Somalilandsun -I have often read John Fox’s “Going Places” articles in the Sunday Nation. He sounds like the kind of lucky person who travels to exotic places; where life is full of sunshine, ease, pleasure, and excellent mouth watering cuisine.
He did once write about Somaliland, but I doubt whether he stayed in the place long enough to really get the feel of it. He should come as my guest to Borama town and write a narrative different from the miserable stories that invariably emerge from Somalia.
Unbelievable as it may sound, there are places in this country where life is quite as pleasant as those Fox writes about. Borama, the regional capital of Awdal province in northern Somalia, where I work, is one such place.
Borama is probably the safest town in the whole of Eastern Africa. One can safely walk home at any time of the night without fear of either encountering thieves or policemen. In the five years I have lived here, I have never heard of a violent crime. I am actually safer in Borama than in the Kinoo neighbourhood of Nairobi where my family lives.
Spared the ordeal
The collapse of the Somali state in 1992 precipitated the kind of anarchy never experienced anywhere else on the African continent. But in all the chaos that ensued, Borama town, situated five kilometres from the southern Ethiopian border, was one of the few places that were spared the ordeal of the civil war and, therefore, became a place of refuge for people from all the Somali clans.
It hosts a great number of internally displaced persons and has a formidable foreign NGOs presence. The province of Awdal, whose capital is Borama is reputed of being the bedrock of Somali intellectuals with over 90 percent of all Somalis with PhD degrees coming from the region.
The only two universities of note in the whole of Somalia, Amoud and Eelo, are located in Borama. Land is expensive with an average quarter acre plot going for about $5,000. The residences being put up by Somalis from the diaspora are a sight to behold. The American dollar and the Ethiopian birr are the preferred currency.
Life here proceeds at a sedate pace. Work begins from eight to midday after which all activity ceases for a mandatory siesta. Apart from bequeathing pasta as a staple diet, the siesta is considered the next most useful Italian colonial legacy to Somalia. Action resumes from four to six o’clock when the working day ends. Being a Muslim society, there are no pubs since alcohol is forbidden and “miraa” is the nearest one can get to intoxication.
Chasing “skirts”, in the ordinary Kenyan sense of the word, is a cloak and dagger affair fraught with all sorts of dangers and not a permissible pastime in this rather conservative society. But it happens. The Rays Hotel is the place to stay; the meals are fairly decent.
There are frequent earth tremors as a result of a developing cleavage in the earth’s crust all the way from the Red Sea in Djibouti; which according to geologists will eventually partition Africa into two continents with an ocean in between. The climate is temperate and Somalis from Djibouti normally seek refuge in Borama during from the hot weather in their country.
Traffic in town is chaotic; pedestrians, dogs, and goats; expect motorists to give way rather than the other way round. Amazingly though, there are very few accidents. But the most charming thing about Borama is that she-goats wear bras tailored in all sizes and colours. I initially wondered why modesty had to be extended to covering she-goats’ breasts; I have since learned that the practice is meant to prevent kids from suckling milk any time they feel like.
Having gotten used to the modesty of she-goats in Borama, I often shudder at the not so delicate exposure of the mammalian glands of their Kenyan counterparts. The she-goat’s bra is indeed one of Somalia’s unique contribution to the world of fashion.
The writer is the registrar Eelo University, Somaliland