My First Trip to a Country That is not Yet a Country - Somaliland

Hargeysa Travel Blog

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Old fighter jets near the Hargeisa airport

After returning to Addis for a day, I then boarded a flight to Hargeisa, Somaliland.  It was not a long trip and in many ways I was sad that I did not have the time to travel overland.  From the plane, I could see interesting geometric patterns which underlied the importance of agriculture in the Ethiopia and  Somaliland areas.  In fact, I was amazed in Lalibela seeing the rows and rows of rocks that had been hand-picked from fields and stacked to form fences.  I was reminded of this fact as I flew to Hargeisa.

Upon landing, the most obvious thing that I noticed were the two old fighter jets lying to the far side of  the runway.  "I  wonder if they are parked or shot down.

$50 US and its Somaliland schillings equivalent
....hmmmmmm."  The terminal looked fairly new but small and as I slowly entered I could see all the other passengers rushing to some booths which I presumed was Passport Control.  I was in no rush so allowed the main crowd ahead of me as I tried to figure out how I could change money.  Eventually I saw other passengers with bundles of bills and I realized one of the booths was for that purpose.  After finally getting my entry stamp, I  moved to the other attendant and handed him two $50 US bills.  He promptly flicked one of the bills back to me and I wondered why he did this until he handed me my Somaliland money which consisted of three stacks of 100, secured with elastic bands,  plus about 10 more loose 500 schilling bills.
View of Hargeisa main street from hotel roof
  "Where the heck do I put all this?" Finally I realized the only option was to  stuff the stacks of money into my backpack.

Grabbing a cab, I was driven into the downtown heart of Hargeisa which was where my hotel (Barwaaqo) was located.  As I entered the building, I was greeted by stickers on the door indicating that handguns, machineguns, grenades and knives were not permitted.  "Should I be glad to see those signs or should I be worried?"  In fact, check-in went smoothly and I found myself in a decent and large room with a tv receiving satellite channels.

After settling in, I left to check out the local area which was dominated by a fairly extensive street market.  People I encountered were  incredibly friendly and a little curious given that they did not normally see many tourists.

Roadside Qat stall
  As a result, I had conversations with a number of nice people, many of whom assumed I was a journalist because of the camera slung over my shoulder.  The thing that immediately struck me was the abundance of money changers seated behind their small cages and who seemed to be everywhere.  And then there were the numerous stalls along the side of the road where people could buy and chew Qat.  Qat (pronounced cot) is a leafy narcotic which produces feeling of euphoria and stimulation when chewed.

However, the most unforgetable thing I saw occurred while walking past the main bank building.  There I noticed a couple men using ropes to secure vast bundles of bills into wheelbarrows.  I couldn't believe what I saw and when I asked if I could take a picture, some of the bank guards approached me.

Wheel Barrows of Money
  They explained that Somaliland was so safe because the men could walk down the street with their wheelbarrows and not ever have to worry of  being robbed.  "Unbelievable....that is amazing!"

The next day, armed with a large bottle I water, I wandered further outside of the centre until I ran into a group of young boys in uniform clearly headed to school.  Chatting with them they soon invited me to their school , an invitation I eagerly accepted.  There I was soon introduced to a teacher and subsequently the principal who were all very kind.  They were more than happy to have me visit and it was not a problem to see some classes where I was asked to give a short presentation which was translated for the students.  Some even asked me questions which was great.  "What do you think of Somaliland?' and, more provocatively, "Why does the world not recognize Somaliland as a distinct country?"   These kids were pretty sharp! 

Unfortunately, I could not stay long  but this short visit  made an impression on me.  Hopefully, the next time I return, it will be to the Country of Somaliland!

hauteboy says:
Great blog! I got a Somaliland visa a few years ago when I was in Addis but then ran out of time to visit.
Posted on: Mar 11, 2012
SmileyGirl says:
Really enjoying this blog!
Posted on: Jan 12, 2011
derekmode says:
awesome blog
Posted on: Apr 21, 2009
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Old fighter jets near the Hargeisa…
Old fighter jets near the Hargeis…
$50 US and its Somaliland schillin…
$50 US and its Somaliland schilli…
View of Hargeisa main street from …
View of Hargeisa main street from…
Roadside Qat stall
Roadside Qat stall
Wheel Barrows of Money
Wheel Barrows of Money
Street money changer in Hargeisa
Street money changer in Hargeisa
Hargeisa traffic
Hargeisa traffic
Hargeisa war memorial
Hargeisa war memorial
Street fruit sellers
Street fruit sellers
Shared taxi and passengers
Shared taxi and passengers
Friendly clothes seller
Friendly clothes seller
A lone tree
A lone tree
School in Hargeisa
School in Hargeisa
Boys in a class at a Hargeisa scho…
Boys in a class at a Hargeisa sch…
Hargeisa school class
Hargeisa school class
Another class of students
Another class of students
Gas station
Gas station
A home made using scrap tarps and …
A home made using scrap tarps and…
A Muslim woman walking down the st…
A Muslim woman walking down the s…
At the doorway
At the doorway
Hargeysa
photo by: Aopaq