Somalia travel info
Somalia- Ethiopia 18
days, Sept- Oct 07
SOMALILAND IS SOMALIA?
|First of all keep in mind that
Somaliland and Somalia are two very different things.
Somaliland is a region of the state of Somalia that, fed
up of the Somali hopeless instability, self declared independent
in 1991. It's not a tiny area, in fact it's bigger than
Greece (140.000 kmq) with 4 million inhabitants. Before
the end of colonisation (around 1960) Somaliland was separated
from Somalia, being the British colony of the oriental Africa,
while Somalia was the Italian one.
Now Somaliland has a government, an army, a capital (Hargesia),
an international airport, a currency (Somaliland Shilling)
and embassies in London and Addis Ababa. Neither the African
Union nor the United Nation has ever recognised its independence
and now the international recognition is the real issue
of the country.
click on to enlarge
Kind of travel:
Alone in a 100% independent travel
from 27th Sept to 14th Oct 2007
Everywhere by shared taxi! Pegouet 505 don't leave without having
packed 9 people (3 in front, 4 back and 2 in the trunk). I left
the country flying to Addis Ababa
Temperature in Hargeisa was pleasantly around 25-28
C, but daily rainstorms turned the unpaved streets in muddy
rivers. Berbera was an unbearable damp furnace, I wished I had
Cheap hotel (7-12$, double room) were OK, but forget hot water
(you won't need though)
I found people more respectful than Ethiopians (no more "Faranji!"
yelled) and the food definitely better. In addition I found
corruption simply non-existent.
What I disliked:
Everybody was so concerned about my safety that it ended up
being a hassle and the impossibility to move around freely didn't
help. On top of, being there during Ramadam was tough especially
in the hot Berbera.
For a tight budget food, accommodation (double room) and transport
around 20- 25 $/day, then there's visa (40$) and escort (min
20-30$/day). If you want to fly, one way Addis- Hargeisa 190$
and don't forget the 32$ tax.
Somaliland is not Somalia, in particular as concerns safety.
At the time of travelling, left out the regions bordering with
Puntland, Somaliland was stable, but for venturing outside Hargeisa
(i.e. to Berbera) an escort was mandatory. In the area situation
is volatile, so have a look to the TT
forum before leaving!
Small USD notes will turn out useful, since the voluminous bundles
of Som. Shillings aren't handy. I was glad I had my small umbrella
and a flash lamp is a must in Hargeisa.
IMPRESSIONS ABOUT SOMALILAND
Somaliland is not a place to go looking for highlights
as museums or architectures; the real drawn for a traveller
is to visit a ghost country in an off-limit area, as it's nowadays
Which will be his future nobody knows, but now it's relatively
stable and if you like off-of-the-beaten-track destinations,
Somaliland deserves a divert from Ethiopia.
There you breathe the optimism of being recognised as an independent
safe country, in opposition to the neighbouring ferocious Somalia.
From this point of view people seem quite aware that peace is
the only way to build the country, anyway there are still some
fights at the border with Puntland (another self recognised
I found locals more respectful than Ethiopians, no more "Faranji
(white!)" yelling, although foreigner here are quite a
novelty. The hassle was the concern of the locals for my safety:
"Mr is everything OK?"
"Please pay attention walking in the evening".
"Do you know that Somaliland is safe?"
It's just a few of the typical sentences I could hear around
me, let alone the cars stopping in the middle of the street
to greet us.
My impression was that independence is not the only point missing
to be a real country. In fact I wonder what the economy could
be based on; can be the trade from Dubai enough? Who is going
to support them economically and politically? Will the recognition
of his independence be a precedent for several other secessions
in Africa? Can a country, where most of the people spend the
day chewing a drug, develop seriously?
Whatever it'll be, there's still a lot to do.
The border point between Ethiopia and Somaliland
is the town of Wajiga, around 2h from Jiggiga by minibus. Here
you have to find the guy of the Ethiopian immigration to stamp
your passport, then patiently waiting the shared taxi to Hargeisa
to fill up (2h, 4$).
More than a capital Hargeisa looks like a huge village: despite
having no asphalt and no street light, this very Muslim town
has its charm. The highlight of the capital is the national
monument: a shot down Somali military jet exposed in the main
square surrounded by paintings of bleeding amputee kids fighting
for the independence of the country. Terrible!!!
Above all the very good news was I retrieved my backpack, the
bad one it was Ramadam time.
From Hargeisa by shared taxi it usually takes 2.5h (5$) to reach
the port of Berbera in front of the Yemeni coast in the Aden
gulf, but to us it took more than 5h!
The idea of venturing outside Hargeisa without an escort didn't
excite the militaries of the checkpoints on the way. Hence convince
them to let us proceed hasn't been a joke (read
Berbera won't win the award of the "Venice of Somaliland",
but what it made it hard was the heat and the Ramadam restrictions.
It was surprising the difference between the inland and the
coast in terms of temperature and humidity. Anyway I got satisfied
to see the sea, enjoying eating some tasty fish, speaking with
the locals and feeling a kinda pioneer. I found funny that some
people thought I was from CIA despite trying to convince them
Four km near Berbera there's a nice hotel on the seaside where
you can also have a swim in the sea, but I didn't manage to
Once back in Hargeisa I flew to Gondar in Ethiopia, with a stopover
in Addis Ababa (Hargeisa- A. Ababa 190$, 1.5h, 3 flights/ week)