Somallandsn-Hargeisa is the chosen capital city of this not known country in the former Somalia Republic which prefers to be recognized as Somaliland. Neighboring the main Somaliland to the west, Gulf of Aden in the North, Indian Ocean to the South East and Ethiopia in the South West the capital city posits modern buildings and malls as can be found in other countries.
Once I set my eyes to coming to Hargeisa both family and friends were wondering and worrying for my sake. In fact, they were querying my mental faculties whether have become mad. Somalia there is Al- shabaab, wars and chaos! “How can a sane person in his right sense, leave his peaceful country to go to a country of chaos and the unknown dangers”? some wondered. They wouldn’t comprehend at all, but after convincing them about my sanity and assuring them that I knew where I was going, they left me leave amid doubts and worries written all over their faces.
Arriving at Hargeisa Airport the experience was something, armed with a visa I was confident that is all I needed. Only to be asked to pay 60 dollars before I was allowed entry. As a first timer I couldn’t comprehend why pay when I had a visa. However, as it turned out that was the only option or else no entry. What a welcome of partying with 60 dollars I wondered! But realised that is one way the government raises revenue.
Life in Hargeisa I realised is very simple and interesting, loud pronouncements from mosques was the first thing I heard and it was to be repeated after intervals. I came to realize it is norm being a Muslim country. Most businesses close in the afternoons for people to go for prayers. I wonder if businesses in Nairobi would close even for minutes in the peak hours of the afternoon how interesting it would be!
On the road during my first day I was astounded to notice two cars stopping at the middle of the road and drivers engaged in a chat. Quite unbelievable! I wondered, nonetheless my guide assured me it is normal. Cars driving fast and hooting loudly is the norm, while roads are narrow are shared by cars, lorries, pedestrians, camels and goats. Interestingly accidents are minimal to say the least.
People are warm, friendly and embrace social life. Chit chatting aloud at first I thought people were quarreling only to see them lough and shake hands. I remember an incident while in Hargeisa town in a taxi a waiting traffic to move my eyes settled on a taxi driver busy gesturing at me. Not understanding what he was saying I assumed and continued to look beyond him, lest did I know that he was thinking I was staring at him. You see the problem of the whole issue is that I wear glasses and he thought I was looking at him whereas I was looking beyond the horizons.
I heard someone tapping my window to ask me where I come from and politely I answered, then he said I also come from here, then switching to Somalia language he continued to talk very fast. I turned to my driver to ask what the man wanted, only to discover he was furious that I was staring at him. How else can one get a better welcome than this?
In short Somaliland is a very peaceful country more often wrongly judged to be part of warring Somalia mainland. With elected president and the government, people are generally peaceful and hard working. Entrepreneurship and education have started taking centre stage and people are embracing them. A good shift and a promising future with focus. One is left to wonder why the next door neighbor Somali-mainland wouldn’t borrow a leave from Somaliland and be peaceful for the sake of its own people. How far can they go if they do this?
By: Yabesh Onsongo
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