Hargeisa , 29 July 2009 (SomalilandPress)-As the proposed date for elections approaches, tensions here are rising. It is my deepest hope that whatever the outcome, the political situation only moves in a positive direction, though I myself am becoming increasingly uncertain. It’s impossible not to follow the political happenings here. Somaliland is a place that is easy to become attached to, perhaps because the country is so unique and the passion of the local people is perceptible and contagious, or perhaps because it is small and it seems like everyone knows each other. Spend a few months here and I bet you’ll start to call yourself a Somalilander, unless you’re one of the many (among the relatively small population of) foreigners here who do not bother to meet any native Somalis but rather isolate yourself in a compound, only seeing the light of day through an escorted car window. If that’s the case it’s like saying you’ve been to Paris when you never left the airport.

In typical tourist fashion, I finally had the opportunity to visit Laas Geel last week. Laas Geel roughly means “camel watering hold” and it is the site of ancient caves with paintings that date back to approximately 5000 B.C. The site was more impressive than I had imagined. Two carloads of us followed the road towards Berbera until we came to the Laas Geel checkpoint, uncertain if we would be admitted or not. After we picked up a local man who said he knew where to go and proceeded to eat all our biscuits then tried to extort money from us, we arrived near the mouth of the caves dressed in our best dirac and proceeded to walk up the rocky path to truly amazing caves. I was picturing a small handful of paintings scrawled out on a rock, but there were more paintings than one can count, and you could really get a sense of the history and awe of the place. The only people we saw there were nomads who were herding their animals and we were quite out of place in retrospect, with our cameras and bottled waters. Laas Geel and the largely unexplored areas around it have huge potential for historical findings and perhaps for tourism in the future. Just imagine flying into Berbera, scuba diving in the Gulf of Aden, then driving a short hour to Laas Geel, and eventually onward to Hargeisa. Not bad if you ask me.
Apart from that trip, I recently experienced my first concert since I’ve been here and it was a veritable party. We were a crowd of several hundred people, more women than men, and everyone was decked out in their most elegant clothes. It was a strange contrast to the daily life here and at first it was hard for me to get used to seeing the usually very modest, mysterious women I pass on the street with their hair exposed and their hips swaying. The performers were excellent and interacted directly with the crowd, inviting strangers to dance alongside them. My dancing moves were less than stellar; I was always a few beats ahead of the music if I had the courage to move at all. But that didn’t stop me from singing along with a huge grin on my face.
A few days ago I was running short on money so I made a phone call to the States and had my first personal Dahabshiil money transfer experience. I had been to Dahabshiil before to receive local payments, but never to retrieve money sent from abroad. And I thought the non-Somali readers might be interested in the financial system here, as it is quite fascinating to me. Simply put, there are no banks in Somaliland. This of course means that credit cards and checks are simply not recognized, it’s a cash only system. And there are no debit cards or ATMS, so cash only means cash only. Dahabshiil does have an arrangement where they keep your money for you and you can go there to withdrawal it, but there is of course no interest. Dahabshiil is technically a money transfer company, and the closest thing to a bank they have here, but there are no loans, mortgages or credit offered. When I received money from Dahabshiil, the sender went to the local Dahabshiil office in Boston and provided the clerk with his name, ID, and phone number, as well as my name and phone number.

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I immediately received a text message across the ocean in Hargeisa alerting me that there was money waiting for me at the Dahabshiil office. I went there, showed them my text message, told them the name of the sender, and magic! That was that. What’s amazing to me is that it is really a trust system, it is not backed by any sort of federal agency and if they don’t provide you with your money there are no official repercussions. Sure their reputation would suffer, but still I can’t imagine such a system working in other countries I’ve been to. If you want to test the system for yourself, I invite you to send me money any time.

Thank you for reading and best wishes!
Emily will be writing to Somalilandpress.com 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.


  1. Hi Em,
    When your friend called me I was in NYC and not in Dahabshiil office, however your friend was given a good service. As always SomalilandPress looks forward to publishing your work and I know that many of your readers also enjoy reading your articulate writing.
    I see that you are exploring every part of Somaliland from Sanaag to Saahil, well done. With the election coming I hope that my people will put Somaliland first before anything else and remember the words of JFK. "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country".


  2. Emily now hopefully you will have another view of your Somali friends in the States and why they are they, the Somali people are not as bad as the media betrays thems whether from the North or South, its their corrupted, uneducated so called warlord leaders that let them Somali people down. Hopefully now you wont say why they are here in the States hahahaha…

    Rayale is just another warlord hiding behind Somaliland democracy, he finally showed his true color, I'm just glade Somaliland friends seen him. Let's hope they wont give any money to that so called National Electoral Commission (NEC), another bunch of incompetent khat addicts with belly the size of a pregnant woman.

  3. Emily good on you, you went hard and head on, that's the right spirite and attitude. You better run away though now before warlord Rayale makes the situation even worse than it is, this is Africa, one day sunny, the next guns blazing.

    I bet Rayale wants to shut down Somalilandpress now – he is one angry warlord right now Emily be aware.

  4. emily,its good to read your experiencess in somaliland,am a somalilander born abroad but speak my language(somaliland) as good as most,hoping to see my land in october,thanks to the courage you have shown by travelling to a country that does not "exist",many regards to somalilanders wherever the might temporarily find themselves,said

  5. emily,its good to read your experiencess in somaliland,am a somalilander born abroad but speak my language(somaliland) as good as most,hoping to see my land in october,thanks to the courage you have shown by travelling to a country that does not "exist",many regards to somalilanders wherever they might temporarily find themselves,said

  6. i hope clanism does not tear our land apart,we have something unique in africa,our traditions and our tolerence to all who visit our lovely country regardless of religion or origin,lets keep it that way inspite of the present day government of corruption and love of power,power comes from the people and sitting on the chair of power is transient if you disregard the people who put you there,you will go but SOMALILAND will always be there,LONG LIVE SOMALILAND!!!

  7. Kayse, you are sad, sad, sad, person. Rayale is not a warlord, he was elected. Try and have an election in Somalia, before you talk about Somaliland. Emily is apolitical, but even she would appreciate that in Somaliland, elections are held peacefully, and the only warlords are in Somalia and Pirateland

    • Sxb we should wait and see after September if you still think he is a saint, president…or whatever, to me i dont need to wait September I seen his true color and he is nothing but a warlord. For some it takes longer than others to know the danger ahead.

      He is history.

  8. Thanks Emily for sharing with us your tour experiences. You've done something great cuz , I live in Hargeisa and it didn't happen me to see places you have seen like Lasgeel.

    I also liked your piece of writing in your previous article about my University and the challenges it is facing currently.

    I really enjoyed your writings. Go for your adventure and feel home.

    One more thing, optimistically, Somaliland is good at recovering political shocks. So thanks for hoping good for the people and the land.

  9. I really aprciate your experience in Lasgeel and possitive impresion about Somaliland and its people .As I am somalia we used to call the people of Somaliland ( qaldaan),which means wrong people , but now they proved the oposite .We have to congraatulate them for their effort and success.

  10. Hi Emily,

    You deserve high praise for the way you are selling my country. We all appreciated your ingenuity service you dedicated writting articles on Somaliland. I personally admire your positive atttitude and your ability to motivate our people to contribute to the progress of their country. We are pleased to have you as a Somaliland fried.

    I don't like to answer words on the streets saying that Somaliland is near to collapse. This rumour could be further from the truth.

    Kayse are you Faqash or those who forced us to flee our homes. The words you post that indicating president Riyale as a war lord were shoking us. Retract your irresponsible words and apologize on air.

    Go to Mogadishu and help those who flee their homes and spent all the days the coolest places in the town.

    Long live Somaliland for ever,

    Hargeisa, Somaliland

  11. Emily you deserve high praise. We all appreciated your ingenuity service you dedicated for writting articles on Somaliland. I personally admire your positive attitude and your ability to motivate our people to contribute to a good cause of improving their country.

    We all pleased to have you as a freind of Somaliland

    Hargeisa, Somaliland

  12. Apparently this place is either run by nincompoops or are afraid just like the "free Press" of i.e ethiopia,saudi arabia,uganda et all.if you are afraid to print comments then please don't ask us as readers of your web paper to send comments!!! ashamed of the likes of you.of course am not in africa and face the same hazards you face but please forgive me if i get angry.my personal opinion is that rayale kahin is A WARLORD in the Making,he will create enmitity amongst our people and then deapart to join his wife in france and leave behind him bloodshed and chaos.but,mr. kahin that will not happen,the mighty snm beat the fagash army and somaliland and its courageouse people will prevail.!!!LONG LIVE SOMALILAND.