Reflections on my time in Hargeisa: In the country of strong women and broken men

by Khadra Yasien Ahmed–I have only visited Somalia once before this trip- this time is different. I am not here on neither holiday nor visitation, but for work. Coming to this country, I thought I would get robbed, threatened and mistreated. I have not met one single individual who have treated me as anything less of a sister, daughter, mother or next of kin. I should be ashamed of my self for underestimating my people, their integrity and hospitality. Presumably I am not the first diaspora to think in those terms, and surely not the last either. On that note I am writing this article to make aware of the possibilities of our country, as well as the challenges.

First encounter and traffic: I remember once I got off the airport that I felt so peaceful. I was glad, though I did not what I would face. I was exited and optimistic. It was slightly windy, but in a cool and calming way. The heat was not burning, but rather pleasing. So far I though, I like my country. Through immigration, it was OK. I had to unfortunately go to the section of “foreigners”, and not “nationals”, which I assume is a fair slap in the face for carrying another passport. You have to pay 60$ for visa. Then I got picked up- in a land cruiser!

The road out of Hargeisa International Airport is actually fair. The landscape is breathtaking, and sentimental for those of us who grew up in the deserts of Somalia as children. The landscape is dry, sandy and filled with mountains. Perfect for urban nomads. However, traffic security is a major problem in Hargeisa. I can’t count how many “almost-accidents” I was involved in. The culture is to beep the horn whenever you want to drive pass someone. I am amazed by the courage of the drivers driving on such rough roads, not to mention the by walkers who risk their lives everyday. Drivers are not aggressive, just stressed. I would encourage walking during the night, as driver for some reason calm down and the streets are filled with people. Major accidents usually happened during the day in the most jammed areas of town. There is always space for walking on the sides of the road, but take your precautions.

Hargeisa is a vibrant city. It is the hope of Somalia. Peace, security and brotherhood triumphs all. I believe Hargeisa is the safest city in Africa. Only one remark ladies: you will run into two types of men: the type that stares you to death, and the one that tries to have a conversation with you. I suppose its up to one self to determine which one is the worst. Boy, do the women of Hargeisa answer them back! Northerners have an extremely direct and straightforward way of conduct. Never will you encounter their culture anywhere in Somalia. A college of mine said “northerners will both kill you and revive you with their words and direct demeanour”.

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Mareeg senior news editor since 2001 and he can be reached at news@mareeg.com