Las Geel, rock paintings
One of the main reasons for me to visit Somaliland were the rockpaintings of Las Geel. They are the best rockpaintings at the African continent I ever saw. They have the quality to become an UNESCO World Heritage site. First in 2003 a team of French archaeologists described and cataloged the paintings. In this part of Somaliland are more than 100 sites with rockpaintings known by local people. Las Geel is now the most well-known.
Las Geel is meaning 'camel's well'. Probably by the two wadi's this area was a good place for herding cattle in the ancient days, but also now I saw several herds around.
The paintings are in several shelters at the mountain ridge overlooking the plains.
Most paintings depict cows and human beings, but also some other animals. The necks of the cows are embellished with plastrons.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Road Trip
Hargeisa, capital of Somaliland
Hargeisa is the capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, Internationally recognized as an autonomous region of Somalia. Hargeisa, with 800,000 inhabitants, is a easygoing, peaceful and friendly city. In recent years, it has been one of the safest places in Somalia.
There are not real touristy must-see places, sights or activities in Hargeisa. The citycentre area is a interesting place to walk around and experience the African life. I liked to watch the streetlife and the colourfully painted shops. The local people are very friendly. They mostly greet you or start a talk with you.
In town you can walk freely, but if you leave the city, you need to take a government security guard with you, the so-called "SPU" or arrange a letter that it is your case not needed.
For more detailed information look at HargeisaRelated to:
- Road Trip
- Historical Travel
Burao, second city of Somaliland
Burao is the second largest city of Somaliland. It is the capital of Togdheer province. The area has between the 300.000 and 400.000 inhabitants.
In Burao was the declaration of the unilateral internationally unrecognized declaration of an independent Somaliland on 18 May 1991. Like many other cities in the northern part of Somalia, Burao has been rebuilt with limited aid from outside since the outbreak of the civil war. The town has grown by the investment of the Somali diaspora and by people from rural areas moving to the city.
There are no real must-see places in town. We visitied Burao at a day tour from Berbera. We left early from Berbera and had a late breakfast in Burao in the restaurant of Abco Palace Hotel. We visited the market to buy some fresh fruits, drove around a bit to get an impression of the streetlife in a Somali town and headed back to Berbera.Related to:
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Berbera, old harbour town
Berbera is a harbour town with about 200.000 inhabitants. Because of its strategic location for the trade route between the Red Sea and India is Berbera a maritime trade centre since the ancient times. Once Berbera town was busy and important.
In the old quarter of the town Darole you can find still mansions from the Ottoman Period and old mosques. Most houses are built of coral stone. The old town in decay has a special atmosphere.
Nowadays has Berbera still the biggest seaport for Somaliland, but it is a no-go area. In the old town you visit the fishing harbour. From here you see the skyline of the seaport west of the town.
East of Berberea are endless and unspoiled beaches at the Gulf of Aden. There are a few hotels and restaurants with fish dishes. Most visitors drive their car to the beach close tot the place where they go into the waterRelated to:
The most interesting part of our trip from Berbera to Burao was the Golis escarpment with the Sheikh Pass. It seems to be one of the most dramatic roads in Somaliland.
At the village of Hudisa at the base of the Golis Range the road climbs some 700m over a 10km. The views at the mountains and at the plains below are breathtaking. We made several stops to enjoy the landscape and to make pictures.Related to:
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Sheikh on the plateau
Sheikh is a small town of about 33.000 inhabitants on a plateau at 1470m between Berbera and Burao. Because the town is located on a plateau, the temperature is cooler than Berbera. Sheikh can be very green after the rains.
There is not much to see in Sheikh. When we approached Sheikh we saw a lot of students along the road. At short distance of the town is the Sheikh secondary school.
We visited the area of the old colonial British houses. It's surreal to see only some free standing chimneys. Some students joined us and liked to talk english with us.
Sheikh is known of its archeological site Ferdusa. There is a sign along the road. We walked into bushes and saw some stones, that's all. The area is still unexcavated. The ruins seem to be the remains of a stone city of about 400 years ago.Related to:
- Road Trip
Dhagax Kure, site of rock paintings
Before we headed to the well preserved paintings of Las Geel we visited the rockpaintings of Dhagax Kure in a short daytrip from Hargeisa. The eroded rocky hills of the site made the visit already very interesting. From far you see allready the outcrop of eroded granite of 3 to 4 km long and 2- 500 m wide.
After parking the car the local caretaker took us uphill to show us 4 shelters with cows, humans and other figures at the walls and ceilings. The visited places were almost hidden. There are no paths or signs. It will be almost impossible to find those places yourself.
To visit Dhagax Kure you need a car and somebody who knows the route. From the main road there are many tracks to follow before you will reach the rocky hills of Dhagax Kure. The best is to book a tour in Hargeisa.Related to:
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Dhagax Kure, rock paintings
Before we visited and watched the well preserved paintings of Las Geel we visited the rockpaintings of Dhagax Kure. It was the right decision.
The caretaker showed us uphill the four shelters with cows, humans and other figures at the rocks. There are no paths or signs. It will be almost impossible to find those places yourself. If you enter the half open shelters from the bright sunlight, it takes some time to distinguish the abundant amount of figures at the walls and ceilings of the shelter. Not all paintings are bright. Some have human damage due to fires lighted in the shelters to keep warm.
The paintings are supposed to be more than 6000 years old. There are over 100 sites with rockpaintings in Somaliland.
- Arts and Culture
- Road Trip
Hargeisa is a city of over 1.2 million people. It's in Woqooyi Galbeed province, it's the second largest city in Somalia and is the capital of Somaliland and it used to be the capital of the former British Somaliland. Hargeisa has an international airport that flies to several regional countries. For the traveler, Hargeisa isn't the most exciting of cities. The sites for the most part are lackluster but it's still fun to wander around. The central market is a place where I wandered for a bit and when people stopped me, it was to have a real conversation and not just to try to sell me stuff. The good thing though is that most of the sites/services for travelers are fairly centrally located so you won't have to many long walks. Also this is an Islamic country so alcohol isn't served here which means night life options are limited. There is also a good choice of hotels here so you really shouldn't have a problem getting a room. What Hargeisa is for most travelers is their first real stop in Somalia. A real (and safe) place to visit in a country that most people view as off limits for travelers for over 20 years.
The Laas Gaal (or Laas Geel) rock art paintings are some extremely well preserved ancient rock art paintings. I've been told the paintings are between 5,000 - 9,000 years old. They were "discovered" in 2002 by French archeologists but have been known to locals. There are several hundred paintings in several cave shelters. And you can get right up to these rock art paintings. Please be careful around them as they are fragile. There is also a small museum located at the entrance with a few pictures and a timeline. I found the area around the site to be quite beautiful but I like that type of landscape. There isn't public transportation that goes here but there are many tour companies or hotels in Hargeisa that can arrange this trip for you for around US$120 which includes vehicle, driver and permit. I didn't come from Hargeisa so I had to arrange things differently.Related to:
The first time I remember reading about Berbera was in a Lonely Planet guidebook many years ago and it said one traveler said Berbera was hot, humid and hell - and that's in the cool season. Fast forward 13 years and I can say it was hot and humid. How popular I was on the beach was annoying but I didn't find anything hellish about the place and enjoyed my brief time here. Berbera is a city of over 230,000 people. It's a port city along the Gulf of Aden that brings in some income for Somaliland. For me there was 3 reasons to visit Berbera. The first was the beach hotel on the edge of the city where I was hoping to have a little beach vacation. The second was the old colonial architecture. Though pretty much all the colonial buildings I saw are in horrible disrepair. The third is the name. Berbera sounds like one of those end of the world exotic places. Though I didn't see it, Berbera has a long runway of over 4km. The USA used to give money to the Berbera Airport to maintain this runway in case the space shuttle needed an alternate landing location. Berbera is about 150km northeastish of Hargeisa.
Sheekh or Sheikh is a town on a plateau between Berbera and Burao. It has a population or 33,000 people and is a place with a few schools. Because of it's on a plateau, the temperature is cooler than Berbera which is about 30 mins away. There a few things to look at here though nothing overly exciting. There are some free standing chimneys from the old colonial British houses that used to be here. Also there is a sign for an archeological site called Ferdusa but none of the local residents seem to know anything about it. I walked around the bushes in the area where it's supposed to be a didn't find anything. The only thing that I found that can be old is in the second picture for this tip.
Burao is a city of over 120,000 inhabitants near the center of Somaliland. It also is the capital of Togdheer province. It's not a city of great interest (at least for me) and it's a place I didn't spend too much time in. It is a city that is easier to get to since it's on a paved road and is the last major city that a western tourist can visit with relative safety along this road heading eastward. It's shortly after here where if you are heading to Erigavo, you leave the paved road and head through the plains. I found the restaurant at the ABCO hotel to be quite good if you are looking for a meal in Burao.
Money Changers in Somaliland
Due to the relative security of Somaliland and that the Somaliland Schilling isn't worth very much, you'll see money changers with bundles of cash. When I was there, US$1 equals 6,500 Somaliland Schillings. The largest note that I saw was 5,000 schillings but most were 500 and 1,000 notes. Especially in Hargeisa, you'll see a few money exchangers next to each other and they'll take shifts working so they'll be out for a good portion of the day. This is done without security guards around.
I would like to share with you a Somali Media site in Columbus Ohio : http://www.somalilink.com for stories about Somali, Somali culture and community events. The newspaper is a free publication in Columbus OH. This is your link to the Somali and African Communities.
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