Somaliland is like Las Vegas

     At the moment we arrived back in Hargeisa from our weekend in Berbera, the first rains of the season came, and though the downpour lasted no more than 30 minutes, the streets were instantly flooded. When the rain subsided, people came out to stare at the water like it had snowed.

     Chris from Liverpool (Gerrard's a tosser!) sampling some goat and rice in the Somaliland Restaurant which is about two blocks behind the Oriental Hotel. It's a total dive where there are no menus but lots of grunting waiters. I think we ordered 'meat and rice', so I was blown away when this came. The goat had to have been cooked forever as it was so tender and tasty and the rice was infused with cinnamon and other spices (17,000 shillings, about $3.00)



     I’m at the Union Star Hotel, two blocks west of the landmark Oriental Hotel. $4 for a single. It’s OK. I mean, your mother would burst into tears if she saw where you were sleeping, but if you are used to Africa, there’s not much to complain about for $4.
     I thought of staying in the spiffy Oriental at $15 a night to get some much-needed rest, but that was before the manager accused me of “scamming” the hotel because I was using their wifi. I pointed out that I had bought a drink in the restaurant, but he was unmoved and now he is my mortal enemy.
     The manager at my hotel is hardly better. He tries to divide and conquer by overcharging us individually with creative math and berates us to pay before we question him. The next day he does it again, as if we are idiots.
     This is when I wish I had a hidden camera so Somalilanders can see how it is for foreigners. They drink their own Kool-aid a little too much about how nice everyone is here and how they would never try to rip off a foreigner, but no Somalilander knows the traveler experience.
     It is correct that the people here are fantastic and it has been refreshing to have many conversations with Somalilanders who are eager to discuss things and satisfy their curiosity about visitors. They don’t treat you like a zoo animal, either, but are genuinely interested in you and what you are doing and think of their country. (My favorite was a guy in the back of a moving truck who said as he passed, “Please tell me your opinion of the security situation in Somaliland.” What could I say? I moved my elbows in a circular motion and yelled as he drifted away, “I feel pretty good here!”)
     It is incredibly easy to hitchhike within town here, too, an unmistakable sign of a friendly place. I just walk along the main drag and point ahead, saying, “You go straight?” and someone almost always stops.
     But, as much as that is the norm, for a complete picture I have to add travelers have to deal with hotel manager bastards, larcenous taxi drivers, and guys like yesterday who will come up and yell at Chris and me for taking a photo of a telephone pole (because of the hundreds of wires emanating from it) ranting that we need a permit from the government.
     It is like anywhere, a few bad apples mixed in with the good. Somaliland is not quite yet Shangri-la.

     I collect small denomination banknotes. This mountain of money in its entirety is worth $19. I ran around to every bank until I found a sympathetic guy who would trade me whole bundles of 5, 10, and 20 shilling notes, all out of common circulation (for good reason!) I just wish it wasn't so heavy. I don't know how I am going to get it home. I don't know how I am going to fit it into my backpack. I don't know if this was a good idea.


     Bought a ticket today. Tomorrow I fly from Berbera to Nairobi, Kenya for $220 one way, which includes a free bus from Hargeisa to Berbera. It’s on Jubba Airways, a regional airline based in…drumroll…Mogadishu! Yes, I fly via Djibouti and war-ravaged Mogadishu, Somalia. I hear Mogadishu is lovely in spring. I don’t think I have to get off the aircraft during the stopover, thankfully. I asked the guy at the ticket office if it was safe to fly through Mogadishu, and he just shrugged his shoulders.
     How is Somaliland like Las Vegas? I’m very glad I came to Somaliland, it’s a completely worthwhile experience, a fascinating place, but I can’t wait to go. It is so oppressively hot, busy and dusty here, I’m exhausted and feel like I am going to be sick again. Maybe if I could sleep I would be more at peace here, but I hear the Kenyan coast calling me, screaming for me. I hope no Somali pirates are screaming for me in Mogadishu. Are there land-based pirates?

     Homemade Somaliland license plate. Nice!!

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Comments

Somaliland is like Las Vegas — 9 Comments

  1. Damn i was there 3 years ago Somalilanders are different from the South Somalia , South Somalis are like baboons they still fighting for 20 years

  2. Hello,

    You made me laugh which I did enjoy however you bit over exergrated things there. Maybe after this blog entry, no one will visit Orientel Hotel.

    Nonetheless, Somaliland was bombed to ground zero and did everything by its own. Its hard when you got out off a war that destroyed 90% of your cities and everyone refuses to do business with you.

    We will get there and unlike Nairobi, everything will belong to us.

  3. I hope no one visits the Oriental Hotel and the owner has to go get a real job, but my blog won’t change anything and it seems to be good value. Fast internet, too! HA!
    It is a good point about Somaliland having to do it on their own. I hope that whatever wealth Somaliland gets is shared and reinvested.

  4. I am British Somalilander living in London; I went back 2005 to assist with Mental Health Service provision. I was accompanied by a Consultant Psychiatrist and we gave training to medical professionals in Hargeisa, Berbera and Burao.
    The highlight of trip was eating Smoked Fish in Berbera, the trip was worthwhile. Somalilanders are kind and friendly, I might add resourceful.

  5. I have to say that i really enjoyed reading all your entries about Somaliland. You actually made me laugh and you know what i never experienced Somaliland the way you did though I’m Somalilander girl living in Hargiesa except all the extremes (extremely hot, dusty etc) but you are actually right about the people. They are kind and friendly:)One thing i realized is that you never been to other places in Somaliland except Hargeisa and Berbera right?? Let me know if you plan to visit again in the future :)

  6. Thanks, Ugbad. I’m glad you like what I wrote. Are there other places to visit in Somaliland other than the rock painting place? You should make a guidebook so people will know!

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