The self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland was formed in 1991 after the collapse of unitary Somalia. Thanks mainly to the dominance of a single clan (the Isaq), it has remained relatively peaceful and stable since 1991, despite the occasional terrorist attack.
Somaliland has all the attributes of a “normal” state: a parliament, free press, a currency, a flag… but nobody knows (or probably cares). Somaliland is still treated as a pariah by the international community and is not recognized as a separate state in the outside world , except by a few countries, including Ethiopia, which has a Liaison Office in Hargeisa. The main reason why the rest of the world is reluctant to accept Somaliland’s independence is that the UN still hopes for an agreement covering all of Somalia, which they believe would avoid a potential “Balkanization” of the Horn of Africa.
It’s difficult to forget your first impression of Hargeisa – and I’m not just referring to the roadblocks and soldiers wielding machine guns; instead I am referring to a hassle-free, intriguing and energizing city. The streets are alive, the roads are busy and the air is thick with a cacophony of mobile phones, vehicle horns and calls to prayer. Sure, the capital of Somaliland still bears the scars of the civil war that destroyed the country in the past decades, but that just adds to the fun.
Hargeisa has all the conveniences a traveler could hope for: good-value hotels with English-speaking staff, restaurants, internet cafes, electronics shops, tea shops, gun dealers, markets, buses, taxis, etc.
There are no standout sights in Hargeisa – one comes for the ambience and sense of exploration. And if you like your markets colorful, chaotic and spilling into the surrounding streets and enjoy the feeling of being the only Westerner in town, Hargeisa might just be the place for you.
Below is a view from the roof of our hotel – the Oriental… By the way, if you visit Hargeisa, I would strongly suggest staying here. It is centrally located, has a decent restaurant and Said and Abdi Abdi are extremely helpful with arranging and fixing things (and they speak English).
The Ali Matan mosque:
These are some videos I shot to provide a better feel for the sights and sounds of the city:
And here is a video from right in front of the hotel – dominated by the Ali Matan mosque:
First things first though… When going out for a walk about town, one needs to change some money into the local currency for incidental expenses. Twenty American dollars nearly filled my backpack with the local currency:
If you require more of a “pick me up”, you can visit one of the many khat dealers around the city. They really don’t like having their pictures taken though:
There are a lot of goats just hanging out around the city… This was the first set we encountered and it immediately left me with a favorable impression of the Somalis:
It isn’t just goats that one encounters in Hargeisa though. Even the Somalis were a bit intimidated by this big bull wandering around:
Just past the goats was the War Memorial of Hargeisa with the distinctive Somali Air Force MiG on top:
The presidential compound (for Somaliland) is on the right:
Below is the interior of the Ethiopian liaison office in Hargeisa… Don’t be lulled into a false sense of confidence by how easy it is to obtain an Ethiopian visa when one arrives at the airport in Addis Ababa. It is much more difficult to obtain a visa to return to Ethiopia via Somalia. It requires a lot more money, two photographs, a letter from the intelligence agency of Somaliland and, of course, a completed application form from the Ethiopians:
Some scenes of Hargeisa:
The “river” running through Hargeisa:
And the bridge running over it:
Good information. Wish there was more content like this easily available.
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Great pics. I enjoyed going to Somaliland. People are very friendly, as you said, and there is a vibrant atmosphere all over the city. I was treated as one of them. Awesome experience, humble people.
I enjoyed Hargeysa but there was a slight problem. A boy named abdi was propa blik and ugly
Please international community loan Hargeisa let it build their roads, please give them the recognition they need.
Beutiful country, beutiful place to work altough food materials aliitle high!
I enjoy it!
I share my response to an email I received as others may find it useful as well…
Hello Mariusz –
The trip on the minibus from Jijiga to Wajale takes about an hour and a half. Then you have to get off and walk across the border which is another half an hour or so. The taxi ride from Wajale into Hargeisa takes another hour and a half or so. Throw in at least another hour for the inevitable waiting and delays… So, figure at least half a day to make the journey.
There is no fixed schedule for the buses. They leave when they fill up. So, to be certain, I would try to do all of your traveling during daylight hours.
You can do Las Geel and Berbera in a day trip unless you really want to spend some time at the beach.
We just had a single-entry visa for Ethiopia as well and so, yes, we had to obtain another one in Hargeisa. It is very easy to get an Ethiopian visa when one lands at the airport in Addis Ababa. However, it is much more of a hassle to obtain the visa in Hargeisa. It isn’t that you won’t get it, but it is just more of a bureaucratic hassle. You have to pay more, you have to get a letter from the intelligence services of Somaliland, you have to give pictures of yourself and you are supposed to wait for a day or two to get the visa approved. We didn’t know any of this and needed our visas on the same day which they gave us some trouble about, but we got them in the end. Nevertheless, we did have to do all of the other procedures which ate up half of the morning.
i like to vishit to hargesia