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SOMALILAND

TOWN CENTRE Central Hargeisa is an agreeable and intriguing place to wander around, with a friendly easy-going atmosphere and no shortage of hustle and bustle around the market area.
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Straddling the Borama road about 50km west of Hargeisa, the ancient settlement of Gabiley is – rather astonishingly – the fifth-largest town in Somaliland, with a population estimated at 80,000 in 2015.
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The art rock Dhagah-Koure Situated 45km northwest of Hargeisa amid a chain of spectacular granite outcrops (also transliterated as Dagah Kuure, Dagax Gure and variations thereof) was the most celebrated rock art site in Somaliland prior to the 2002 discovery of Las Geel.
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After reaching the base of the escarpment base at Rugay, the road from Erigavo straightens out to run more or less directly across the flat coastal plain, emerging after 33km – about an hour’s drive – at the venerable port of Maydh (N 11°00.320, E  47°06.588). It’s a  fascinating stretch of road,  passing through a ...
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The second-largest city in Somaliland and capital of Togdheer Province, Burao–transliterated as ‘Burco’ in Somali – lies 100km east of Hargeisa as the crow flies, but more than twice that distance along the only surfaced road, through Berbera and Sheikh.
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The historic town of Berbera has been a centre of maritime trade since ancient times. It stands on the Gulf of Aden opposite Yemen, a strategic location along the ancient trade route between the Red Sea and India, and of similar importance during the more recent Cold War.
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These two inherently humdrum towns lie in the central region of Togdheer along the main road running southeast from Berbera towards Erigavo. The smaller town of Sheikh, roughly halfway between Berbera and Burao, is the one place where a surfaced trunk road breaches the spectacular Golis Escarpment, as well as being the springboard for trips...
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Regarded by the few who’ve been there to be the most attractive beach in Somaliland,  El  Sheikh is an isolated resort-in-waiting that fringes the  Gulf of Aden roughly  100km  north of  Hargeisa as the crow flies,  and  85km  west of Berbera.
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TOWN CENTRE Central Hargeisa is an agreeable and intriguing place to wander around, with a friendly easy-going atmosphere and no shortage of hustle and bustle around the market area.
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The culinary scene in Hargeisa was all but limited to a few identikit restaurants that served up a small and rather predictable selection of local staples, usually pasta and/or rice with a meat stew.
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The Republic of Somaliland comprises the most northwesterly part of Somalia. It extends for roughly 400km from west to east along the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden, and is nowhere more than about 150km long from north to south. It lies between latitudes 8˚ and 11˚N and longitudes 43˚ and 49˚E.
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There is no shortage of accommodation in Burao but with the notable exception of the suburban City Plaza, it is all rather bland and functional.
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Somaliland is the country that isn’t. Still unrecognised by the rest of the world despite more than twenty years of de facto independence, Somaliland is an exciting nation reverberating with fascinating history and nomadic heritage. Our group tours and tailor made holidays to Somaliland take you to a country that could not be further off...
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Travelling is all about shared experiences, so why not group together with friends or family and book one of our tour as a small group? If you have two or more people in your group we will be delighted to offer you a group discount.
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One of the oldest ports on the east African coast, Zeila (also known as Zayla or Seylac) is set on a narrow sandy mangrove-lined peninsula that protrudes into the shallow island-studded waters of the Gulf of Aden, some 25km southeast of the Djibouti border. Supporting a population of no more than 5,000, the port today...
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The third-largest town in  Somaliland,  with a  population estimated at  230,000, Borama is the capital of Awdal Province. It is set at an altitude of 1,450m amid relatively fertile hills 110km west of Hargeisa and a mere 1km from the international boundary with Ethiopia (note, however, that there is no border crossing in town, though...
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Tog Wajaale is the only legal overland crossing point from Ethiopia, the Tog-Wajaale name shared by a pair of small, rundown, and uninspiring towns that flank the Wajaale River, the shallow wadi that delineates Somaliland’s most important international border.
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Straddling the Borama road about 50km west of Hargeisa, the ancient settlement of Gabiley is – rather astonishingly – the fifth-largest town in Somaliland, with a population estimated at 80,000 in 2015.
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The art rock Dhagah-Koure Situated 45km northwest of Hargeisa amid a chain of spectacular granite outcrops (also transliterated as Dagah Kuure, Dagax Gure and variations thereof) was the most celebrated rock art site in Somaliland prior to the 2002 discovery of Las Geel.
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The main – indeed only – road running west from Hargeisa reaches Borama after 115km, a substantial town seldom visited by travellers unless they happen to be heading for Djibouti.
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After reaching the base of the escarpment base at Rugay, the road from Erigavo straightens out to run more or less directly across the flat coastal plain, emerging after 33km – about an hour’s drive – at the venerable port of Maydh (N 11°00.320, E  47°06.588). It’s a  fascinating stretch of road,  passing through a ...
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Somaliland’s foremost natural attraction, the Daallo (or Daloh) Forest lies in the spectacular Calmadow (or Al Mado) Range, a tall limestone and gypsum escarpment that rises dramatically from the low-lying coastal plain between Maydh and Bosaso.
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The administrative capital of Sanaag, Erigavo (also spelled Ceerigaabo) is an unassuming highland town of around 110,000 people, which makes it Somaliland’s fourth-largest settlement.
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The largest, most sparsely populated, and least developed of Somaliland’s five administrative regions, Sanaag extends over approximately 54,000km2 and supports a population estimated at around 200,000, most of whom are nomadic pastoralists.
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The rocky hills of the Somali interior are home to the Beira, a small and little-known antelope that is near-endemic to Somaliland.
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A southwesterly extension of the Golis Range – the long escarpment that also includes Mount Wagar and the Daallo Forest – Ga’an Libah (sometimes transcribed as Gacan Libaax) is a tall limestone ridge that rises to an elevation of 1,720m within the triangle formed by the surfaced roads connecting Berbera to Hargeisa and Burao.
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Less than 30 minutes’ drive northeast of Hargeisa, close to the dry Dogor watercourse, lies the small village of Aw-Barkadle. It is named after Sharif Yusuf Barkadle,  one of the most significant of the many  Islamic saints that emigrated from Arabia to Somaliland in medieval times.
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The 150km strip of asphalt running northeast from Hargeisa to Berbera is probably the best-maintained road in the country, and certainly the busiest.
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Somaliland’s largest town has a dusty low-rise feel more in line with a provincial administrative center than a national capital.
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Little is known about Hargeisa (literally ‘the place where the hide is sold’) prior to the late 19th century.
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What few international flights there are to Somaliland land at Hargeisa Egal International Airport, which lies immediately south of town, about 1km past the Ambassador Hotel.
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Most places in central  Hargeisa are within easy walking distance of each other. Alternatively, regular buses and minibusses run along all the main roads, charging a fixed rate of Ssh2,000 (US0.20), with so few route variations that you are pretty safe just hopping on any public transport heading in the direction you want and hoping...
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Hargeisa is a relatively small capital, and it is quite easy to find your way around. Its central geographic feature is the Maroodi Jeex (‘Elephant Wadi’), a normally dry watercourse whose name harks back to a time when wildlife was more prolific than it is today.
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There is no shortage of hotels in Hargeisa, overall standards are surprisingly high and most places represent a good value by African standards.
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The culinary scene in Hargeisa was all but limited to a few identikit restaurants that served up a small and rather predictable selection of local staples, usually pasta and/or rice with a meat stew.
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MARKETS  The whole of central Hargeisa functions as a gigantic, partially covered market known locally as Soukha Shiraaqle (Tented Market) in reference to the tarpaulin shelters that used to cover most of the stalls. 
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AIRLINES Most of the local airline offices are clustered in the adjacent Deero Mall and Durdur Business Centre on Independence Avenue. Full local contact details are included below.
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Most panels include a combination of monochromatic and polychromatic animal and human representations, with the most commonly used colors being red, black, white, and yellow ochre. The most important shelter, on the southeast face of Las Geel, has an inclined ceiling where the almost 100m2 surface is daubed with at least 350 individual paintings. Several...
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The oldest quarter of Berbera, known locally as Darole, is also the most northerly part of town, hemmed in by the old port to the west, a series of tidal flats to the north, and several recently resettled suburbs to the south and east. Darole itself can be divided into two distinct districts, with a...
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Borama is the trio that lies within a 25km radius of the modern town. Abasa, the best preserved of these three ancient ruins, is also the most remote, situated about 25km north of Borama as the crow flies, and double that distance by road.
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Around town, The main point of interest in  Sheikh is the extensive  Ferdusa Ruins, which lie on the northern outskirts of town, not even five minutes’ walk from the Maashaalaah Hotel. As accessible as the unexcavated site is, however, not a great deal is known about it, other than it represents the remains of a...
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The administrative capital of  Sanaag,  Erigavo  (also spelled  Ceerigaabo)  is an unassuming highland town of around 110,000 people, which makes it Somaliland’s fourth-largest settlement.
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WHAT  TO  SEE  AND  DO  If you arrive in  Burao expecting superlatives,  you’ve come to the wrong place. In most respects, this pleasant town comes across as a scaled-down, dustier and even more prosaic version of the capital, centered upon a bustling central market area where town dwellers and rural visitors get on with the...
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A century ago, Ga’an Libah supported large herds of elephant as well as a significant population of the lions for which it is named. There’s nothing quite so exciting there today, but it still protects relatively dense populations of greater and lesser kudu, Speke’s gazelle, dik-dik, gerenuk, Beira, klipspringer, and desert warthog. The cliffs are...
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The small town of Sheikh (population 35,000) lies at a relatively lofty altitude of 1,470m in the Golis Range, a mountainous escarpment that separates the coastal plain from the main Somali Plateau. Also sometimes spelled Sheekh or Sheik, the town straddles the surfaced main road to Burao about 70km southeast of Berbera. The ascent here...
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The main – indeed only – road running west from Hargeisa reaches Borama after 115km, a substantial town seldom visited by travellers unless they happen to be heading for Djibouti. This same road provides access to Dhagax Khoure and Dhagax Marodi – important prehistoric rock art sites that have both suffered from recent defacements –...
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There are fewer hotels than might be expected in  Berbera,  and only two–the central  Damal and out-of-town  Maan-soor  –  that approach touristic standards. Several budget hotels can be found at the southern end of the town centre, and while none truly stands out, they are mostly acceptable enough.
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Erigavo is of interest mainly as the closest town and gateway to the lovely Daallo Forest and the stupendously scenic Tabah Pass, which descends from the escarpment to the port of Maydh.
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The only accommodation for tourists is a basic hut at the reserve headquarters that now operates as a community guesthouse and charges US$15 per person inclusive of a mattress and possibly bedding. No food is available in the reserve, so you will need to be self-sufficient.
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Around the Scenic Overlook, The 6km dirt road between Karin and the Scenic Overlook is the obvious starting point for any exploration of Daallo, passing as it does through an area of thick highland forest dominated by the coniferous Juniperus procera. 
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After reaching the base of the escarpment base at Rugay, the road from Erigavo straightens out to run more or less directly across the flat coastal plain, emerging after 33km – about an hour’s drive – at the venerable port of Maydh (N 11°00.320, E  47°06.588).
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Oog and surrounds Situated in the periodically unsettled province of Sool, the endearingly named town of Oog is of little interest to travelers except as the main junction for the more popular of the two routes to Erigavo. The presence of two adequate hotels also makes it a potential overnight alternative to Burao prior to...
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The third-largest town in  Somaliland,  with a  population estimated at  230,000, Borama is the capital of Awdal Province. It is set at an altitude of 1,450m amid relatively fertile hills 110km west of Hargeisa and a mere 1km from the international boundary with Ethiopia (note, however, that there is no border crossing in town, though...
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When to visit Somaliland, Suggested Itineraries, Tour operators, Safety, Somaliland embassies, How to obtain Somaliland visa, custom and immigration, Getting there & away, Bribery & bureaucracy, Land mines, Gay travelers, Money & budgeting, Getting around, What to take, Accommodation, Eating & drinking, Public holidays & weekends, Shopping, Photography, Media & Communications, Cultural & Etiquette &...
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A major ambiguity associated with travel in Somaliland is the erratically enforced requirement to travel everywhere outside Hargeisa accompanied by at least one member of the Special Protection Unit (SPU), an arm of the police force specially trained to protect foreigners. The exact rules regarding where and when SPU protection is required are almost impossible...
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Like most of sub-Saharan Africa, Somaliland harbours an array of tropical diseases of varying degrees of severity and inconvenience. Although there’s a fair possibility that you will become ill at some point on your trip, the cause is most likely to be either straightforward travellers’ diarrhoea or a cold, and provided you receive the necessary...
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If any one cause unites just about every Somalilander, it is the quest for international recognition of their country. And the case for this status is exceptionally solid, as outlined below.
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Addis Ababa is the site of Somaliland’s only proper international embassy ( 09.00–14.00 Mon–Fri), which – is true nomadic tradition – seems to have changed location half a dozen times since the first edition was published. It is currently situated in Bole Medhane Alem, between the Malawi Embassy and Ambassador Hotel, both of which are...
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The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a partially first-hand Greek document that details trading opportunities along the Red Sea coast and further south, includes an unusually overt and detailed description of Somaliland CAD60. Chapter Four, for instance, refers explicitly to ‘Adulis, a fair-sized village, from which there is a three-day’ journey to Koloe, an inland...
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Historical works tend to emphasize the medieval trade relationship between the east coast of Africa and Arabia, or to a lesser extent India, ignoring the region’s similar relationship with China, whose ceramics have been unearthed at numerous sites. Possibly this is because it has long been thought that these Chinese exports were shipped to Africa...
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ORIGIN According to legend, the common ancestor of most if not all Somali clans was Irir Samaale, a name which possibly derives from the phrase soo maal – literally, ‘go and milk’ – in reference to the almost exclusively pastoral lifestyle of his descendants. DNA studies suggest that the Somali share close ethnic links with...
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WOMEN Traditional Somali and Islamic law both accord limited rights to females, and although improved property rights for women stand as one of the few positive legacies of the Siad Barre regime, Somaliland remains a strongly male-dominated society. Polygyny, the form of polygamy wherein men can take several wives simultaneously, but women are restricted to...
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