Thursday, 3 August 2017

SOMALILAND: Do Not Visit Somaliland If You Plan Homosexual Activities,You Will End In Jail

Somaliland is an autonomous region in northwestern Somalia that functions as a de facto country. Although the government is working to establish full safety there, visiting is still not advised by the governments of Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US. However, it is seen as much safer than its counterparts: Somalia and Puntland.

The local Somaliland authorities declared the region's independence from the rest of Somalia in May 1991, but neither the Somali federal government nor any other country or international organization has recognized its sovereignty.

The area is viewed as much safer than most of its neighbouring East African countries. The local government is very anxious to show its stability and, as a result, foreigners are generally treated with respect and interest. High unemployment and increasing discontent at being an unrecognized area of stability in a grim region does cause some resentment, yet very little and nothing too serious to worry about.

For visitors exercising caution and respect, Somaliland is a fascinating and quite safe place to visit. The exact opposite of Somalia.

Cities Of Somaliland

Hargeisa — the capital city of Somaliland and is perhaps the safest city in the entire region. It's very cosmopolitan with a rich history and culture.

Berbera — major port and the economic lifeline of the Somaliland economy.




Zeila — a historic city near Djibouti and the beautiful Zeila Coast.


Initially a British protectorate, Somaliland gained its independence in 1960 and entered voluntarily into a union with the former Italian Somaliland five days later. Before long, struggles erupted, but the country remained lashed together under the dictator Mohammad Siad Barre until a vicious civil war broke out in 1988.

During the civil war, tens of thousand of Somalilanders were killed by the Siad Barre regime due to their tribal affiliations. At conclusion of the war in 1991, Somaliland had been decimated and bombed to the ground. It is still recovering today: travellers will see shells of tanks along major roads, blast marks from artillery along hillsides, bombed-out buildings and ruins remaining in cities.

After 1991, Somaliland began the painstaking process of separation and reconstruction. By 2010, it had it it's own free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections, with the presidential elections notable in particular for unseating the incumbent in a very close race. A remarkably peaceful transition of power followed.

Somaliland is a peaceful region. Violence is rare, and there is an active police force to ensure that laws are respected and that people abide to them.

As with the remainder of the former Somalia, law comes from three sources: the government, Islam (Sharia law), and clan (Xeer law). Extended family is of paramount importance in Somaliland, and the country now largely survives on remittances from relatives working abroad. Because no countries recognize Somaliland as independent, there are few employment opportunities. Unemployment is estimated to be at a staggering 80%.

Although the visa costs a reasonable USD30, there are many additional fees. At Hargeisa airport, you must exchange USD50 to Somaliland shillings at a bank rate so atrocious that you will surrender USD25. On top of this covert bank fee is an entrance tax of USD30. On the way out, you must pay USD32 to leave the region. Fees may vary.

You need a Somaliland visa to enter, Somalia visas are not accepted. Most travellers get a visa in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia or the Somaliland Mission in London. You can get details from the Somaliland government website or contact the Somaliland liaison office in Addis Ababa, phone +251 11 6635921, though they rarely pick up.

To get to the office which opens at 9:30 am, you should find the Edna Mall, go north on Namibia Avenue for about 100 meters until you see the Sheger Building on your left. Turn to the right on a street that has sign for the liaison office and walk down this street for about 300-400 meters. When you see another sign on your right, turn and you will see the embassy. Note that it changes locations often, this is valid as of January 2016.

The visa now costs $70 and ($120 multiple entry), and you will also need a photocopy of your passport,available at Sheger Building, the mall opposite to it and the little print shop in the shack on the corner of the first turn to the embassy for 1 birr and one passport photo. You are issued a visa on the spot and given a letter telling you to not pay any more money at the airport in Hargeisa or at the border they have pestered travelers for money before.

However, as of Jan 2017 there was an entry tax at the airport so make sure to ask about that at the visa office. A Somaliland visa is also allegedly available from the Somaliland representation in Djibouti. The unofficial Somaliland embassy in London will also issue a visa. The whole process is refreshingly non-bureaucratic and can be handled by post, which makes London the most convenient place to get a visa for travellers who live in Europe and/or want to obtain a visa before travelling to the region.

You can also apply online for a visa through the Somaliland Mission in the USA for USD80.

There is an international airport in Hargeisa with flights to/from Dubai, Djibouti City, and many other cities and towns across the Horn of Africa and the Somaliland region. There is also an international airport at Berbera with many international flights, most notably to Dubai. Note that some flights from Hargeisa actually start with a bus ride to Berbera. If you are not Somali you may have difficulty getting through the police checkpoints unless you have written permission from the commander of police or take an armed guard,the Jubba flight from Hargeisa to Dubai is like this.

Ethopian airlines has direct flights from Addis Ababa to Hargeisa. Daallo Airlines is wildly inconsistent. Jubba Airways or African Express are good options, with several flights a week connecting Hargeisa to Djibouti, Dubai, Nairobi and Entebbe. Djibouti to Hargeisa is about an hour-long flight. Dubai to Berbera takes three hours.

All flights to and from Somaliland are expensive by most standards, there are no budget airlines. The cheapest flights will be to and from Djibouti, usually around US$125 one-way when taxes and fees are figured in but not including the entry/exit/visa/exchange fees, which will tack on about another US$100 to any trip.

The most reliable way to travel to Somaliland appears to be with Ethiopian airlines as it is the safest and cleanest airline currently flying to Hargeisa and its flights are consistent, it flies to/from Addis Ababa daily, and soon a direct Nairobi route should hopefully begin. Tickets can be purchased in advance either online or at their ticketing offices in Addis or Hargeisa.

African Express is a Kenyan airline that flies to/from Berbera, primarily from Mogadishu, Nairobi and Dubai, but also less frequently from smaller locations such as Sharjah, Entebbe or Jeddah. Major routes use MD-82 jets, shorter hops may be on a DC-9 or 120-ER.

Jubba Airways is a Somali airline. Their flights go from Hargeisa and Berbera. They use a Soviet-made Ilyushin-18 aircraft. They are the only airline to/from Somaliland that currently accepts online booking reservations, but confirm with them seven days in advance before flying.

Daallo Airlines was formerly the only international carrier to fly to Somaliland or the former Somalia. They are currently open, but are famed for inconsistent service. Earlier in 2011, they had been shut down. They currently operate 2-3 services per week from Djibouti also using a Ilyushin-18 aircraft.

Also be aware that Jubba Airways usually waits until enough people have purchased tickets before departing. You may be waiting a week or more for a flight, regardless of whether you have a ticket or not.

It is very important to to re-confirm all flights 7 days in advance! All of the airlines above will not hesitate to sell your ticket to someone else if you don't take the warning seriously, Jubba in particular.

Ticket offices are closed on Friday,the weekend in the Islamic world. Plan accordingly.

Recently, East African Safari Air Express began regular service between Nairobi and Hargeisa, but it's very expensive a return flight from Nairobi to Hargeisa costs USD600.

It is possible to enter Somaliland from Ethiopia by road. You can avoid paying many of the fees charged at the airport. However, if you plan to leave Somaliland by road, it is advisable to make Ethiopian Visa arrangements (multiple entry) before traveling to Somaliland as the process of getting an Ethiopian Visa in Hargeisa can be quite cumbersome and time consuming.he Ethiopian visa in Hargeisa is easy to get, requires no paperwork and is available in one morning - cost USD20.

Another option is the open border to the north to Djibouti. Public transport 4x4s leave Djibouti every day in the late afternoon and travel across the desert throughout the night to arrive in Hargeisa the next morning. They leave from Avenue 26 in Djibouti City, at a price of DJF 5500. Despite government efforts, there are still some landmines. It is rare to see any, but look out for coloured rocks next to the road. If you see painted rocks DO NOT leave the Tarmac as a safety precaution just in case.

There is a bus service in Hargeisa, Burao, Berbera and Borama. There are also services between the major towns and adjacent villages operated by different types of vehicles such as 4 wheel drives and light goods vehicles (LGV).

To travel outside of major cities, the central government requires foreigners to take an armed guard with them.

The capital, Hargeisa, has a provincial museum. There is also a menagerie that includes lions, leopards, antelopes, birds, and reptiles. Outside of Hargeisa is Laas Gaal, a complex of caves and rock shelters that contain some of the earliest known art in the Somalia and the African continent, dating back to 9,000 B.C.

For breakfast, Somalis eat a flat bread called laxoox and cereal or porridge made of millet or cornmeal. They also eat rice or noodles with sauce or meat for lunch. Pasta became very popular under Italian rule. Bananas are common in the south of the region. A traditional soup called maraq also part of Yemen cuisine is made of vegetables, meat and beans and is usually eaten with flat bread or pitta bread. Beans are usually eaten for dessert, also oat or corn patties and salad can be eaten too.

Though not commonly served, Somalis eat xalwo, a jelly-like sweet made with water, sugar, and honey, though peanuts are sometimes added. Somalis who have spent some time in the Middle East eat baklava. Dates are also popular in Somaliland.

Many Somalis adore spiced tea. Milk is also common in rural areas of Somaliland. Alcohol is prohibited and you will not find it publicly served anywhere in the country.

There are hotels being constructed in all of Somaliland's major cities. Hargeisa has seen most development, with regards to its infrastructure and capacity, the airport has been expanded to cater to an increase in tourists, both foreign and domestic.

Locals in Hargeisa drink tap water filtered and treated by the Chinese government. The cleanliness is not adequate for visitors though. If you are not a local, you MUST drink bottled water, as drinking tap water can cause digestive issues such as diarrhea and/or vomiting. It is however very uncommon to find diseases such as cholera in the drinking water.

As with many developing-world countries, animals roam the streets and sanitation is poor. Be very aware of the very real risk of rabies. Bats may inhabit the countryside and their bites can be nearly invisible, leaving a person unaware until it's too late.

There is a low risk of malaria in Somaliland, but that threat is still present in rural areas. Many foreigners choose not to take anti-malarials.

Yellow fever is seen in the rural parts of Somaliland. If you plan to travel to other countries that require proof of yellow fever vaccination, be sure you are vaccinated!

Vaccination against other endemic diseases common in developing countries,typhoid, polio, hepatitis A & B, etc is strongly recommended. however these diseases are not common.

The infrastructure of this region is still lacking in parts and that includes healthcare. If you have health problems or have concerns about getting treatment in an emergency, you will be putting yourself at great risk as the medical services are primitive and unsanitary by modern standards in most areas.

The most modernized and written-about hospital is the Edna Adan University Hospital in Hargeisa. It's mostly a maternity hospital and, although the staff is excellent, medical treatment is limited by the serious dearth of resources in the country. Serious conditions will require evacuation. Come prepared or do not come at all.

African Express, Jubba and Daallo airlines fly to Djibouti, Dubai and Jeddah, Kenya, Mogadishu and Uganda. Ethiopian Airlines has twice daily flights to Addis Ababa. Be prepared to pay a $60 entry fee in the airport. Main Airport is Egal International Airport in Hargiesa (HGA).

Most people in Somaliland speak two of the three official languages: Somali, Arabic and English. Article 6 of the Constitution of 2001 designates the official language of Somaliland to be Somali,though Arabic is a mandatory subject in school and is used in mosques around the region and English is spoken and taught in schools. English was proclaimed an official language later, outside the constitution.

The Somali language belongs to the Cushitic branch of the Afroasiatic family. Its nearest relatives are the Afar and Oromo languages. Somali is the best documented of the Cushitic languages,with academic studies of it dating from before 1900.

Somali dialects are divided into three main groups: Northern, Benaadir and Maay. Northern Somali or Northern-Central Somali forms the basis for Standard Somali. Benaadir also known as Coastal Somali is spoken on the Benadir coast from Cadaley to south of Merca, including Mogadishu, as well as in the immediate hinterland. The coastal dialects have additional phonemes which do not exist in Standard Somali. Maay is principally spoken by the Digil and Mirifle (Rahanweyn) clans in the southern areas of Somalia.

Since Somali had long lost its ancient script,a number of writing systems have been used over the years for transcribing the language. Of these, the Somali alphabet is the most widely used, and has been the official writing script in Somalia since the government of former President of Somalia Siad Barre formally introduced it in October 1972.

The script was developed by the Somali linguist Shire Jama Ahmed specifically for the Somali language, and uses all letters of the English Latin alphabet except p, v and z. Besides Ahmed's Latin script, other orthographies that have been used for centuries for writing Somali include the long-established Arabic script and Wadaad's writing, in addition to various indigenous writing systems developed in the twentieth century.

With few exceptions, Somalis in Somaliland and elsewhere are Muslims, the majority belonging to the Sunni branch of Islam and the Shafi'i school of Islamic jurisprudence.As with southern Somali coastal towns such as Mogadishu and Merca, there is also a presence of Sufism, Islamic mysticism; particularly the Arab Rifa'iya tariiqa.Through the influence of the diaspora from Yemen and the Gulf states, stricter Wahhabism also has a noticeable presence.

Though traces of pre-Islamic traditional religion exist in Somaliland, Islam is dominant to the Somali sense of national identity. Many of the Somali social norms come from their religion. For example, most Somali women wear a hijab when they are in public. In addition, religious Somalis abstain from pork and alcohol, and also try to avoid receiving or paying any form of interest (usury). Muslims generally congregate on Friday afternoons for a sermon and group prayer.

Under the Constitution of Somaliland, Islam is the state religion of Somaliland, and no laws may violate the principles of Sharia. The promotion of any religion other than Islam is illegal, and the state promotes Islamic tenets and discourages behaviour contrary to "Islamic morals".

Somaliland has very few Christians. In 1913, during the early part of the colonial era, there were virtually no Christians in the Somali territories, with about 100–200 followers coming from the schools and orphanages of the handful of Catholic missions in the British Somaliland protectorate.The small number of Christians in the region today mostly come from similar Catholic institutions in Aden, Djibouti, and Berbera.

Somaliland falls within the Episcopal Area of the Horn of Africa as part of Somalia, under the Anglican Diocese of Egypt . However, there are no current congregations in the territory.The Roman Catholic Diocese of Mogadiscio is designated to serve the area as part of Somalia. However, since 1990 there has been no Bishop of Mogadishu, and the Bishop of Djibouti acts as Apostolic Administrator.The Adventist Mission also indicates that there are no Adventist members.

Somaliland has a population of about 3.5 million people. As of 2006, the largest clan family in Somaliland is the Isaaq, making up 80% of the total population. The Gadabuursi of the Dir clan comes second by population and thirdly, the Harti of the Darod clan.

The clan groupings of the Somali people are important social units, and have a central role in Somali culture and politics. Clans are patrilineal and are often divided into sub-clans, sometimes with many sub-divisions.

Somali society is traditionally ethnically endogamous. To extend ties of alliance, marriage is often to another ethnic Somali from a different clan. Thus, for example, a recent study observed that in 89 marriages contracted by men of the Dhulbahante clan, 55 (62%) were with women of Dhulbahante sub-clans other than those of their husbands; 30 (33.7%) were with women of surrounding clans of other clan families (Isaaq, 28; Hawiye, 3); and 3 (4.3%) were with women of other clans of the Darod clan family (Majerteen 2, Ogaden 1).

The Isaaq constitute the largest Somali clan in Somaliland. The populations of five major cities in Somaliland – Hargeisa, Burao, Berbera, Erigavo and Gabiley – are predominantly Isaaq.They exclusively dominate the Woqooyi Galbeed and Togdheer regions, and form a majority of the population inhabiting the western and central areas of Sanaag region, including the regional capital Erigavo. The Isaaq also have a large presence in the western and northern parts of Sool region as well, centered around Aynabo and its environs.

They also live in north-east of Awdal region. Eastern Sool's residents mainly hail from the Dhulbahante, a subdivision of the Harti confederation of Darod sub-clans, and are concentrated at Las Anod.The Warsangali, another Harti Darod sub-clan, constitute a large number of residents in the eastern Sanaag, and their population is mainly concentrated around Las Qorey.The Gadabuursi and Issa primarily live in the Awdal region, with the Gadabuursi centered at Borama, and the Issa concentrated around the Djibouti border at Zeila .

Somali lahoh (canjeero).

It is considered polite for one to leave a little bit of food on one's plate after finishing a meal at another's home. This tells the host that one has been given enough food. If one were to clean his or her plate that would indicate that one is still hungry. Most Somalis do not take this rule so seriously, but it is certainly not impolite to leave a few bits of food on one's plate.

Somali breakfast typically includes a flatbread called lahoh (injera), as well as liver, toast, harakoo, cereal, and porridge made of millet or cornmeal. Lunch can be a mixture of rice or pasta with meat and sauce.

Also consumed during lunchtime is a traditional soup referred to as maraq, which is also part of Yemeni cuisine. Maraq is made of vegetables, meat and beans and is usually eaten with flatbread or pita bread. Later in the day, a lighter meal is served that includes beans, ful medames, muffo (patties made of oats or corn), or a salad with more lahoh/injera.

Islam and poetry have been described as the twin pillars of Somali culture. Somali poetry is mainly oral, with both male and female poets. They use things that are common in the Somali language as metaphors. Almost all Somalis are Sunni Muslims and Islam is vitally important to the Somali sense of national identity. Most Somalis do not belong to a specific mosque or sect and can pray in any mosque they find.

Celebrations come in the form of religious festivities. Two of the most important are Eid ul-Adha and Eid ul-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month. Families get dressed up to visit one another, and money is donated to the poor. Other holidays include 26 June and 18 May, which celebrate British Somaliland's independence and the Somaliland region's establishment, respectively; the latter, however, is not recognised by the international community.

In the nomadic culture, where one's possessions are frequently moved, there is little reason for the plastic arts to be highly developed. Somalis embellish and decorate their woven and wooden milk jugs (haamo; the most decorative jugs are made in Ceerigaabo) as well as wooden headrests. Traditional dance is also important, though mainly as a form of courtship among young people. One such dance known as Ciyaar Soomaali is a local favourite.

An important form of art in Somali culture is henna art. The custom of applying henna dates back to antiquity. During special occasions, a Somali woman's hands and feet are expected to be covered in decorative mendhi. Girls and women usually apply or decorate their hands and feet in henna on festive celebrations like Eid or weddings. The henna designs vary from very simple to highly intricate.

Somali designs vary, with some more modern and simple while others are traditional and intricate. Traditionally, only women apply it as body art, as it is considered a feminine custom. Henna is not only applied on the hands and feet but is also used as a dye. Somali men and women alike use henna as a dye to change their hair colour. Women are free to apply henna on their hair as most of the time they are wearing a hijab.

Tourism in Somaliland

The rock art and caves at Laas Geel, situated on the outskirts of Hargeisa, are a popular local tourist attraction. Totaling ten caves, they were discovered by a French archaeological team in 2002 and are believed to date back around 5,000 years. The government and locals keep the cave paintings safe and only a restricted number of tourists are allowed entry.Other notable sights include the Freedom Arch in Hargeisa and the War Memorial in the city centre. Natural attractions are very common around the region. The Naasa Hablood are twin hills located on the outskirts of Hargeisa that Somalis in the region consider to be a majestic natural landmark.

The Ministry of Tourism has also encouraged travellers to visit historic towns and cities in Somaliland. The historic town of Sheekh is located near Berbera and is home to old British colonial buildings that have remained untouched for over forty years. Berbera also houses historic and impressive Ottoman architectural buildings. Another equally famous historic city is Zeila. Zeila was once part of the Ottoman Empire, a dependency of Yemen and Egypt and a major trade city during the 19th century.

The city has been visited for its old colonial landmarks, offshore mangroves and coral reefs, towering cliffs, and beach. The nomadic culture of Somaliland has also attracted tourists. Most nomads live in the countryside.

Bus services operate in Hargeisa, Burao, Gabiley, Berbera and Borama. There are also road transportation services between the major towns and adjacent villages, which are operated by different types of vehicles. Among these are taxis, four-wheel drives, minibuses and light goods vehicles (LGV).

The most prominent airlines serving Somaliland is Daallo Airlines, a Somali-owned private carrier with regular international flights that emerged after Somali Airlines ceased operations. African Express Airways and Ethiopian Airlines also fly from airports in Somaliland to Djibouti City, Addis Ababa, Dubai and Jeddah, and offer flights for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages via the Egal International Airport in Hargeisa. Other major airports in the region include the Berbera Airport.

WARNING: The Republic of Somaliland is not recognized by any government. If you run into legal problems, you are on your own as there are no consulates to turn to for help. Learning of local laws is very important if you wish to minimize the chances of conflict with local authorities.
Somaliland is quite safer compared to other parts of Somalia. Knowing a little of the local language or having an interpreter can go a long way when requesting information should you wish to learn about the surrounding area.

The Somaliland government requires that all foreigners take armed guards when traveling outside of the major cities as an extra precaution. These guards are known as SPUs,Special Protection Units and are available from the local police department or the office of tourism in Hargeisa.

Travel Warning WARNING: LGBT Travelers: Homosexuality is illegal in Somaliland and can lead to imprisonment and even execution. If you plan to engage in homosexual activity, do not visit Somaliland.

Tourism Observer
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