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What to see & do in Burao

Burao is the second-most populated city in Somaliland, and it was here that the unilateral declaration of an independent Republic of Somaliland took place in 1991.

Centrally located in the heart of Somaliland, Burao is an important trading hub for goods intended for other parts of the republic. The Burco Meat & Produce Market has been running since 2007 and can accommodate over 2,000 merchants

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 day-to-day business of Somali life.

The most important landmark in the town center is the Juma Mosque, a large but unadorned modern building of limited architectural interest.

It pays great testament to subsequent reconstruction efforts that so few reminders of the civil war remain, but the impressive ruins of what must once have been a very large German school lie alongside the river north of the Ruwais Hotel.

This school opened in 1969 and flourished for 20 years before the civil war forced its closure in 1989; several roofless double-story classrooms and an old church are still standing.

Burao’s livestock market,  situated about  1.5km  south of the town center,  is claimed to be the largest in the country, attracting nomadic traders from as far afield as northern Kenya, Djibouti, and Somalia. I

t is well worth a look, especially between 09.00 and 11.00 when trade activity peaks. If our visit is representative, however, the market isn’t nearly as busy as its Hargeisa counterpart, and it specializes in goats and sheep rather than camels.

For those interested in birdwatching, Callan Cohen and Mike Mills found that the area around Burao offers some good opportunities.

The mixture of acacia scrub and plains around town supports species such as little brown bustard,  magpie starling,  white-crowned starling,  tawny eagle,  northern carmine bee-eater, and Somali long-billed crombec.

Lying almost exactly 20km due southwest of town, the Arorih plains are an excellent place to look for the striking secretary-bird (a long-legged and predominantly terrestrial raptor) and the endemic Somali lark.

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