|Hargeisa's MiG monument|
The city, of course, is a mess given its history over the past 25 years; the roads are broken-up bits of tarred surface, mud and dust, bordered by mini sand dunes, but there are plenty of fresh green trees, some buildings going up, and it's very lively and busy with market stalls everywhere, and cars and vans jostling with pedestrians, donkey carts and goats.
If the place looks in a serious state of disrepair now, it must have been a post-apocalyptic wasteland before reconstruction cleared up much of the devastation wrought by Somali dictator Siad Barre's planes and tanks in the 1980s civil war, in which 50,000 people are estimated to have been slaughtered in the systematic destruction of the city, street by street, row by row. By the time Barre had finished, not a single building was said to have remained with a roof, and the independence leaders even considered leaving the ruins and building a new capital elsewhere.
|Independence Avenue, Hargeisa's main drag|
The Savoy, Hargeisa Style - The walled presidential palace at the eastern end of the centre is protected by large blocks of concrete against any Shabaab suicide or other attacks, and photos are clearly verbotenissimo. Nearby is the Imperial Hotel, where it's all at; the building is run down, but its meal and tea garden is THE watering hole for the local literati, gliterati, politicati, reporterati - and mugginsati - since it's bang in the centre of government offices.
|More main drag|
At afternoon tea muggins is more successful; a winning smile has replaced the in-the-know wink and I'm in deep globe-engirdling tidbit exchange with a Somalilander - who lives in Sweden, came back to help monitor the elections, and speaks English - and his two white-bearded uncles, who wear round embroidered caps, play with their worry beads, and don't-a speak-a de English. Thanks to us, all global problems are now solved and the world is at peace.
And, oh shit, even though it's dark - and it may be black hawk down in Mogadishu - the bearded buzzards are up and about in Hargeisa, bellyaching from their loudspeaker aeries atop scores of mosques to crack the spiritual bones and feed on the marrow of the faithful. Despite that, though, there could be a bright future on the horizon if they can get their act together; Somaliland is said to have large oil, gold and diamond resources.
|Ministry of Commerce|
|Imperial Hotel garden cafe - 'Deep Throat' Time|
|More deep throat|
|More garden cafe|
|Hargeisa side street|
|Shoeshiine and marble boys beneath MiG memorial|