Khat (or qat) is everywhere in Somalia/Somaliland. It is the only thing that runs efficiently here. I was told that if a khat truck crashes, there will be one dispatched within 30 minutes to pick up it's cargo and be on it's way to it's destination. And that khat truck don't stop at road checkpoints. They just honk their horns, drive through and toss out a bundle to the police. You can tell who has chewed khat for years by their rotting red teeth. Here you'll see men just relaxing on the side of the road, against a building or wherever just chewing khat for hours on end. It's a stimulant drug that causes loss of appetite. To get full effect, you have to chew it for several hours from what I have been told. Some people chew it with peanuts to crush it up faster. Or some drink cola drinks with it for that extra stimulation. You buy it in bundles like the one in the picture.
while Somali women love flowing fabrics in bold and vivid colours, you will not see women in public who do not cover their heads. Female visitors should also bring along a scarf etc to wrap it over their hair when they are outside a hotel or restaurant. If it´s a village restaurant or a place that is strictly local, keep the scarf on! Given the dust, it´s actually a convenient way to keep the sand out of your hair, and you can literally cover up a bad hair day...
whether it´s called miraa or khat - chewing the leaves is one of the favorite pastimes of somali men. It is a legal drug, and usually consumed in company. As it leads first to elation and then to a certain tiredness, afternoon drowsiness after a bit too much miraa is common. Business meetings should therefore take place in the morning/before lunch while everyone still has a clear head.
The citizens of Somaliland are very patriotic and proud of their country and independence. They NEVER want to be reunited with Somalia. They have had peace for 16 years and wish to keep it that way. You will find the flag and its colours all over Hargiesa.
Their flag represents their unique country. The flag is divided up as follows:
GREEN: The world and the environment (not Islam)
RED: War before ‘Independence’
ARABIC WRITING AT THE TOP: To paraphrase ‘The name of God is Allah and his Prophet is Mohammed'
BLACK STAR: Represents the people. On the old Somalia flag the star was white. The old regime used the white star on jet fighters used to bomb civilians in 1988.
This very nice man asked me to take his picture. A lot of people do this. They do get a little disappointed when they find out that you cannot print the picture for them. They would like a copy! What was a bit different was this gentleman was missing his right foot. I noticed as I walked away from him in the market. Then I realised I could see 2 other men obviously missing parts of feet and/or legs in the market as well. When I asked my friend Mohammed, he shrugged his shoulders and said “Who knows? The war? Landmines?” There has been peace in Somaliland since 1988, but the people paid a high price for it. All the people I saw were military aged men. They may have defended their homeland or just been simple farmers who walked onto a hidden landmine. Many come to the large city of Hargeisa because they think it may be easier to get support here. This is an unfortunate everyday way of life for these poor unfortunate people. The man carries on with his life; he just wanted his picture taken.
There is a Charity called the Halo Trust that works in the more rural areas of Somaliland to help find and eliminate these unfortunate destructive devices left over from the war.
Before you get too excited, just remember that all wives must be treated exactly equally or her family will take offence and you would not want that. What this means is that if you have 4 wives, then you must have 4 houses. If one is given a car, all 4 get a car. If you live in an apartment building, then you would have to have an apartment on 4 levels. Also, time must be spent equally with all. You don’t get to just stay with the one who is not mad at you right now. Essentially you would have to be a rich man to have 4 wives. Most men have to save up just to have the first wife. Sometimes a man may do well and take a second wife. Anything beyond that is extremely rare. Just nice that you have the option if you are a man.
Suuli is the generic term for toilet. I found it a most useful word to not only say, but to write down as well. I would also make friends with the hotels as they will always let you use their clean toilets if you have introduced yourself first.
Please feel free to add this to your "Custom Travel Guide" and print it off before you go!
Somaliland is +3 hours ahead of GMT (or UTC). Unlike neighbouring Ethiopia, you can talk about the same time without worrying about local variances. You can express it in European (24 hour clock) time if you wish.
In Somaliland the Electrical current is 220V (50HzHz) and they use British style 3 square pin plugs (pictured). Modern electrical sockets have a switch to turn it off while putting in and removing your electrical plug. Older ones do not have this safety device. The current is strong enough to kill you. I found out to my horror that sometimes hotels plug in round pin European plugs and this does work (pictured) but is really unsafe. If you have European appliances I would suggest you get an approved adaptor before you go.
Water is really heavy and many homes and businesses do not have running water. So they use donkeys. These little fellows are super strong for their size and you will see them hauling water around on small metal carriages all over the place. If you get a chance, slip these little guys a piece of fruit, they would appreciate it.
All across Hargeisa you will see what looks like stone bunkers for very small trees. Somaliland suffers from deforestation and you will see a lot of people cooking with charcoal and wood. The stones are put around small trees so that they will not be burned. The city of Hargeisa is trying to add a lot more trees back into the city.
If you are travelling independently like I did, you may want someone to show you around. The hotels will set you up with a fantastically overpriced ‘Official’ Guide and or/taxi. Don’t bother. The city of Hargeisa and Somaliland are safe. Also there is no such thing as an ‘Official’ tour guide here. I met MR. MAHAMED AHMED WARSAME in the market area and he showed me around for several days. I paid him less than I would from a Tour Agent who approached m in the street and had a fantastic time. Mahamed used to work for an American company, speaks excellent English and Italian and is well educated. He introduced me to loads of people and also held several impromptu meetings in the market where curious local people wanted to talk to me. I also invited him to dinner and he told me all about the history and culture of Somaliland. He works with the Ministry of Sports and Youth mostly on projects involving Basketball and Soccer.
He can be contacted through his friend Mr. Abdirahman Ibrahim Jama. His email is:
email@example.com Telephone is 252 1 302 767.
In this culture it is considered inpolite to snap pictures of people with out their permission. Always ask with a smile, and say 'sawir'(picture)? They will understand and either say/motion, yes or no.
Also be careful or taking pictures/video of governmen/military areas.
Somalis like visitor who make a effort in understanding their culture. Remember, this is a Muslim country so greet everyone with 'Asalamu Alaykum', which means hello in Arabic.