|Market outside Hargeisa's Oriental Hotel|
You could call Jubba the 'NO' airways, at least for the Djibouti-Somaliland flight. There are no safety instructions, at least not in our section at the back; nobody making stupid stylistic gestures to show you where the exits are in case of an emergency, which seems inevitable; no shapely stewardesses demonstrating how to put on your life vests should we unanticipatedly venture out over water; no life vests at all in fact, at least in the back section; no announcements, even incomprehensible ones, from the flight deck on expected arrival time, altitude etc. (in fact perhaps there's no flight deck at all); no splendiferous views out of the windows because the windows are so scratched as to be opaque – and no friendly air emitting from the ventilator nozzles as we sit on the ground stewing and liquefying in the sauna. However, once we do grumble into the air, a little breeze does exit them.
|Qat seller at her post|
A Fistful of Dollars - There's a lovely cooling breeze after Djibouti's oven as we emerge at 4,300 feet above sea level to go through immigration. For reasons best known to themselves, immigration officials insist on everybody changing $50 into the local Somaliland shilling. Now there are some 6,000 shillings to each dollar, and 500 shillings (about 8 cents) is the highest denomination, so I now have a bundle two to three inches thick with about 320 notes that won't fit into my pockets. Fortunately they also use US dollars.
|Ubiquitous water cart|
My photo ops get a mixed reaction – the kids love it, beg me to snap them and I become a regular pied piper, but older men shout, growl, wave walking sticks at me and generally react like Gadarene swine (I've absolutely no idea if that fits here, but I like the sound). The hotel itself, the Oriental, is a little oasis with a huge covered courtyard bedecked with flowered balconies, fountains and four tented gazebos. The room is ample with fan (you don't need more), shower, free internet, breakfast, all for $15. And everything else here is cheap after what I've been through. I'm now eating a three-course fish lunch at the hotel for $4, with wonderful fresh mango juice for an extra $1. In fact the only fly in the ointment is the amplified muezzin in the nearby mosque who sounds like an elephant's fart.
'I am who I am,' quoths I, reprising the good Lord's identity declaration from the Bible.
'Why are you photographing,' he asks.
'The Good Lord commanded it,' quoths I, bucking my upper teeth on my lower lip and playing real dumb, the one thing I have a doctorate in – Imbecilitatis Maximae Phd summa cum laude.
'The policeman over there wants to check your camera,' quoths he, pointing to a bank guard in a bright green uniform as the crowd swells.
At this point a well-built man in a red jersey comes over. 'Ignore this bunch of idiots,' quoths he, 'you can take photos of whatever you want.'
I do one of those idiotic yeses, pumping my elbow back as though withdrawing my fist from oh-you-don't-want-to-know, and withdraw with dignity to my inn, where that elephant fart muezzin has now encroached upon my evening repast.
|Ice cream in Hebrew|
|Main downtown mosque minaret|
|More camera happy kids|
|So you think you can drive?|
|And get a degree|
|Sunset over Hargeisa|