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SOMALILAND

Hargeisa, Somaliland
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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Berbera old city, Somaliland
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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Hargeisa Somaliland
Somaliland’s largest town has a dusty low-rise feel more in line with a provincial administrative center than a national capital. There’s just one embassy in Hargeisa, few familiar airlines are represented, and other well-known international brands – be it McDonald’s, Barclays, or Hilton – are conspicuous by their collective absence.
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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.  It has a  somewhat isolated and parochial feel, a kind of  Somali  Siberia surrounded by sand rather than snow,  thanks partly to the almost total lack of public transport heading to...
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Somaliland Travel Guide
Somaliland Travel Guide is the official tourism promotion agency of Somaliland and fully owned by the people of Somaliland. In this travel guide and booking portal, you will find budget trips, tips, money-saving advice and recommendations on places to stay, things to see and do, and where to eat. We will tell you about our...
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Somaliland Travel Guide
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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Few visitors to Somaliland make it further east than Burao, but for those who do, the most enticing sights are the scenic Daallo Forest and the coast around Maydh, both of which are accessed from the small and remote highland town of Erigavo, the unlikely capital of the periodically unstable province of Sanaag. The journey...
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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 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 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.
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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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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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Straddling the Hargeisa–Berbera road, about 6km past the small village of Daray Godle and 28km before the junction with the road for Burao, Xabaalo Tumaalood (N  10°12.626,  E  44°52.923)  is the most accessible of numerous pre-Islamic burial sites that scatter the Somali countryside.
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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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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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Estimated to be at least 5,000 years old, and quite possibly twice as ancient, the superb rock art at Las Geel ranks among the oldest and best-preserved of its type anywhere in Africa.
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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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Little is known about Hargeisa (literally ‘the place where the hide is sold’) prior to the late 19th century. The town is built on the site of a venerable well, where desert nomads once congregated seasonally to water and feed their camels, and it was also entrenched as a watering stop along the ancient trade...
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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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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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Sheikh, Somaliland
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 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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Berbera Somaliland
Overnight selection tours of our Somaliland trips built during the years with our experience and passion for Somaliland.
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Day trips can appeal to more potential travelers because they are shorter and less expensive than multi-day tours. Day trips are a fun way to explore and a great complement to your next Somaliland trip.
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What is a guaranteed departure? A guaranteed departure means that there is no minimum number of bookings required on a trip for it to run.
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Looking for some inspiration? Discover the best vacation ideas and things to do during your trip to Somaliland.
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Las Geel, Somaliland
The Somali rock art includes many depictions of people and wild animals, but the dominant motif on most panels is stylized and often unnaturally colorful representations of domestic livestock.
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Hargeisa, hidodhowr
There is no shortage of hotels in Hargeisa, overall standards are surprisingly high and most places represent a good value by African standards. Most but not all of the city’s smarter hotels, including the top-of-the-range Ambassador and Maan-soor, are clustered south of the city center close to the airport, or in the northwestern suburb of ...
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Hargeisa, 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. Architectural landmarks, however, are few and far between, so exploring the town center is more a case of following your nose than sticking to a trail...
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Las Geel, Somaliland
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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Berbera Daroole, Somaliland
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 Amoud University
Ruined towns around Borama  The border area of Awdal is dotted with around a  dozen abandoned stone towns,  and the main point of archaeological interest around 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...
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What to see & do in dhagah-kure, Gabiley and Kalabaydh.
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Ga'an Libah View
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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Ga'an Libah View
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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Sheikh, Somaliland
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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Burao, Somaliland, Somalia
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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Erigavo, Daallo Mountain
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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Zeila Somaliland
Prior to the opening of the guesthouse, the only option was to bunk down in the open air on one of the beds at the customs area for just US$1.
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Burao, Somaliland, Somalia
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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Borama, Somaliland
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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Erigavo, Somaliland
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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Erigavo, Somaliland
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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Maydh Sheikh Isaq's tomb
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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Erigavo, Daallo Mountain
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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Hadraawi, Somali poet writer.
For the outsider, the creative and performing arts scene in Somaliland can be a tough nut to crack. During the war and following two decades of recovery, cultural life suffered greatly as most Somalilanders were engaged primarily in meeting more basic needs.
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One of the first Westerners to visit Burao was F L James, whose report of an exploratory expedition from Berbera to the Wabe Shebelle River (in southern Somalia), quoted below, was originally published in the Proceedings of the Royal Geographic Society in 1885.
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An aromatic accompaniment to religious rites since the time of the ancient Egyptians, frankincense will be familiar to most Westerners, at least by name, as one of the three gifts offered by the three wise men to the baby Jesus in his manger. Characterised by a spicy, almost camphoric aroma, it is made from the...
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THE BAKER OF BERBERA Possibly the most famous of 20th-century Somali love poets, Elmi Boodhari was born in 1907 into a family of Berbera bakers whose shop stood just half a block from Darole Square. As a young man, sometime during the early 1930s, Elmi fell hopelessly in love with a beautiful woman called Hodan...
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Two illuminating first-hand accounts of Berbera in the mid-19th century survive. The oldest was written by Lieutenant Charles Cruttenden, who visited Berbera in the early 1840s and who wrote extensively about the seasonal trade fair:
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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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The Somali wild ass (Equus africanus somaliensis) is the only extant race of the African wild ass, the progenitor of all domestic donkeys (the nominate race E. a. africanus, commonly known as the Nubian wild ass, being an Egyptian endemic presumed extinct since the 1950s).
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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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This town of around 40,000 inhabitants, situated some 50km north of the main road between Oog and Garowe, is too close to the Puntland border to be safe to visit at the time of writing.
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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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Somaliland Travel guide
Placed in a monospecific genus, the Beira (Dorcatragus megalotis) is a handsome long-legged antelope, intermediate in size between the dik-dik and klipspringer, and distantly related to both.
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SOMALILAND The initial omens were inauspicious. In January 1992, less than a year after secession, fighting broke out between different Isaq subclans in Burao as a result of the caretaker President Abdurrahman Ali Tuur trying to reorganise the former rebel forces into a proper army. Further unrest occurred two months later at Berbera, following the...
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Common in the waters off Somaliland, the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is the largest living species of fish, measuring up to 12m long, weighing up to 35 tonnes, and with a life span comparable to a human or elephant. As one of only three filter-feeding shark species, this passive, slow-swimming giant is essentially harmless to...
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Simplistically, the Horn of Africa comprises two broad climatic zones: the fertile highlands that dominate central and western Ethiopia, and the drier lowlands that stretch east and southwards into the Somali region and northern Kenya. While the region as a whole is popularly associated with drought, the highlands of Ethiopia actually rank among the most...
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SOMALILAND AT A GLANCE Location 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...
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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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Lay of the land, Mammals, Predators, Primates, Antelope, Other mammals, Reptiles and Amphibians, Snakes, Lizards, TORTOISES, Tortoises, Terrapins and Turtles, Birds, Marina wildlife, Marine Mammals and Other Marine creatures.
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Taking its name from the legendary land known to the ancient Egyptians as Punt, the autonomous state of Puntland comprises the far northeast of the country, including Cape Guardafui, the most easterly point in Africa. It came into existence in August 1998 as a result of the escalating clan warfare that had engulfed southern Somalia...
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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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In November 1854, the explorer Richard Burton spent ‘twenty-six quiet, similar, uninteresting days … of sleep, and pipes, and coffee’ in Zeila (which he spelled Zayla), preparing for his pioneering expedition to Harar. He wrote extensively about the port in the first two chapters of his 1856 book First Footsteps in East Africa, edited highlights...
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SOMALILAND AND THE LAND OF PUNT A number of ancient Egyptian documents refer to maritime trade with a distant country known as Punt or Ta Netjer (‘Land of God’). The earliest such expedition took place C2480BC, during the 5th dynasty reign of Sahure, and other visits to Punt were recorded during the 6th, 11th, and...
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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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