Emily will be writing about her experience in Somaliland and will be offering tips to anyone who may want to visit the unrecognized republic along the way – discover Somaliland from a Non-Somali perspective. This is the second article – It is a great privilege to be here in Hargeisa.

It is a great privilege to be here in Hargeisa. The sounds of the call to prayer wake me up each morning as the city bustles around me. It is much more alive than other cities I have come to know; here you can always find people outside, sipping tea, chatting, hauling loads on their mules, chewing qat [a narcotic leaf chewed in parts of East Africa and Yemen]. I had intended to write this article sooner but my internet access has been limited to the internet café across the street, and my 7-year old laptop has retired. My co-workers were amused that my laptop was not shiny and new, but quickly hooked up a reliable desktop in my breezy office so now I should have regular internet access.

My flight here was an adventure as I expected it would be. The visa process in Addis was very easy though, and I would recommend acquiring a visa there to other travelers. The hardest part of the process was finding the Somaliland Liaison Office, which is hidden behind the Mozambiquean and South African Embassies. But once you find the office, with its gardens and dusty driveway, the entire visa process takes only about 10 minutes, and is very straight forward.

When I was ready to leave Addis with my visa in hand, I arrived at Bole International Airport an hour and a half before my flight, as I was instructed to. I had picked up my boarding pass the day before at Air Ethiopia’s office downtown, but when I asked the airport officers where to find the flight to Hargeisa, they looked at me and my boarding pass quizzically. Nobody I spoke with had heard about this flight, and they even told me that there were no flights to Hargeisa from Addis. Luckily I maintained my confidence and thanks to the Somali dress I was wearing, some fellow passengers walked over and asked me if I was looking for the flight to Hargeisa. With relief, I told them I was, but they too were just as lost as I was. We all commiserated for a few minutes before taking a seat and waiting for someone who knew something. Eventually a young, skinny Somali guy showed up and asked us for our boarding passes and collected our bags. We then proceeded to customs and through security; the whole while airport officials were confused as to who we were and where we were going. Had I been alone I may have just given up! After customs and security, we looked around the gates and read the illuminated screens, but found no indication of a flight to Hargeisa or of the Somali man who had taken our bags. We decided to sit in a group (there were 8 of us in total) and wait by Gate 5, hoping someone would come. One passenger seemed more informed than all of us so we just followed whatever he did. The flight was slated to depart at 11:00, but by 11:15 we still did not know where to go. We all remained calm though, waiting further instruction. Eventually the same man who had taken our bags returned, and guided us to the gate where we were told to wait for a van to take us to the plane. We waited, and after a few false alarms the van came and we all got inside, curious as to what the plane would look like. It was a white plane with a blue stripe, and from the outside it was essentially what I had imagined, but once I got inside I was stunned at how tiny it was! There were no overhead compartments and certainly no safety orientation before take-off. We were all happy to be inside though, at this point it was about 1:00, and luckily I had brought some cookies and chocolate which I shared with the other passengers.

The flight was smooth enough, we were given bottled water, and I was trying not to worry about whether or not someone would be waiting for me when we landed, and if he would be able to recognize me or not. As we descended towards the ground, it looked as though we were landing in the desert, with no buildings in sight. But just as we hit the ground I could make out the city of Hargeisa, which was larger than I had imagined it. We walked off the plane onto the pavement and someone from my work (Abdi) was indeed waiting for me, al-hamdu l’illah. I suppose I was easy to recognize being the only female and only foreigner on the flight. When he saw me, Abdi grasped my arm and led me quickly to the customs area, where he asked me for $50 and for my passport. In my head I was thinking, who is this man and why does he want my money? I decided to bargain with him and said I will give you $40, before I realized that the $50 was not for him but was a required amount of money you need to change into Somaliland shillings in order to enter the country. Within two minutes he handed me two huge stacks of money held together with rubber bands, along with my passport and entry stamp. Now is a good time to point out for those who may not know, that $1 is equal to 7,000 Somaliland shillings, and the remarkable part is that the highest bill they have is 500 shillings, so for $50, you receive 700 individual bills.

We proceeded forward in a rush, and then Abdi led me back outside were I pointed to my bag which someone thrust on his shoulders and brought to the car. The car ride was my first opportunity to see the city and I enjoyed looking out the window and attempting to chat with Abdi in a mix of broken Somali and English. Abdi drove me to the bed and breakfast where I am staying. In order to give him directions, I just told him the color of the house and the name of the owner and he knew where it was. Directions here are often given in such terms, using landmarks and names instead of numbers and streets. When we arrived at the gate of the house, Abdi honked for the guard to open the door, but the guard just looked at the car then closed the gate. I assumed he was alerting the owners of my arrival, whereas Abdi assumed the guy was a rude man and started yelling at him. I tried to calm him down but it was too late, and the sort of amusing scene culminated with the guard spitting at Abdi who slapped him across the cheek. Abdi then told me I could not stay there, that he would not come get me each day for work, and he was going to take me to a guest house. I insisted that I must stay here and that he should come every day, we shook hands, and I went inside.

Do not be fooled by this introduction I had to Hargeisa, as it is certainly not typical and was actually a drama which spread around, and which I heard recounted in several different ways during my first few days here. Life has actually been quite calm and laid back. During the weekend I had a chance to get to know my surroundings a bit, and am grateful to the family I am staying with for showing me around, feeding me, and being such wonderful hosts. (They are not reading this so rest assured this is not a shameful plug). I already feel comfortable. Likewise, my co-workers have been very helpful and friendly and I am learning fascinating information about the history and intricacies of Somaliland. I remember when I was in Addis the night before leaving for Hargeisa, my stomach was so nervous and I could hardly sleep– I did not know what was awaiting me. I even said to my friend that I was afraid my stomach would stay in a knot all summer! But as soon as I landed the knot went away and I have been able to sleep well each night here.

Indeed the misconceptions about Somaliland, which is internationally known as Somalia, are plentiful and disturbing. I found the same to be true about Ethiopia. I packed enough soap, shampoo and toothpaste to last me for months, and just across the street from where I am staying are rows of shops which sell the very items I brought. Don’t get me wrong, Hargeisa is vastly different from any other place I have been, it does not have the high-rises of Boston and hot water is hard to come by, but the city is peaceful, lively, functioning, and far more developed than I had imagined. I hope to post pictures and provide you with more information about my experiences here next time, and look forward to your comments and insights as always.

By Emily

Source: Somalilandpress


  1. hahahahaha Emily you made me laugh with the 700 notes, but do you know that $1 is 16, 000 shillings in Somalia? So if you were few cities down to the south you would be holding 1600 notes rather than 700, consider your self lucky hahahaha. That is just joke. When I come there if I ever get into politics not that I want to but I do propose them to change the whole "shilling" thing to "Dollar" and borrow the Australian design (printed on a thin, flexible polymer (plastic rather than papers)).

    The reason plastic would be better is because Somaliland doesn't have banks, the money is always out in the sun, rain, and often gets wet, it becomes twice its size when it gets wet, so plastic would be easier to handle.

    You had one crazy experience but you seem happy thats good.

    Yeah people under estimate Hargeisa, it has almost everything the problem is the capacity building section (government such as roads, traffics, water). But the people (private sector) is doing well.

    Looking forward to your photos.

  2. Emily, I am happy to hear that you are enjoying Hargeisa and looking forward to see some photos.
    Thank you

  3. Emily,
    You really seem to be enjoying the beauty of Hargeisa and the Somaliland people. What do you think of Hargeisa's rush hour traffic? I know it is not comparable to Boston's rush hour traffic but still, Hargeisa seemed to have huge rush hour traffic around 1pm.
    We are all looking forward to your pictures soon.


  4. Hi Emily,

    Fellow Californian of Somalilander descent here. Wow glad you made it to Hargeisa safely, the Somaliland people are nice in general just like folks anywhere you got good and bad. Have fun and dont forget to go see the virgin beaches of coastal Berbera city approximately 4 hrs from Hargeisa. The beautiful Sheikh and Golis range mountains, breath-taking Dallo mountain in East Somaliland. Basically explore the place while you can I envy you guys cant make it Somaliland this year hopefully next summer

  5. I have not been to Hargeisa since i left at the age of 3, you said your grafeful for the family for feeding you, how is the food? I'm thinking they dont pay hell lot of attention to heigene.

    I have seen Somali restaurants here and the food is often too oily, too sweet and just messy, im into the French style, small propositions, clean, organized plate. Thanks to Gordon Ramsay!

  6. hey em, it's b. (reeves) 🙂 this is so fun to read. i look forward to keeping abreast of your adventures. photos will be fun!

  7. I love Somalilandpress, they seem to be connecting all sort of people now we have Telecommunication engineer who wants to give her a fast connection just like that! I love Hargeisa, i love Somaliland!!! <3

    Emily looking forward to your photos.

  8. Dear Emily,

    I am in elecommunication Engineer working in Hargeisa and can Provide you Fast Internet if need dear sorry for inconveinent in my City

  9. Bravo Emily,

    Please accept my sincere appreciation for your excellent coverage of our home-land. I want u to know that what you mention in your article had a significant impact on many of us. Your expressions about Hargeisa was fascinating me. You showed gave us a close look at our mother land.

    We all agreed that your thoughtful article was the most interesting we have had in this year. Please visit us our University of Hargeisa

    Thanks again for such uplifting coverage.

    Farhan(oday) is a student at University of Hargeisa

  10. Emily read this Poem

    Somaliland my country Somaliland my people
    From the shimmering of Berbera, and the across the Golis range.
    Live is full of hope and goes with lots of endurance and determination.
    In the azure sky over Hargeisa lie clouds of hope.
    Of course we have people that strive to improve our lives.
    The springs that flood our soils, makes our land productive.
    Our rich wildlife reserve, can earn a lot in foreign exchange.
    The red sea port of Berbera will be the regional hub for the horn of Africa.
    All that is needed how is to tap these resources and build our young nation.
    That is how I love, study and work in my sweet home.

    Hargeisa, Somaliland

    • Farhan you make me laugh you seem too nice even for the average camel herders like myself, tell me why do they call you Oday?

      Anyways you seem like a good writer, why don't you write to Somalilandpress about life in University of Hargeisa as a student.

      Pictures would be nice, I seen your regular, please submit something we are home sick, we want to know the progress of our motherland.

      Home sweet home!

      • Brother Jubba,

        I gratefully admire your posting presence in every article. People call me oday, because of I shually interest to mediate the arguments between person to person or others.

        I posted on my articles at somalilandpress.com, and my latest article was called " Somaliland is an african success story". I like to be writer and writer seems to me my world of dreams.

        Let us tough with u

        Brother, Farhan

    • Farhan Oday,
      The people say that students of Hargiesa University dont speak english, and not qualified in their field of specification…. President of Hargiesa University Dr. Bulxan said couple of weeks ago….

      However, you are writing good english!!! Do you think Dr. Bulxan was eliminating the chances of job opportunity of the students at the university? becuase no one will hire university graduate with no proper english!!

      We hope the best to the university

    • Mahadsanid Farhan for your praises and I enjoyed reading the poem. Did you write it? Today I am happy to say I visited the University of Hargeisa. It was a fascinating experience and I learned a lot and hope to come back frequently. Warm wishes to you and your family.

      • waw Emily
        to visit us is great for Hargeisa universty students particularly female who we need to become the a role model, to learn from how confident and wise your doing your trip to somaliland i blieve that the people are all from the some source which is our God so let value each other this is your country Emily feel at home and well come with smiling and smart expressions i like to dilogue with other people for my interest to others visit us please Emily contact us 4411242 Mr liiban yusuf and Mr farhan. 4401132.

        your's sincerely

  11. Emily you are a fantastic story teller. So glad to hear what you are up to.

    Gabe and I were just talking about how you will be fluent in Somali language when you return. Looking forward to the coming articles and pictures!

    • Thanks Daniel, and hope all is well in good ole D-town. Been following Metro African. Well done! Say hello to everyone for me.

  12. Hi Emily,

    I enjoyed reading your experiences enroute to and now in Hargeisa. I look forwarding to seeing photos as well as reading more on your stay in beautiful Hargeisa. You remind me of a young woman by the name of Yvette Lopez (a.k.a Ifrah) who worked in Hargeisa a few years ago and who had a very informative and rather engaging blog. Knowing my fellow Somalilanders and Somalis in general, you will soon, if not already, be "Somalinized" and given a Somali name. Keep up the good work and keep us informed as you settle in.

    Viva Somaliland!

  13. Great read Emily.

    This is giving an insight to those who never set a foot on this part of the world and those who are interested in coming here in the future.

    You are a great writer and a good observer i say.

    Part Three should be even more interesting as you are trying to discover more every single day.

  14. You are really amazing person, how in the earth you decided to go the place that international media never mention its safety. In contrast, everyday reported the bad news such as warlords, Islamic extremes, piracy and killing innocent people on the streets.

    I cannot wait the next article about that country Somalia

  15. Hey em. That was amazing trip to unknown country – Somaliland. Enjoy the nice Somaliland dishes, and dont forget to visit the eastern parts of Somaliland like Sanaag and Togdheer…. Remember, East is most greeny area in the country, and consider Hargiesa a desert city.

    Looking forward to see your pictures

  16. Hi Emily,

    Senior students of Hargeiesa university are going to welcome you with open hands so why do you hiding your self in Hargeisa share your feeling with us

    your"s respectively

  17. Hi, Emily I am glade somebody like you visit to Somaliland and see how beautiful the country is. I can't wait to see the pictures you take. Good luck and make sure you enjoy, remember to have some of the Camel milk and Camel meat.

    Somalilander from Toronto Canada

  18. Hi Emily! Just want you to know your uncle Walt is so proud of you! We are enjoying your blog! Have fun be safe! XOXO Walt & Robin

  19. heart coming message to dear Emily

    Me and Farhan are warmly inviting you to visit us, really we are great sympathy for you how how brave and confident you are doing your trip Emily let us learn from each other lets share you ideas as we are Hargeisa university senior students we are putting on you more value we hope you are considering our heart coming request to visit again our campus Hargeisa university. if you accept contact us tell: 4411242 Mr.liban and Mr Farhan 4401132

    you's sincerely

    • Hey Liban & Farhan

      These are your personal numbers, aren't they? They are not the Uni's. You might be genuinely nice guys and don't mean anything bad, but consider the cultural differences. In the west, people don't exchange contact details unless they know each other. And by the way, Emily has already been to Hargeisa Uni.

  20. You university of Hargeisa students are scaring me boys, whats with the numbers and also you keep inviting her over she knows where University of Hargeisa is, if she wants to come down she will. Somalilandpress is connecting people but lets not post numbers, emails or private information, you guys can request her email by writing to Somalilandpress and if she is ok with it she will responde, leave the girl guys this is too much.

    Im concerned now 🙂 not really been sarcastic a bit but easy boys.

    • Iam writting to express my displeasure with your strong words. Shame of this negative perception. Are you telling what somalilandpress does. I was saddened the parsimonious and reckless words used in your message.

      You should consider the ramifications of such irresponsible words.

      kindly retract your words,

      Hargesia, Somaliland

  21. Hi Emily

    I've enjoyed reading your posts as well as comments from readers around the world. Thanks to somalilandpress, I'm now hooked on to this website because of its diverse contents. These guys are really doing a good job, I hope one day they become a big media company, promoting freedom of expression in Somaliland.
    How r u coping with the dusty wind of Hargeisa, we call it "Dabayl Xagaa" – The summer wind, and it blows this time of the year. I used to see women wrestling with their Hijabs when walking towards the wind!.
    Can't wait for those photos of places you've been to in the next few posts.


  22. Hey Emily,

    I am glad to hear that you arrived safely in Hargeisa and your trip over there sounds like it was quite the adventure! I really look forward to reading your posts and viewing your pictures. Are you going to have the chance to visit Puntland or other cities around Somaliland? Take care,


  23. hi Emily i hope u arehaving wonderful time in Hargiesa.
    be careful and make sure u dress like somalilander girl ahhahha just kidding.
    as i said take lots of pictures so we can see them when u are back

    zahra omar

  24. I envy Emily being in Hargeisa. I hardly know anything about it and Africa generally. Greetings from Oslo Emily. I hope you will enjoy staying in Hargeisa. I hope you will see Dallo and beautiful Surad ( saw them in Youtube).
    The serene Batalaale Beach at Berbera is another wonderful place to be. All my info is virtual, I hardly remember these places ,being young at that time.