Now we head out into the world, this time toward Somaliland, in Africa. It’s not an easy trip from Istanbul; first there is a five-hour plane ride to Djibouti. Then, there is a wait in the airport, followed by a flight on a regional airline — albeit one that lasts only 35 minutes — that brings us down on land known by many as Somaliland.
Turkish citizens cannot get into Somaliland without a visa, which can be purchased at the airport for $25.
These lands were colonized by the British. Today, English is taught and spoken throughout the more educated classes, though Somali, the regional local language, and Arabic are also widely spoken. The population of Somaliland today is 100 percent Muslim. There are mosques large and small everywhere, from larger cities to smaller towns and villages, and you can hear the call to prayer rising from above rooftops no matter where you are.
Somaliland is a part of the country of Somalia. This is the way it is accepted on a worldwide basis. But according to the officials of Somaliland, the situation is actually different. In 1991, Somaliland declared its autonomy from Somalia; despite this, not a single country has recognized its independence.
Interestingly, despite the lack of official global recognition, Somaliland does have its own president and prime minister, not to mention government cabinet ministers, etc. What it does not have is any recognition in any official capacity from its neighboring countries, or from the United Nations. That means the citizens of Somaliland travel on Somalian passports when heading out into the world. Actually, Ethiopia will accept people traveling on passports issued in Somaliland, but that’s it.
Hargeisa is the largest and most populated city in Somaliland; it is also the area’s capital. It has a population of around 750,000. Hargeisa sits in a valley, surrounded on both sides by hilly regions.
We decided to make our way to the top of the tallest hill overlooking the capital city; it was not an easy climb, but it was worth it in the end since the view was incredible. As for Hargeisa, it is not exactly the most developed of capitals. The roads are largely dusty and not paved, and most electricity is very expensive, as it comes from generators. There is actually only one traffic light for cars, though the light does not work and appeared to be about to topple over.
The Hargeisa city open market
We make our way over to the Hargeisa city open market. Many people appear uncomfortable with our presence; some warn us not to film, and some even yell about not wanting colonization again!
But when locals learn we are Muslim and from Turkey, they begin to smile. The scars left by colonization are vivid here; often Westerners will have stones thrown at them.
Meat is being sold on open tables at the market and people are also stirring it in large cooking pots nearby. The food being cooked here can be purchased by those working or shopping at the market.
Tailors here enjoy a very lively profession. People buy pieces of fabric at the open market and then head over to the nearby tailor to have outfits sewn for themselves. This is reflected in the large number of tailors hard at work at open tables in various corners of the marketplace.
We also notice that there are many shops selling secondhand clothing in the city center.
We pay a visit to the animal market in Hargeisa. It’s an extremely lively spot, with people walking around, looking carefully for animals they want to buy. The prices range dramatically, from the equivalent of around TL 700-800, up to around TL 2,000-2,500.
As we film, two camels begin jousting with one another near us, kicking up a huge amount of dust. The chaos starts to spread, as other animals get involved; one needs to be careful when wandering in this market.