Located in the Horn of Africa, Somaliland proclaimed itself independent from Somalia in the early 1990’s. Unlike the rest of Somalia, the self-declared country has largely avoided unrest. However the association to Somalia has often deterred visitors from visiting the peaceful country. The capital Hargeisa is bustling with street vendors wanting to exchange your money, spicy aromas from the food stalls and a daily camel market unlike any other livestock trading. It also hosts the Somaliland Marathon, the countries annual and only international mixed-gender event featuring a full marathon and 10km distance race. Las Geel is situated just outside of Hargeisa and is home to Neolithic cave paintings. The exact age of the rock art is uncertain estimates range between 3,000 and 10,000 BC. Meaning ‘camel’s well’ in Somali, the well-preserved imagery depicts cows giving a glimpse into the countries livestock history. Somaliland’s coastal highlight is found in the city of Berbera. Previously a bustling Ottoman town at the centre of trade between the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, it now stands as a shadow of its former glory. It’s only trace found in the cities architecture, featuring Ottoman- style brightly coloured buildings and mosque. Daallo Forest doesn’t disappoint nature enthusiasts with its diversity of flora, fauna, birds and mammals.
Capital of the self-proclaimed republic, it’s one of the safest places in the Somali region. It’s from this city one can venture out in to the outskirts of Somaliland, such as a trek to the twin summits of Hablood – or Virgin’s Breast Mountain – located in the scrubby desert area of Woqooyi Galbeed province. Alternatively a three hour drive will take you to the port city of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden where camels roam free on beaches and one can discover the old buildings and history left behind by the British when it formed the capital of their Somaliland protectorate.
In the deserts north of the Somaliland capital are the remarkable cave paintings of Las Geel. Las Geel means Camel watering hole in Somali and 6000 – 9000 years ago the people of the region covered a nearby rock outcrop with hundreds of stylised images of cows, dogs, people and giraffes. One of the horn of Africa’s most intriguing sights.
Once a prosperous 1st Century port used by the Avalites, Zeila is now a quiet coastal town not far from Djibouti. Being located on the Red Sea there’s a considerable amount of coral reef, mangroves and offshore islands to visit which form the Sa’ad ad-Din Archipelago named in honour of the Sultanate of Ifat which ruled over the region between the 13th-15th Century.
In 2018 Untamed Borders teamed up with the event organisers to offer travel packages to Somaliland’s inaugural marathon.
Somaliland proclaimed itself as a state on the 18th May 1991. Since then it has been striving to be recognised worldwide and is yet to receive official recognition as a separate state from the international community. Somaliland has by and large escaped the conflict that has ravaged much of the rest of Somalia for the last 25 years.
Running a marathon in this fascinating country, where the local hospitality is legendary is an unforgettable experience. Through the Darlington Foundation, and the funds raised by runners, some young Somaliland adults will get the opportunity to receive a university education, which otherwise may not be available to them.
LOI provided by UTB in order to obtain visa on arrival.
Tropical – more or less same temperature all year round. Hot and humid.
Best to take cash in US dollars. US dollars can be spent, no need to exchange to local currency. For up to date exchange rates please have a look at www.xe.com
Two prong European style system (type C).
Most guesthouses and hotels have adequate Wifi. In cities 3G works well.
Coastal geography means fish is eaten in abundance. Camel meat is also common. Millet and corn used in many dishes, including in a pancake similar to injera common in Ethiopia. Dishes are often spiced.
Alcohol is illegal in Somaliland.
Somali. Arabic and English are also widely spoken.
Islam. Sunni majority.
Long trousers (cargo pants) or loose jeans are recommended for men. Long skirts and/or loose cargo pants for women plus a long sleeved top that covers the bum and hides the shape of the body are recommended for women. Women should also where a headscarf when outside the guesthouse.
SAFTEY & SECURITY
The FCO Advises against travel to Somalia. This is due to anti-government forces operating in the country, government instability and the risk of opportunist violent attacks. We avoid travel to much of the region and take precautions in the areas we do travel. Contact us for information on where we do and do not guide in this region and how we work to minimise risk for our guests and staff.
A Woman of Firsts – Edna Adan Ismail
The Prophet’s Camel Bell: A Memoir of Somaliland – Margaret Laurence
Untamed Borders is a partner of the Somaliland Marathon. The event is the only mixed gender sporting events in the country. Check out this article by Rachel Jones about her experience of joining us for the Somaliland Marathon. You can visit the Somaliland Marathon website here. If you wish to travel to compete in the marathon, you can see our travel and marathon entrance package here.