels to ride into the ware against Somaliland

Hargeisa Money market

To buy a camel it requires USD 1000 or an equivalent of 8.5 million Somaliland shilling. That’s a lot of cash to carry around – also physically.

Especially as the biggest note is a 5000 shilling banknote. So to buy a camel one needs at least to carry 1700 pieces of the 5000-shilling banknote in cash.

The money changers are sitting in the streets with big piles of cash in front of them, while proudly presenting their money and calculator.

Thankfully the exchange rate is officially the same everywhere and so I didn't have to worry about getting a bad rate.

Rich people in Somaliland
Equivalent of 8500 Shilling for 1 US DollarThe streets of Hargeisa are filled with money makersNext to the money changers in Hargeisa is the Laundry

Day 3 – Continue to Eritrea

After lunch, the Hotel Shuttle brought me back to the airport. Didn’t expect Free Wifi in a Somaliland airport, but they have. Also the security seems good, They checked my notebook three times in different security checkpoints if my notebook is really a notebook.

On the way back to the airport is also the independence monument with the hand having Somaliland striking up in the air.

During my stay in Somalia, there were no safety issues at all. I enjoyed the visit but now I was glad to depart for Eritrea.

Somaliland is happy to have a own territory
Gas is cheap in SomalilandNo food for westeners at lunchtime in SomalilandThey are not very well equipped but have paintings what is inside

No comments