HARGEISA, 5 February 2010 (Somalilandpress) – There are some places you just can’t consider for a vacation. While even Iraq has recently opened up to carefully handled tours, Somalia remains out of bounds. What with an Islamist movement proudly proclaiming its ties to Al-Qaeda, and a decades-long civil war between rival clans, there’s no chance of exploring the Somali culture and landscape, right?

Actually, that’s only half true.

The Republic of Somaliland is the northern third of what most maps show as Somalia. Anyone paying attention to the news knows that Somalia hasn’t been a unified nation for quite some time, but this one region, a little larger than England and home to 3.5 million, has managed to bring stability and a developing democracy to its people. Born out of the colony of British Somaliland, it gained independence in 1960 and immediately joined former Italian Somaliland to create what we now know as Somalia. A brutal dictatorship and a civil war later, it declared independence in 1991 and has quietly built a nation as the rest of Somalia disintegrated into chaos.

But no other country recognizes Somaliland as an independent state, which makes it very hard to get international investment and attention. Now Somaliland officials are hoping an increase in tourism will help to literally put their country on the map. It already has regular contact with its neighbors Ethiopia and Djibouti, and has representatives in several major capitals. The Tourism Ministry is busy making plans and there’s a good website highlighting Somali Heritage and Archaeology.

With a countryside only thinly populated by nomads, Somaliland has good potential for safaris. Lions, cheetahs, zebras, antelope, and other animals are easily spotted. Even more stunning are the well-preserved paintings at Laas Geel, believed to be some of the oldest in Africa. They’re located near the capital Hargeysa and remained unreported until 2002. Colorful paintings of hunters and animals date back an estimated 9,000 years.

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Other towns to check out are Barbera and Zeila, two ports with excellent coral reefs as well as old colonial buildings from British and Ottoman times. More important than bricks and mortar, though, is the chance to interact with a culture that has had comparatively little contact with the outside world. This is a rare chance to see a country unaccustomed to tourism, where there are no “tourist sites” and “local hangouts”. For the adventure traveler, it’s still pretty much uncharted territory.

After almost 20 years of independence, Somaliland is beginning to get some recognition from adventure travelers. The most recent edition of Lonely Planet Ethiopia has a short section on the country, and three young backpackers recently posted a video of their trip there on YouTube. A reporter from the Pulitzer Center has also covered the country on an online video. Somaliland could become the adventure travel destination of the new decade.

While Somaliland has some good potential, travelers should take care. Government bodyguards are required (costing $10 a day each) and there are few facilities for visitors. The country has also attracted the ire of Al-Shabab, an Islamist group with ties to Al-Qaeda that wants to take over the Horn of Africa. In 2008 a series of deadly car bombings blamed on Al-Shabab left two dozen dead in Hargeysa. Also, the countryside is not yet safe enough for foreigners to travel overland from Ethiopia on public transport. There are regular flights to Hargeysa from Addis Ababa and other regional capitals. The office for Somaliland in Addis Ababa (which is not recognized as an embassy by the government of Ethiopia) can issue visas and give advice. If you do decide to go, it’s best to plan well in advance and talk to the government as soon as possible.

Written by:
Sean McLachlan
Source: Gadling


  1. A well written article… I can't wait until we turn Berbera into the next Marakesh and then Dubai… One day iA…

  2. Nothing else i can say about Somaliland , truly they are the really ppl who have created the hope to themselves without any help from the out side countries .
    and it is not the time to give up. Somaliland keep it going

  3. Yes I agree its a good article but I hate the way it refers to al shabab as a "Islamist group". As if being part of a Islamist group is a negative thing. Al shabab is a "terrorist group" not and Islamist one, I dont beleive that anything with the word islam in it can be viewed as a negative thing. So as Muslims I think we all have a responsibly to look out for things like that and stop it from being accepted or seen as being politically correct .so that people can differentiate between Islam and terrorism.

    • Well done Warda for pointing out to this erroneous description or wording of groups that cause nothing but havoc to the very essence of Islam (peace). Many reporters are, nowadays, accustomed to the misuse of the words 'Islamist and terrorist'. While the two should not be used in the same context at all. The two words contrast the same way war and peace contrast. Yet, all these so called reporters use the words in such an ignorant manner. Some of them, as we know, use it to purposefully try and damage Islam, but I can say they are only fooling themselves and thus showing their incompetence in what they are supposed to possess expertise in.

  4. I just want to clarify for the auther that: You are correct, Somaliland gained its independance from Britain in 26 June, 1960 and Somalia was freed by the Italians on 1st. July, 1960. The two countries united on 1st July, 1960 and formed: the “Somali Republic”. Somaliland removed the last four letters (land)and Somalia have delted the last letter (a). They agreed to share the name “Somali” and form a new unity government called “Somali Republic”. After sometime, the Italian Somalis returned their original name “Somalia” without negotiating with the other party and from that day, the Somalilanders started their struggel to regain their lost independance. Thanks to Allah the mighty, their independance returned again on the 18th of March, 1991. Now; there are two neighbouring countries: Somaliland and “Somalia”. We recognize Somalia as a neighbouring country but unfortunately, they did not yet recognized us as a sovereign country although they know very well that, the dream of great Somali is dead and will never be possible to unite the five somalis (Somaliland, Somalia, DJibouti, Ogaden and NFD occupied by Kenya), but because of their ill-fatedness they are recklessly screaming that, Somaliland is part of Somalia which we don’t care.

    Long live Somaliland.


  5. Agnes Chan, a pop singer is announcing in Japan that Somaliland is a very dangerous place. She visited the capital Hargeysa of Somaliland this year. She says that Somaliland is Somalia, the travel there is impossible without the bodyguard, and the people in Somaliland despair.

    Is it true?

    Because we do not know Somaliland so much, it is not significant to ask her.
    But, if you question on Twitter in English, she will answer. http://twitter.com/agneschan

    • Yes Somaliland is poor its still recovering from almost 30 years under Somali dictatorship rule who neglected all basic services including education, hospitals, and main infrustructure. Furtheremore, he bombed the place for 10 years, reducing the main towns to nothing, when that was not enough, he hired Rhodesian bombers (now Zimbabwe when whites ruled), they created the biggest destruction killing over 500, 000 people.

      Now its hard to recover fast without international recognition and access to funding.

      Somaliland is peacefull, its not part of Somalia, and it will hold it's third elections soon.

      We dont care about what little known Japanese pop-singer says – however, we invite the people of Japan to come over and see it for themselves.

      I am sure it's not first time she lied to the Japanese people, I don't even know her but I can tell she lies a lot.

      I personally love Japanese technology but China is more important for Africa because Japanese dont care about any thing only themselves Chinese at least go other places, Japanese go no where.

      • Thank you for teaching the truth.

        Very few Japanese who went sightseeing in Somaliland have written that Somaliland was peaceful and beautiful in their blog. However, the Japanese who is planning the travel to Somaliland in the future felt fear, because the singer said that Somaliland is a dangerous place.
        I will tell them that Somaliland is still peaceful.

        When I become rich, I want also to travel to Somaliland!