By: The PH Team
Somaliland is an unrecognized country, internationally recognized as part of Somalia. Although recognized as part of neighbouring Somalia, the two could not be more different from one another.
While Somalia is struggling with security, governance and extremism, life is Somaliland is much safer, better governed and with seemingly non-existent levels of extremism present.
The country, which is way way off-the-beaten-path, has a lot to offer all types of travellers such as; pristine nature, interesting culture, historical sites and authentic experiences that few others have the opportunity of experiencing.
1) It's the Only Democracy in the Horn of Africa
Although unrecognized, Somaliland is considered to be the only democracy in the Horn of Africa - not that the bar was set very high!
The country has had regular elections since its independence, which have been overseen by international observers.
2) Camels in Somaliland
Recognized Somalia is home to about half of the world's camel population. Most of those camels are located within the territory of the unrecognized country of Somaliland.
As such, it is not unusual to see camels roaming the Red Sea beaches of Berbera, Somaliland's primary port city. In addition, Hargeisa, Somaliland's capital, hosts the camel market.
The camel market in Hargeisa place where vendors and buys come from all over the country to trade in, you guessed it - camels!
In Somaliland and in the region as a whole, camels are not only used for carrying large loads through the desert. In fact, camels are also a very important part of Somalilander cuisine.
In addition to its milk, which is used as a beverage in the local cuisine, camel meat is also a very important protein in the cuisine of Somaliland. Although eating camel might be unusual for the Western palate, here in Somaliland, you might as well be eating a hamburger.
So for all of your foodie travellers, yes, you can eat camel in Somaliland!
3) The Somaliland Shilling
The Somaliland Shilling is like the Transnistrian Ruble - an unrecognized currency of an unrecognized country.
Just like in Transnistria, the currency only has value within the borders of Somaliland. With little value, it is not unusual to walk around with a huge lump of cash in order to pay for small items.
The Hargeisa Money Market, in the capital of Somaliland, is home to many vendors who will gladly change your foreign currency into local Somaliland Shillings.
Although tourists generally use cash in all of their transactions, locals only tend to use cash for micro-payments. This is because for all other transactions, mobile payments are king in Somaliland.
Yes, even in this unrecognized country in the Horn of Africa, locals use their cellphones to pay for almost everything. It allows vendors even in small villages with little access to the outside world, the ability to accept electronic forms of payments through their cellphones.
All of these transactions of course are done in the local currency, the Somaliland Shilling.
4) Chew Khat
Khat is a stimulant drug that comes from a shrub, primarily grown in East Africa and the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, primarily Yemen.
Like chewing tobacco, leaves of the khat shrub are chewed and held in the cheek to release its 'active ingredients.'
Although we do not condone the use of drugs, alcohol or tobacco in any way, many tourists do opt to try chewing khat when visiting Somaliland, as it is very present in the local culture.
Tourists who do try chewing khat with locals report that it is no stronger than a strong cup of coffee. Others report that they feel no effect whatsoever.
Tourists should take note, that khat is illegal in almost all Western countries and by no means should be taken with you upon leaving Somaliland.
5) Somaliland is NOT Somalia
This is very important to understand, SOMALILAND IS NOT SOMALIA! In May 1991, Somaliland ceased to be connected to Somaliland and became an independent (although unrecognized) country.
Since then, the country has been able to adopt a democratic system, make vast infrastructure improvements and almost entirely defeat extremism within its borders. Somalia, even with vast international support, has failed to achieve any of these feats.
With the country's army successfully protecting its borders from outside threats and the local police keeping the country safe from within, tourists are able to roam Somaliland without worrying about regional threats as seen in Somalia and other neighboring countries.