Somalia by Ingi Mehus

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Somaliland surprised me in every possible way. Delicious food, colourful cities and towns, happy people and natural scenery that stunned me wherever I went. My journey from the Ethiopian border to the capital Hargeisa, via the ancient rock art area Las Geel, ending in the coastal town Berbera is probably one of the most spectacular routes I have ever driven. Reaching the remote white beaches in Berbera with chilled people hanging out and enjoying the day, unexpectedly reminded me of the beach culture back home in Western Norway.

If I listened to the media and governmental advice, I would never have known about this wonderful part of Somalia, but talking to other Somaliland travellers gave the courage to go. From the moment I entered Somaliland, I was welcomed with a loud and warm ‘Welcome to Somaliland!’ on the border. Packed together with 10 people in the 5 seater taxi with a bullet hole, I felt completely safe. The three hour journey from the border to the capital, Hargeisa, defined my Somaliland journey. The other passengers bought me water and fruit, even the sales ladies in the small transit towns offered me free fruit. Payment was refused when they realised I was a tourist. It was their way of say welcome.

Somaliland is safe and open for tourists, and offer unique experiences such as Africa’s most well-preserved rock art; gorgeous beaches; colourful markets; and probably the friendliest people in the world!

By Ingi Mehus from Norway in Somaliland.

Check out Ingi's 22 photos from Somaliland. #BeCurious

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1. Crossing into Somaliland from Ethiopia by land is a very welcoming and smooth experience.

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2. A taxi will take you on a 2-3 hour journey to Hargeisa, the capital. Though the journey is long and crammed, I was well looked after by the other passengers who shared their fruit and water.

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3. My first experience with Hargeisa was colourful and super-friendly.

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4. The central market was a great introduction to Somali hospitality, food and culture. I was stopped on every corner with people who wanted to have a friendly chat or wanted to give me fruit or water.

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5. It is not difficult to feel welcome in a place like this.

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6. There are not many sights in Hargeisa; the ambiance and the hospitality are the real attractions.

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7. Beautiful houses are popping up everywhere in Hargeisa, as locals return home from across the world to rebuild Somaliland. About half of the people I met spoke, amongst others, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch or English as their second language.

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8. Universities are quickly expanding and are particularly focusing on law studies (civil law studies, judiciary reform, constitution law etc), as securing peace and stability in Somaliland is tremendously important.

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9. Dinner and a show: Friendly boys invite me to watch them playing pool, while I am enjoying seafood from Mogadishu.

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10. Traveling outside Hargeisa requires police escort and appropriate documentations, but they are both easy to obtain. The Somaliland government is overcautious with foreigners’ safety. They cannot afford any foreigners to be hurt as they are struggling to gain international recognition as a sovereign state. Both my guard and driver were super friendly and greatly contributed to the experience. I felt safe and welcome everywhere I traveled. This photo is from Las Geel, a complex of caves and rock shelters adorned with beautiful and well preserved ancient rock art. It was quite an experience to be at such an exceptional historical place with almost no-one in sight.

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11. Las Geel: One of Somaliland's absolute highlights. There are over 20 caves and rock shelters filled with stunning rock art from the neolithic era, +/- 5000 years ago.

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12. Las Geel: The guide explains the meaning of the rock art to an Austrian tourist, the only tourist I met during my stay in Somaliland.

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13. Camels are very important in the Somali culture and can be seen everywhere. Wild life is also quite abundant. Tortoises, camels, wild hogs, baboons, and dik-dik (member of the antelope family) were all seen during my trip.

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14. The charming coastal town, Berbera, lying on the Gulf of Aden, is just waiting to be discovered by tourists.

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15. You can fly directly to Berbera's quaint airport from Dubai and Nairobi.

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16. Berbera’s  main attraction is definitely the beach. Fresh and peaceful!

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17. Curious beach goers approach me for a friendly chat.

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18. The drive back to Hargeisa is long, but never boring. The scenery goes from sandy…

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19. green and lush…

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20. ... and mountainous.

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21. This photo perfectly captures the way I was welcomed in Somaliland – with huge smiles, curiosity and friendliness.

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22. Finally, after a massive hurricane at the Puntland coast delaying all flights for 24 hours, I am on my way to Djibouti. Saying goodbye to one of the most friendly countries I have ever visited – I hope to return again some time in the future.



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