Somaliland: a special ‘country’
Somaliland is a de facto independent country in the Horn of Africa. It is officially recognized as part of Somalia, but the civil war in the south has made it independent since 1993. Since then it has been quiet in this part of Somalia. And this silence offers opportunities for tourism. Because the country has much to offer: heritage (e.g. Italian architecture and ancient petroglyphs), incredible nature and a rich culture. So come along and see for yourself.
Name: Republic of Somaliland
Part of: Somalia
Population: 3.85 million
Surface area: 137,600 km²
Language: Somali, Arabic
Neighbouring countries: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Puntland (part of Somalia)
The capital Hargeisa is a dusty affair. There is little asphalt and the many motor bikes mainly stir up a lot of dust. But under the dust you will also discover the vibrant story of the city. Here you will find the National Museum and also the War Memorial of the Civil War. The markets are just as fascinating, as you can see the famous money changers. Hidden behind large stacks of banknotes they can help you changing to the Somaliland Shilling.
The most famous place in Somaliland is probably Laas Geel (or Laas Gaal). Here you will find a complex of ten rock formations with petroglyphs dating back from 9,000 to 3,000 BC. Of course, the Somalis had known the petroglyphs for a long time, but they actually only became known to the outside world in 2002, after a few French researchers had visited the spot.
The camel market a highlight of Somaliland? Hell yes! The camel markets in Somaliland are known in many parts of Africa. Even at the camel market in Egypt, you have the chance to encounter a camel from Somalia. In the market you will be amazed with all the animals that walk around. And there are many, very many!
The port city of Berbera is one of the oldest Somali cities. It is also one of the most important, due to its location on the Gulf of Aden. When you walk through the city centre you will also see a mixture of Ottoman, British and Persian architecture. Outside the city you also have several shipwrecks, here you can sail with a boat.
Somaliland’s history starts deep in prehistoric times. At that time, the areas that now make up Somaliland were inhabited by various tribes who probably originated in the areas around the Nile Valley.
Petroglyphs in Laas Geel are witnesses to the fact that the nation here mainly lived from hunting and as collectors. Pyramid-like structures and tombs are early evidence that this part of Somalia was in contact with traders from Egypt and ancient Greece.
Rich spice traders
In Roman times the area of Hargeisa was an important trading place for cinnamon from India, Sri Lanka and the Moluccas. The transit of spices was so big that the Romans thought that cinnamon came from Somaliland itself. The price agreements made between Arab and Somali traders pushed the price of the lucrative spices to unprecedented heights. It made the region rich.
Start of Islam
Due to its location, the area around Berbera and Hargeisa was converted to Islam early on. Islamic sultanates also grew up around these cities, such as the Ifaat and Adal Sultanate. In the course of its history, this sultanate increasingly developed into a puppet state of the Ottoman Empire. Eventually, the area of Adal was annexed to the Egyptian empire of Mohamed Ali Pasha.
Colonization and independent
What began around 1827 with a friendly trade treaty between the British and the Habr Awal clan, ended in the total annexation of the area as British Somaliland in the British Empire, some 50 years later. The ‘Race for Africa’ did not miss Somaliland either. Around 1900 the Somalis had had enough and rebelled under the leadership of Mohammed Abdullah ‘Mad Mullah’ Hassan. This Anglo-Somali war lasted 20 years and resulted in a bloody defeat for Hassan’s troops. After the Second World War, a new opportunity for the Somalis to claim independence came: The British Empire fell apart. As both the Somalis from Italian and British Somaliland fought together during the war they decided to merge the two former colonies on July 1, 1960 into the Somali Republic.
War and secession
The joy over the new independence of the country was short-lived. The Northern residents of Somaliland felt subservient to the Southern Somalis. Within a year of independence, insurgents began to bring secession of Somaliland. When the revolt failed Somaliland was for decades stuck in a strong civil war with the government in Mogadishu. The low point was the Isaaq genocide, which killed between 50,000 and 200,000 Somalilanders. In addition to the start of the civil war, the fall of the regime in Mogadishu also initiated the renewed independence of Somaliland. In early May 1991, Abdil Rahman Tuur was installed as the first president of Somaliland. Since the independence it has been relatively quiet in Somaliland. The Civil War raging in the rest of Somalia has passed Somaliland.