Somaliland Calling

This blog is intended for my friends, relatives, Somalilanders and for those who wish to know more about Somaliland’s daily life. I write about my experiences, views and observations about the country’s culture, events and people. Sometimes it contains press releases and statements of civil society organizations I work with, sometimes I write about stories of people whose experiences and spirit continue to inspire me.

I am glad that my fellow ICD development worker and friend Ahmed created his own photoblog that shows images of the country to cater those in the diaspora who haven’t had the chance to come back.

I am doubly delighted that another ICD development worker Jitandra Panda an Indian national who is now working with our Health Program assisting the Maternal and Child Health Centers in the capital. His blog contains policies and studies about education and health. Visit Somaliland Calling and discover more about Somaliland.

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When things go wrong

Things are not working well lately. The most stable supplier of electricity (the government) has been quite erratic the past days. The usual schedule of 5 hours in the morning and 10 hours from late afternoon to dawn keeps being disrupted 1 to 3 times specially in the evening so, you’ll find yourself in the dark quite often.

Telephone service is not like it used to. Mobile to mobile calls will take you sometimes 10 times to get the other line ringing. So the most used word of the day would be waxanqahumahay (sorry). If you’re lucky and you have a landline to call a mobile phone, don’t push your luck too far, because you’ll get cut off in the middle of the conversation. It happened to me thrice today.

Must be the rate of consumption as more and more people are moving here in Hargeisa, i don’t know, maybe.

I realized water supply largely depends on one’s location. Since I moved out from Goljano area I get water 24 hours a day. I remember one Somali friend advised me once, “You want to get water everyday? Move near the President or the Vice President’s house.” Well, my friend is correct.

Shopping in Hargeisa

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Halimo brought me to Waahen, one of Hargeisa’s dry markets (there are only 2 the one near Radio Hargeisa, Gobanimo market and this one). Our mission: to buy Somali women clothes. We chose the 4 piece ensemble, the masar (head cover), direh (long dress) googarad (slip underneath the direh) and shalmad (upper body cover).

I always enjoy our trips to the local market, this is our version of malling. You should see her bargain, she’s tough. The man who dealt with this lady is Mohamed the owner of the shop.

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You will find neatly hanged fabrics as you enter the market, its a colorful parade of textile. There are 2 classes, Shiid and Weel. The cheaper one is Shiid a little thick compared to Weel. It costs $3 per 4 meters, Weel on the other hand range from $12 to as high as $40 for the same length. Everything comes in different colors, the masar costs $1 each, shalmad $6-10 and the googarad $8-10. The challenge is how to mix and match all these pieces.

If you buy the cheaper ones, you’d end up with roughly $18 for the whole set, in shops in the center of the city it would cost $25-30 for the same quality. It’s quite cheap if you compare it to the clothes women wear during weddings which can reach $200 for the whole package.

There are women and men working on sewing machines, they would gladly sew your clothes as you wait it costs $.30 per piece.

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Sanctuary

This is my third house in my one and 1/2 years here in Hargeisa. I’ve gotten used to transfering, well, as they say there is nothing permanent in this world but change.

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This is my veranda, my “outdoor” mefresh or Somali sitting room. In the afternoon, I usually read, do some artwork, play the guitar, sometimes I bring my laptop here and just work. This is also where I hold my afternoon meetings. I like the wind, its quite soothing. I love the light that shines through the screen, it helps perk me up.

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I always say, my house here in Somaliland is my sanctuary. That is why I take pains in making it comfortable and surround it with objects that makes me at ease. I make sure that I share it with people dear to me.

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My fellow ICD development workers.

Urban Nomad

I sit in my mefresh (Somali sitting room) with my laptop. I have a deadline to meet and a series of meeting to coordinate the next few days. By four o’clock I will have light, so I thought. I watch at the clock turn to 5 and then 6, still no light.

I stare at my laptop go blank, no battery. I dial Jitandra’s (a colleague) number, we have the same problem, no electricity. I thought that government electricity bogged down, it actually did, but by 7pm they all had light except me.

I had to think fast, because I need to finish my work. I pack my thick blanket, pillow, toiletries and a few clothes and proceed to the office to work and spend the night.

Since then, I’ve been waiting for electricity to come in my lowly house in Goljano village. No luck. I came to know that my neighbour cut my power line because the electrician tied it to her tree. She was away for 5 months and recently discovered the violation to her beloved tree.
Read the rest of this entry »

Cigarettes in Somaliland

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This is Osman, he owns this small cigarette stall at the corner street near Tawakal Hotel. Don’t let my “small cigarette stall” description fool you. Selling cigarettes in Somaliland is a brisk business.

There is no locally produced cigarettes in the country (not that I know of) cigarettes like most goods available in the country are imported. A pack is called 1 PACKET, 10-pack box is called a STICK.

Understandably British cigarettes are everywhere, the most popular of course is Benson and Hedges (locally known as Bensel) which sells at $6 per stick, it’s $12 in Duty Free shops, in the Philippines its $3 PER PACK!) The French FINE is $2.5 per stick, there’s also Royal Blue, Green and Lights which costs the same as B & H.

Loyal customers are mostly men, majority are khat chewers. To those who are familiar of the extensive use of khat in the country, it is not surprising why cigarette sellers like Osman remain happy and contented to this day.

Duray Kenyatti

“Do you have fever?” Abdirahman asks. “Muscle pain?” again he inquires. I answered yes to both questions. “You have duray Kenyatti!” he exclaims.

Abdirahman explains that Somalis don’t have such kind of flu. Anything bad is usually attributed to have come from outside the country. If I came from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia he’d say I have Duray Habashi, but since I came from Nairobi, Kenya and spent 4 days in that cold Kenyan capital I have… Duray Kenyatti.

It must be the cold Nairobi weather, lack of sleep and work related stress. The travel from Nairobi-Addis Ababa-Hargeisa was my worst experience so far. I had burning fever, aching joints, headache and felt so dizzy; I only had one thing in mind, home.

In the company of Stars

It’s 11pm, for the past week my work ends at this time. That means, the last group of local NGO leaders just left my house. My last meeting just ended.

It seems like the weather is getting warmer everyday, I check the gate and found my watchman and police guard outside in their respective cushions talking and manning the compound.

It reminded me of Danilo, a Filipino engineer who used to work here. Everytime he comes from field work in the rural areas of Awdal region and we ask him about his trip he would always quip, “I stayed at the All Star Hotel” which means he slept in an inn which provides a cushion to those who’d spend the night, like my watchman and police guards, he slept outside in the company of the bright stars in the sky.

Daallo’s time

There are signs that will tell you that you are on your way to Somaliland. Getting a connecting flight (from Manila that is) that will not let you wait less than 24 hours is almost impossible.

At the airport (at least in Dubai) you will have to wait at the farthest departure gate, usually 31 – 34, in that part of the airport where there are no seats in front of departure gates while you wait for it to open. Your option? the floor.

In the airport shuttle bus, you would notice that what you would imagine as a short trip from the departure gate to the aircraft will take approximately 10 – 15 minutes. I stare at the humongous Emirates planes neatly lined up, after the last UAE carrier, still no sight of a Daallo plane. “As if Daallo has a contagious disease to be assigned in the farthest part of the airport” I tell myself.

Don’t expect a huge Daallo airline neatly painted sign on the aircraft either. Although they have such planes, the first time I took Daallo more than a year ago, I rode on an aircraft with TAJIKISTAN written on it, this time it was Iran Aseman complete with Iranian crew. If you get a chance to choose Iran Aseman, I have one suggestion, DON’T! Flight attendants of this carrier should learn to be polite to passengers and not order them around. Maybe if you’re of Arab descent they would treat you differently, but Filipino or Somali? think again.

En route to Hargeisa, I keep telling myself, the time will come when Daallo or any Somaliland airline will be able to afford their own aircraft, it will be too many and that travel to Somaliland will become attractive that flights will be available everyday. There will come a time that a Somaliand carrier will be treated at par with other airlines, that passengers will experience going in and out of the tube, and will wait at departure gates 10-25. There will come a time when Daallo planes will have enough airconditioning, that you wouldn’t feel relieved that you have reached Hargeisa, because soft and cool Hargeisa wind is much colder than the plane’s AC. Daallo’s time will come, you’ll see.

Deadly Driving

Burao is 60 km drive from Hargeisa and usually takes 4 hours to get there. Not for khat dealers though, cars or trucks with khat are known to drive fast, up to 160 km/h. You could see this type of vehicle from afar because of the cloud of dust that comes after it. They don�t stop at nothing, not even for crossing camels.

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We found 10 dead camels along the road run down by a khat truck on its way to deliver its goods to Burao. The camels are reportedly on its way to Berbera, to the port area where shiploads of camels and other livestock are transported to Arab countries. Camels walking along these roads usually come in groups of 20-50 sometimes as many as 100.

Why do khat drivers, drive so fast? People say khat needs to be delivered fresh so that men (mostly) could chew them at its freshest condition.

We ran over a goat once and we paid $5, they say its cheap because we didn�t take the dead goat and left it with the nomad. Now I wonder how much the khat dealer will have to pay for 10 huge camels.

Seeing dead camels along the road is very disturbing. Would they stop if they see human beings crossing the street?

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