Hargeisa and Berbera, Somaliland

“Hi, where are you from?”
–“I’m from Canada.”
“Oh, I’ve always wanted to go to China!”
Mohammed pulled me into a juice shop and ordered two orange juices. “We’re new best friends! What is your phone number?”

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 Laas Geel and Berbera, Somaliland

Laas Geel is Somaliland’s one real tourist attraction, but getting there is not the easiest or cheapest thing. For one, it’s 50 km east of Hargeisa, which means you need to find a way to get there: hiring a driver being the most common. But the other thing, required by law for foreigners even though it’s perfectly safe, is that you need to hire an armed guard. Somaliland takes the security of foreigners seriously, especially after an incident some 13 years ago. At my hotel, I was lucky enough to find four Russian/Ukrainian travellers (one of whom is visiting her 150th country!), who flew into Somaliland for just a single day and hired a car and guard, so I joined them and split the costs.

In the midst of a rocky, shrub-filled landscape, we came into a turnoff pretty much in the middle of nowhere, with absolutely no one around. Our guard, Abdirahman, became our guide, but there was no information he could give us other than where to go! Up some stairs and around a rock face, we came to several rock shelters and caves, and found them covered in paintings in ochre, brown, orange, and white, of primarily cows and people and perhaps a few other animals, all in a stunningly excellent level of preservation.

No one’s exactly sure why they’re there! The site was only discovered by archaeologists in 2003, though I’m sure the locals have known about it for much much longer than that. But all we know, really, is that herders probably drew them, and that they’re at least 5000 years old, possibly up to 11000. Crazy! We spent well over an hour just taking it all in and exploring the surrounding landscape.
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 Hargeisa, Somaliland

Chaos. Guns. Lawlessness. Extremists. Al-Shabaab. Pirates.

None of these words describe Somaliland in any shape or form. On the other hand, those words do describe Somalia, the neighbouring country which Somaliland separated from in 1991 with zero official recognition from the rest of the world. With no one high up willing to differentiate between the two, Somaliland suffers from being grouped in with Somalia’s problems, and is blanketed by myriad travel advisories that really should just cover the latter. Also, many people simply don’t even realise this place exists.

4G. Fibre optic. Cashless society.

These buzzwords, on the other hand, do apply to Somaliland.
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