Going down memory lane to June 2012 with a travel report of Somaliland by Marcello Arrambide a travel blogger who has moved around the world for roughly 4 years in which he has visited roughly 80 countries and all 7 continents.
Somalilandsun- I’m not talking about physical beauty although there is a lot said about the beauty of the women in Somaliland (sorry ladies, you will have to judge the men on your own). I am talking about getting to really know the people of a territory that is dying to be proclaimed their own nation. The people of Somaliland are curious, genuine, kind, friendly, and quite frankly, blunt.
I was able to experience a complete familiarity with the people of the country, both good and bad. I wouldn’t say that I had any bad experiences but being in a Muslim society there were a few awkward situations that I had to share.
While I have shared my first experience of Somali kindness in detail here on WanderingTrader where I was smuggled into Somaliland, there are many more scenarios which I will share in just a moment.
The willingness of the Somalilander people to go out of their way to help you is beyond implausible
There are very few countries where I have met truly genuine people that are willing to help absolute strangers, for nothing in return. Of all the 50 countries I have visited in the world, these are the ones that happen to be some of my favorites (in no particular order); Colombia, Zambia, Israel, Ethiopia, and even Suriname.
Once I arrived in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, I immediately fell in love with its raw personality and the people. I was brought into the country in the back of a Toyota 4runner by one of the advisors to the president of Somaliland.
A new found friend and I were sitting in the Ethiopian city of Jijiga having dinner preparing for our adventure into Somaliland the next day when we were gladly interrupted by two men sitting next to us. We exchanged pleasantries and by the end of the conversation he surprised us by offering us a ride into Somaliland the next day and also paying for our dinner behind our backs. Those Somali men are tricky aren’t they?
They spoke to the customs officials on both the Ethiopian side and Somaliland side and we didn’t even have to enter Somaliland customs. How many countries do you know of that would stamp your passport without actually seeing your face?
After they dropped us off at a local hotel they promptly gave us their phone numbers and advised if we needed any help to call them. First impressions are always important and this would leave me with a lasting thought of the people in Somaliland.
Once we arrived in the newly found capital, we found the first hotel in sight to wait for a friend to relieve himself from work. What did we find? A young Somali man that moved back to the country (I fully recognize Somaliland has its own country) that managing the hotel, he allowed us to use the Wi-Fi for free until our friend showed up.
Not exactly American capitalism. I was hesitant about the internet in Somaliland considering that I need internet to day trade eminis in the stock market. Luckily, Somaliland has taken a leap into advanced wireless networks like most African countries. No problems with the internet there!
We talked for hours and he was very interested in what we thought about the country and why we were so curious to explore it. He asked a question that would remain the most common questions asked by everyone that I encountered, where are you from and how do you like Somaliland?
The people are eager to let the world know that Somaliland is a far cry from the war torn south.
I would have to agree with them. After our friend finally showed up we eagerly arrived at our accommodation, a few sofas in a living room, and started to explore the city. My first stop was a local eatery where I would find my unfathomable love for Somali tea.
The two men sitting across from us were very curious as to why we were eating at the local eatery. Don’t tourists normally spend the night at a hotel and eat at the hotel instead of venturing out in a place like Somaliland, at night of all times?
Even though I joked around about being kidnapped it was always in the back of my head, at this point in the trip I knew that was never going to happen. The questions began and we had a semi-decent conversation with their broken English and my broken Arabic. The food was not so good.
The next day I was told by our hosts that I shouldn’t go out in shorts. Being the driven, or stubborn as I was labeled in school, man that I was I ignored the advice and proceeded to city in shorts. It turns out that the Muslim culture of Somaliland doesn’t appreciate it when men expose their legs and in my case, men that have long hair.
It was a double edged sword that I would have to swallow for the rest of the day. I should have known that the conservative Muslim culture wouldn’t be keen to see a man in shorts, I only was adamant about wearing shorts considering that I sweat more than a fat man in a sumo wrestling match.
You can’t blame me for trying to be comfortable
Somaliland is a very arid climate in the middle of the desert and I wanted to be comfortable instead of sweating the entire day. I should have listened to my hosts, I complied with wearing jeans but I would not cut my hair.
This would still bring unwanted attention where young kids would throw rocks at me and even being hit on by Muslim women in a full Hijab. I would like to note that the rocks weren’t thrown directly at me, they were simply thrown along the ground in my direction.
Young boys will be young boys. There was even a time when a young boy came up to me and asked if I was a woman. I told him thank you, he was confused, and I replied by telling him that I was indeed a full blooded male.
The very last situation that stuck in my mind was I needed to visit the Ethiopian Consulate (the only foreign consulate in Somaliland) in order to get a visa back into the country. I opted not to wait in the endless lines at the Ethiopian visa office in Addis Ababa. In order to get a visa I needed to get a special paper from a specified Somaliland government office.
We were walking around aimlessly looking for the Somaliland office when a man stopped and offered his assistance. He then told us to get into the car so he could drive us to the office. He was part of a political party and said that he was more than happy to help. He of course asked the same questions, where are you from and how do you like Somaliland.
There were a countless number of people that came up to me randomly just to start talking to me. There were even some people that came up to me that didn’t speak good English they spoke in Arabic and I spoke in English.
Somaliland has essentially just been born and is advancing every single day. The people are as curious as any I have met around the world and they greet you with an innate attitude of gratitude. I do plan on going back to Somaliland in order to visit more of the coast, there are great diving opportunities in areas of the country that haven’t even been explored yet.
There aren’t many tourist attractions in Somaliland but its main attraction is it’s people. Once you arrive you will realize that you shouldn’t judge it by its cover. I would definitely recommend that you visit since it’s such an off the track place. The fact that you have to entire through the fascinating country of Ethiopia should be reason enough to visit!
For more Marcello stories on Somaliland