Somalia is a country situated on the peninsula of the same name in north-east Africa, washed by the Gulf of Aden in the north and the Indian Ocean in the east and south. Its area is 638,000 sq km. Before the declaration of independence in 1960, Somalia was divided into two colonial possessions, Italian Somalia in the north and British Somaliland in the south. The official languages are Somali and Arabic.
A narrow coastal lowland with coastal dunes stretches along the southeastern coast of the country; the rest is a mostly flat plateau 500-1500 m high. Its highest part is to the north, where crystalline rocks come to the surface and form the Oarsangeli Midjurtina Mountains (the highest point – Mount Surud-Ad, 2406 m), a ledge breaking towards the Gulf of Aden. The main rivers – the Juba and the Webi Shebeli – have little water. Often the only sources of water on the plateau are accumulations of rainwater in the depressions of the area. The climate – with the exception of the southeastern coast – is dry and hot. Temperatures reach 23-24°C in winter and 34°C in summer. Daily variations during the dry winter season can reach 30-35 ° C. The annual rainfall is only 200-300 mm, except in the south-east – up to 600 mm, mostly during the wet season, which lasts from April to July.
Almost all of Somalia is occupied by semi-deserts with sparse vegetation and dry savannahs, dominated by grasses, acacias, mimosas and Molochai. There are very few forests – only in the valleys of the two main rivers and in the coastal zone in the south. Savannas and semi-deserts are the habitat of antelopes (canna, oryx-bayza, dik-dik, gerenuk), zebras, buffalo, giraffes, lions, leopards, hyenas. Elephants, rhinoceroses, warthogs are found in river valleys, and monkeys in forests. In some semi-deserts, tall, numerous termite mounds create a peculiar landscape.
The majority of the population (about 14.3 million people) are Ethiopian Somalis, with some Negro peoples living in the southwest. Most of the inhabitants are nomadic herders. Camels are particularly prized among the Somalis. Artisans make from time immemorial woven articles, bags, belts, sheaths of embossed leather, combs and spoons of wood, vases, jugs of clay and white stone – sepiolite. The capital is Mogadishu, founded in the IX-X centuries by Arab colonists. In the city many beautiful old buildings have survived. Other major cities are Hargeisa and the port of Berbera.
Today Somalia is considered one of the most dangerous countries for tourism. Here there is a high probability of terrorist attacks and military clashes between the local armed clans. Moreover, the civil war in this country has become a so-called “habitual condition” and is interrupted only rarely.
In this regard, all tourists are strongly advised to check the political and military situation in the region they are planning to visit before organizing a trip. Well, inside the country it is necessary to exercise serious caution when visiting hotels, restaurants and other public places.
In addition, there is a lot of criminal activity in the country, as most of the population is in a state of poverty and bitterness. Therefore, travelers should avoid regions with high levels of unemployment.
The medical situation in the country is also very unstable. There is a high risk of severe malaria, yellow fever, HIV, hepatitis A, B, and E. Therefore, vaccination against all these diseases, as well as health insurance is required before traveling to Somalia.
From a tourist point of view, Somalia is a very interesting country, because there are monuments of ancient civilizations scattered throughout its territory, from Phoenician and ancient Egyptian to the settlements of ancient Punt. This is not surprising, because for centuries, the territory of the current state belonged to a variety of countries. Thus, in the days of ancient Egypt, the region was called Punt. Then Somalia was part of the Ethiopian kingdom of Axum, and in the VII century, the Arabs arrived in the region and created the Sultanate of Adel. However, now because of incessant civil wars all the monuments of bygone eras are in disrepair and not always available for visits.
The main tourist attractions of the country are in the capital of Mogadishu, which was founded by Arab colonists in the XII century. First of all it is a museum in the palace of Gares, a mosque of XIII century and a large number of picturesque buildings in the Afro-Arab style, the distinguishing feature of which are patterned walls and shady courtyards. However, now many of them are half-ruined.
If we talk about natural attractions, it is worth noting that previously the country was famous for its many nature reserves. Now among them, of greatest interest are the Kismaju and Hargeisa National Parks, as well as the National Park outside Mogadishu, which has ten reserves. These places are home to rare plants from which valuable natural resins (frankincense and myrrh) are extracted. There are also coral reefs stretching in the south of the country, which are considered some of the longest in the world.
Somali cuisine is quite interesting and varied, so each area of the country has its own distinctive features. However, the main thing that unites all the local cuisine is halal – things allowed to Muslims, including food restrictions. In this regard, there are no pork dishes of any kind, and alcohol is not served. Forbidden products include meat of strangled animals and dead meat. Another distinctive feature of Somali meals is the fact that the dinner is served at 9 PM and during Ramadan at 11 PM (after the Tarawih prayer).
The most popular snacks available at any local restaurant are sambuusa (a Somali variation of samsa) and bajiye (a mixture of maize, meat, vegetables and spices). Spicy rice and roast goat are also traditional Somali treats. Crab, lobster, squid, shrimp and fresh tuna are the local delicacies. Among the desserts, the most common is halva, the most popular pastry. Also, the fruits grown here, bananas, mangoes, papayas, etc., are ubiquitous.
If we talk about the main food of the locals, the most widespread here is camel milk, goat and sheep cheese, all kinds of porridge and tortillas. In addition, the vast majority of the country’s inhabitants do not eat poultry, fish and eggs because these foods are considered “unclean” here.
In general hotels in Somalia are quite inexpensive, but often their quality of service and accommodation conditions leave much to be desired. The most comfortable and convenient hotels are located in the capital of Mogadishu, as well as in the cities of Hargeisa and Berbera. And when choosing a place to stay it is recommended to focus not on its description, but directly on the reviews of guests. The metropolitan hotels Hotel Nasa-Hablod, Sahafi and Hotel Shamo have received the highest ratings. However, it must be said that they do not particularly shine with European comfort.
If travelers want to get acquainted with the local exotic, here is an opportunity to stay in temporary accommodation made of camel skins, called “akara”. It is in such dwellings live most of the population of the country. In addition, some hotels offer accommodation in “mundullo”, which is a wooden hut with a thatched roof. Accommodation in such dwellings is notable for the fact that its residents can participate in the local mass festivities, watch the original dancing with tambourines and trying the food of nomadic herders.
Entertainment and Recreation
Unfortunately, given the difficult domestic political situation, the beautiful rocky and sandy Somali beaches are virtually inaccessible to tourists at the moment. The same can be said about the Hargeisa and Kismayu National Parks, which, despite their most interesting inhabitants, are also now abandoned. Of course, excursions to them are organized from time to time, but they involve quite a lot of risk.
Therefore, for entertainment here it is recommended to head for the capital, where there are restaurants, parks, stadiums and major stores. In addition, lovers of exoticism and rich recreation is recommended to visit a celebration in one of the Somali villages, which are always accompanied by mass dancing and singing to the accompaniment of clapping hands and tapping on wooden planks. Also in the larger settlements you can see dancing to the sound of tambourines and drums. And the occasion for a celebration can be anything: the birth of a son, a receipt of income, a litter of camels, etc. The main traditional Somali holidays are Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice), Eid al-Fitr (end of Ramadan), Ashura, Mulood (the Prophet’s birthday), Independence Day and the Foundation of the Republic. Moreover, the dates of religious holidays are celebrated according to the lunar calendar, so they are floating. Moreover, during the holy month of Ramadan, locals fast during the day and eat at night, which is why many institutions do not work and business activities are interrupted.
In Somalia, shopping is best done at local markets where vendors offer a fairly good selection of memorable gifts and souvenirs. Of these, oddly enough, the most popular is the local implement “hangol”, which is a stick with a slingshot on one side and a hook on the other. And the local craftsmen painted them in bright colors and varnished, turning them into full-fledged souvenirs. By the way, the cost of hongol is quite small – only 1,5-3 $.
In addition, figurines made of ebony are sold everywhere in Somalia. The quality of such items varies greatly, from primitive figurines to skillfully chiseled compositions. Tourists most often buy bambara statuettes, which are massive female silhouettes with extremely large breasts. It is worth noting that in the days of ancient Egypt, ebony was considered no less valuable than ivory or gold.
Also quite popular are such souvenirs as handicrafts from sea sponge, baskets from Benadir region and woven clothing. Well, the wealthy tourists are attracted by the jewelry stalls that offer all kinds of precious stones. Of these, the most affordable is the blue or purple tanzanite.
Public transport in Somalia is very underdeveloped and is in a rather poor condition. Rail transport is completely absent here, and road traffic is mostly unpaved, the only exception being the roads in the major cities. The main road in the country connects the cities of Mogadishu and Hargeisa. In addition there is an international airport in Mogadishu. There are also several seaports, of which the most important are Mogadishu, Kismaayo and Berbera.
Urban public transport is available only in the largest cities and is represented by outdated models of buses.
Somalia’s public telecommunications systems are in a dilapidated state, and functioning communications here are very limited and based mostly on private systems. Telephones with international lines are available in hotels in the capital, but the quality leaves much to be desired.
Cellular communications operate on GSM 900/1800 bands and are handled by several local operators. Subscribers to major Russian operators are encouraged to use Thuraya satellite service. Internet cafes are just beginning to appear.
Tips for the Tourist
Import and export of foreign currency through the territory of Somalia is not nominally restricted in any way. You may bring 400 cigarettes (or 400 grams of tobacco or 40 cigars), 1 bottle of spirits and a reasonable amount of perfume without paying customs duty. If we talk about the rules of export, they are uncertain and constantly changing, so it is best to clarify them immediately before the trip.
Also note that the sanitary situation of the country leaves much to be desired, for this reason, tourists are strongly advised not to eat in outdoor cafes, drink only bottled water, with all fruits and vegetables remove the skin, and any scratches and abrasions necessarily treat antiseptic.
Russian citizens require a visa to enter Somalia. You should take into consideration that as of today there is no single state here, but several state formations (Republic of Somalia, Somaliland etc.). And besides Somali Republic, the other states are not recognized by the international community. However, despite this, Somaliland conducts its own foreign policy and has independent representations in a number of states. Naturally, the Republic of Somalia and Somaliland do not recognize each other’s visas. Thus, when applying for a visa, you need to clearly understand which part of the country you are going to. In addition, there are currently a number of areas where foreigners are not allowed to enter.
There is no embassy of the Republic of Somalia in Russia, so to obtain a visa you must apply to one of the consulates, which are located in neighboring countries (for example, Ethiopia). The same applies to Somaliland.
In the XII – XVI centuries on the territory of modern Somalia periodically emerged sultanates, which quickly fell apart. Later Mogadishu and a number of other Somali cities were owned by the sultans of Zanzibar.
In the second half of the 19th century the European powers gradually deprived the sultans of all continental possessions in various ways. In 1889 the southern part of present-day Somalia became an Italian colony, and by 1925 the Italian possessions had taken their final form. Theoretically, it was supposed to massively settle landless Italian peasants in the region, but the process was slow and met with many difficulties. From 1887, the northern part of Somalia, formally subordinate to Egypt, became a British colony; the decision of the British leadership to assert its authority in the area was dictated by the need for tighter control of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait area and the routes to India.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Mahammad Abdile Hassan, nicknamed “Crazy Mullah,” fought the Italians and the British for a long time under the slogans of jihad, expulsion of foreigners, and the establishment of a true Islamic state. Hassan was defeated only in the early 20s; he was considered a national hero in independent Somalia, and the military academy of the country is named after him.
During World War II, Somalia was united first under the Italian flag, then under the British. The further fate of the colony caused great controversy at the international level, and eventually it was decided to give it independence after a long period of transition. In 1960 Somalia gained independence, at which time the two former colonies – Italian Somalia and British Somalia (Somaliland) – were formally united. The first president was Aden Abdullah Osman Daar.
In 1969, a military coup brought Mohammed Siad Barre to power, declaring a course of building socialism with Islamic characteristics. In 1970-77, Somalia received considerable Soviet military and economic aid, and the Soviet Navy had a base in Berbera. The number of Soviet specialists working in the country by the mid-1970s was estimated at several thousand, and it is believed that during the famine of the early 1970s, even greater casualties were avoided only because of the actions of Soviet pilots who transported people from the affected areas.
Somalia has no recognized national government. Former British Somalia – Somaliland – has declared its independence, as have a number of other unrecognized state entities.
In addition, a number of territories do not have any centralized authority at all and are governed by local tribal leaders.
On October 10, 2004 the transitional parliament of Somalia elected a field commander, Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, a graduate of the Soviet Frunze Academy, as president of the country, the leader of the northern province of Puntland, supported by Ethiopia. The parliamentary session took place not in Somalia, but in Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya.
The new head of state belongs to one of the two largest Somali clans, the Darod clan. The second most influential clan is Hawiye (it controls most of the capital Mogadishu, located in its traditional territory).
Somalia is an economically backward and poor country. It has scarce mineral resources and its economy is based mainly on nomadic and semi-nomadic animal husbandry. About 80% of the working population is employed in agriculture, mainly in cattle breeding; the sale of live cattle, meat products and hides brings over 80% of the country’s total export earnings. The share of industrial production in the national economy is very small, and mineral resources do not recoup the cost of their development. Two factors adversely affected the country’s economy in the second half of the 1970s: first, a severe drought which significantly reduced livestock numbers and, second, war with Ethiopia which resulted in an influx of up to one million refugees from Ethiopia into Somalia. Even more devastating was the inter-clan struggle that followed the 1991 overthrow of the Siad Barre regime.
Somalis are tall, slender people who are proud of their origins and language. They are united by a single religion, Islam, and a common language, Somali, which belongs to the Cushitic language family and is related to the Ethiopian Oromo and Afar languages. Somalis actively support and develop the system of traditional political institutions. They are characterized by a careful attitude towards the poetic tradition with complex rules of alliteration and a precisely calculated sense of proportion.
The main social and political differences are observed in the relations between the rival clans – the Isa in the northern regions, the Darod in the northeastern and southwestern regions, and the Hawiyas on the eastern coast. In addition, each clan distinguished between “high” and “low” caste members. Thus, clan members belonging to the “low” caste, such as the Midgaan and the Tumal, have fewer rights than those belonging to the “high” caste. There are also differences between nomads and farmers, as exemplified by the Rahanweyn tribal group.
A small number of groups of non-Somali origin live mostly in urban areas. This includes the Arab community, which together with the Egyptians amounts to 35,000 people, and several thousand Indians, Pakistanis and Europeans.
The main cities are Mogadishu, Hargeisa (formerly the administrative center of British Somaliland), Berbera, Marka, Bosaso, Bulobarde, and Baidoa.
Somalia is not a good country to travel to. You will be told this phrase several times in the short time it takes to get off the plane and go through passport control. It is not safe here, a white man can be easily captured, and the civil war has been going on for over 20 years. You may never have heard of the country, but you probably know who the Somali pirates are.
In the official capital of Somalia, Mogadishu, there are still a few hotels with good security, comfortable accommodation, electricity and running water (which by local standards is a real luxury). For example, the Jazeera Palace Hotel, Hotel Nasa-Hablod.
It is hard to say what attracts travelers to Somalia. According to statistics, from 1990 to 2004 not a single tourist has been here! If the circumstances of this country were otherwise, this area would be popular with vacationers from all over the world! After all, it has everything you need: comfortable beaches, beautiful nature, the ancient heritage of Egyptian and Phoenician civilization.
The abandoned Italian lighthouse is located in the capital, Mogadishu. Three decades ago it was built by the Italians during colonial rule, and now it is rapidly deteriorating. Near Mogadishu is the Kismayu National Park. This place is home to the fauna of the southeast African continent: lions, antelopes, zebras and many others. Hargeisa Park is an amazing place in its landscape. Walking around this place (with a guide, of course), you can easily meet an elephant. And from Mogadishu to the Kenyan border is the longest coral reef in the world.
The National Museum of Somalia (or Garesa Palace Museum) in Mogadishu is the main local history and oldest museum in the country. It was founded in 1934. The basis of its collection consists of archaeological finds on the modern territory of Somalia, a collection of Islamic art, objects of arts and crafts. On the territory of the museum there is a national theater, a library and a room for temporary exhibitions.
Climate of Somalia:: Heavy. Northeast monsoon (December-February), moderate temperatures in the north and hot in the south. Southwest monsoon (May through October), hot in the north and hot in the south. Irregular precipitation. Hot and humid periods between monsoons.
Mogadishu is more or less a safe area of the country (with personal security). There are still some Portuguese colonial buildings in the historic part of the city. Bakaara market is the oldest place in the city and here you can buy basic necessities. Near the town of Berbera you can see the ruins of the ancient year of Gellet Abbat. There are no popular resorts for beach vacations in this country for obvious reasons.
Leisure activities .
As mentioned above, Somalia is the most unattractive country for tourism in the world. A state with a completely ruined statehood, where a child from the age of three learns to hold a gun. The only purpose of coming here (if it can be called that) is to get out of the comfort zone. Although, there are plenty of more comfortable and shoeless countries in the world to do this.
The topography of Somalia:: Mostly flat, with an undulating plateau rising to the hills in the north.
There are no direct flights to Somalia from Russia. You can cross the border via neighboring countries or connect via Turkey or the UAE. If you plan to visit not only the capital, but also other cities, you must obtain a permit to travel around the country (preferably with a guide and driver). Of public transport in the capital are buses (there are very few, riding on the roof, as in India – a common sight), but tourists are highly discouraged to appear alone on the streets of the city.
Standard of Living
Somalia is the poorest country, there is no central government, all social institutions do not function at all. In fact, as a result of the civil war, Somalia has split into many parts. The official, recognized government controls only 60% of the capital. Society is divided into clans, fighting among themselves. Someone holds the local power and organizes life in the isolated parts of the former state. When leaving the airport building, you can (and should) choose your own guards. The pleasure is not cheap, about $1,000. But without it, there is a chance that you will be kidnapped. To be on the safe side, we recommend drinking only bottled water and eating street food.
Somalia has resources like: : Uranium and largely untapped reserves of iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salts, natural gas, probable oil reserves.
Cities of Somalia
Mogadishu is the official capital. Planes of the world airlines come here (the ones that are not afraid). Back in the Middle Ages, Mogadishu was the main port city. It traded with India, China, Sri Lanka and even Vietnam. It was once a rich city with authentic architecture and the largest Catholic cathedral on the African mainland. Now much of it is badly damaged.
Hargeisa is the second largest city in Somalia. The capital of the unrecognized state of Somaliland. Berbeda is a town where Soviet specialists built an airport and roads during Soviet times. The area where the Russians used to live is still called “Moscow”.