Hargeisa, 15 July 2009 (Somalilandpress) – ARR will be writing to Somalilandpress about his journey to Somaliland and will be offering advice to anyone who may want to travel to this Horn African nation. ARR was born abroad and this is his first trip to Somaliland.
To read Part One CLICK HERE
To read Part Two CLICK HERE
To read Part Three CLICK HERE
A car speeds towards me flying over speed-bumps and moving twice as fast as all the other cars. Is there an emergency? An act of terrorism by the Al-Shabaab cowards or is it simply an ambulance? No. It’s one of the vehicles delivering the poison called Qat to Hargeisa.
In this city where I walk next to houses that literally cost less than one of the accessories I am wearing, a large percentage of the population chooses to indulge in what should be a once in a blue privilege; chewing Qat. As someone who dabbled with this narcotic when in England of all places I had finally arrived in Somaliland where I can see if the effects were as damaging as the strong voice of complaint I had heard from those who oppose it.
I had already witnessed what it has done to the youth in London who spend their days in a Mirfresh from the age of 15 discussing their future goals and plans while everyone else actually accomplishes them. Qat has even superseded their right to a free education but that’s a whole other story. I guess I should take it easy on England and be thankful because if it wasn’t for England I would’ve been shocked to see people taking showers from a bucket.
This speeding car in this city has a policy; it doesn’t stop for ANYONE. This could be a young child, an old lady, or someone from abroad who has no idea that this vehicle carries the false joy of an entire city. Think about an open top Brinks Truck and you will start to get an idea of what I’m talking about. This truck doesn’t stop, because if it did; people would literally jump on it and take what they can from its golden cargo. Because of this the Qat dealers find it more cost effective to pay the blood money of whoever ventured into its path.
The cargo that this vehicle carries is a poison that has strangled our country not only spiritually but economically. It is rumored that approximately $600,000 USD goes to Ethiopia every day from Hargeisa alone. Since a sizable chunk of our economy is based on Money Transfers, Telecommunications companies and Qat; I sometimes wonder if this little triangle is in place so that people can call the Diaspora for urgent funds to spend on Qat but know that it would be a very nasty stereotype. What I can say, however, is that Qat is definitely having a negative impact on our nation and that too much of a lot of people’s income is used on abusing it.
A certain age demographic depends on Qat and expects you to just fork over $50 so they can chew themselves into what I can only describe as a false joy. You’ll get asked for money by people who will in return tell you that the $10 you have given them is not enough to cover their Qat for the day which is still bewildering after the hundredth time. I feel for the ladies who are forced to sell Qat because their husbands think that anyone who can father a child is a man but forget that a man is he who can not only have offspring but care for them and the beautiful soul that has bore the children for him. The women who sell Qat have earned a nick-name here which is Dhuuso Nuug.
This literally translates to Fart Sucker because they spend their day tending to men who are chewing by providing them tea and whatever else helps their false joy. Rumor has it that these women have superpowers which include never using the bathroom or even eating food. I don’t blame these women; however, I blame the so called (wo)men in their families.
After seeing what Qat has done to my people I have promised myself not to ever chew until my oldest son’s engagement. This is my way of avoiding swearing to never do something and at the same time reminding myself that there is so much I have to accomplish in life. The good news is that the younger and educated generation have no interest in chewing and the only young people you will find chewing are foreigners who think it’s a part of their culture. Most young people here are wise to the ill effects of Qat and I can only pray that this is picked up by the young men in England who see it as a rite of passage to start chewing their lives away from a very young age.
Another issue/dilemma we are faced with over here is the constant site of people begging. Now don’t get me wrong; I have the softest heart for those in need. I initially used to go into my pocket and give them money without counting but later smartened up to the hustle in play over here. Most of the people begging here are not needy Somalilanders but people from Oromo who probably own more land and livestock then I do and have taken up begging as a profession. They are also the same people who refuse to work if offered and brag that they can make more money begging when you offer them a job. The sad fact is that it’s true.
This is at the expense of genuinely needy people who are too proud to beg in public. What I now do as a result is tell them to seek help from the Masjid because that’s where I will be making most of my charitable contributions.
I don’t want to paint a bad picture for those of the Somalilanders abroad because it’s really a beautiful place to be. I have loads of cousins here visiting from abroad and they seek refuge in places like Kayse Busharo, the Dollar Store and gas stations which sell pretty much everything you can think of at a marked up price. When you consider that most of the things here are not bought directly from the suppliers and that they have exchanged hands many times before reaching here you will learn to forgive them for charging so much for their items. I personally go to F2 (operated by young Somalilanders businessmen from Hargeisa, the UK and UAE) every now and then so I can enjoy a decent burger with fries.
I have also finally had the opportunity to visit Summertime a few times too many. I’m guessing the reason this place has such a big aura attached to it is because it’s the congregation point for the “I’m a happily married man that cheats on my wife” and the “I was virgin until I came to Hargeisa” clubs (some of you guys are actually cool but it’s the truth!). I’m not saying that everyone there falls into this category but if you come there you will see for yourself that most of them do.
The food is great even though the guy at the window insists on taking a tip without your permission (count your change) and the owner was even kind enough to entertain my complaint regarding an issue I had with them and give me a refund. My overall summary would be that’s it’s a very beautiful place and facility but the crowd there is both socially amateur and immature.
Of the things that have happened in the recent past are Silaanyo’s return to Hargeisa for which no one was allowed to meet him at the airport. I found it surprising because the airport became a security joke when Maryan Mursal arrived and let just about everyone in. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few goats were also allowed to attend. I’m not promoting any particular party but just saying that rules should be applied equally and that didn’t seem to be ‘fair play’ on our government’s part.
I also had the pleasure of being invited to the opening ceremony of Mount Royal Hotel which lies next to Ilays School on the road to Boroma by Najeeb Hassan Haashi (the owner). I’ve been to Panorama and other places but this place took the crown in Hargeisa because while sitting in there you would literally never imagine you were somewhere in Hargeisa. I still wake up sometimes and look out the window and ask myself “what the hell am I doing here” and it’s nice to know that progress is being made and that the better things in life are slowly being made available to the people of Somaliland.
I still haven’t been outside of Hargeisa because I’ve been busy helping my brother get his school in Hargeisa up and running (Toronto Language & Computer Academy located right next to Maan Soor Hotel) but have finally been to the other side of town which I was surprised to find out was twice as beautiful as this side of town. There you will find a bunch of hotels ranging from the Scandinavian hotel to the Ambassador hotel lining the road to and from the airport. I still haven’t been to Ambassador Hotel but will make it a priority to go there before I write my next installment.
The last thing I will discuss is that I had the chance to go to the secret gathering of foreigners and NGO employees here in Hargeisa. I won’t give too many details as they have gone underground since the cowardly attacks of last year other than to say it’s a pretty neat gathering for them to let their hair down and just have a good time. I was one of only two other Somalilanders there and not knowing what I was getting myself into got all dressed up as if I was going to Maan Soor Hotel and ended up at a casual get together where I was looked at suspiciously for either being a Somalilander or for looking so darn good.
Having never had a hard time getting into the top ‘spots’ where all of the people there could never dream of getting into; I found it intriguing that I was considered something of an outsider at this gathering in my own city! This was literally the only time I had encountered an Indian person looking at me as if they were better than me and it was reminiscent of the old days where people left jobs at McDonalds to be offered dummy positions at major corporations in the Gulf.
Some of them were nice so I guess I forgive them but I made it a point to explain that I was here because this is my country and not because I couldn’t get a better job with those kind of perks abroad (Thank you to the British gentleman and American woman who invited me if you’re reading but I ‘m only writing what I felt about most of them).
I also recently applied for a position with a local association and experienced firsthand how things work behind the scenes here. I wasn’t interested for monetary purposes but wanted this particular post because it’s somewhere where I felt I can use my expertise to bring positive change (I also have a personal policy of not spending money when and where I’m not making money unless I’m on vacation… Try it; it really works!).
Suffice to say that someone that the interviewer had brought with him who couldn’t complete the aptitude test got the position. Talk about conflict of interest; this is the way of our land. I am constantly being encouraged to tell people my full name to get a better service which I guess is something I resent about how our country works. It’s the same as everywhere else in the world: “It’s not who you are but who you know.” The only problem is that over here it’s done so openly. For me, personally, I will always live by this Somali proverb that goes “This goat that I have today is better than the Camels your father used to have.”
I guess I’ll stop this here for now because I too have noticed my blogs are getting longer. I’m either seeing more things or getting extremely bored but I promise you it’s not the latter just yet. There’s lots of things I would like to cover including the Squatting epidemic but I’ll save it for another blog entry. Thank you for reading and look out for Part V.
To Be Continued…