HARGEISA, 13 September 2009 (Somalilandpress) – Ngonge A. is writing to Somalilandpress about his experience in Somaliland and will be talking about his funny yet true experience during his stay in the country – discover Somaliland from the experience of a person on his first ever trip home.
To read the part one CLICK HERE
To read the part Two CLICK HERE
In the evening of the first day, myself, my tourist guide and a couple of newly made friends visited one of H town’s happening spots (Summer Time Restaurant). The pictures are attached above. I discovered there that the rumour about Somalis hating to have their photos taken was a blatant lie. The minute they saw the huge lens on my camera they all fell over themselves pleading with us to film them (even though they knew there was no chance of ever seeing the photos).
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That night, after having our food and walking out of the restaurant I realised how dark the city can get at night! There were not many streetlights around and people were actually strolling about in the dark!
They carried no torches and had no lights but they could still see where they were all going! I blindly stuck close to my tourist guide and kept him in constant conversation in case I lost him in that oppressive darkness. Furthermore, and because of the sandy, messed up nature of the roads, I was worried that I may step on a snake as I lifted my feet and put them down again. Of course, to my tourist guide, I appeared as cool as ever and he did not suspect a thing. I jokingly asked him if there were any snakes in the city. He told me he has not seen any in years. I jokingly asked again and he jokingly told me there were none. We carried on walking and my eyes started to acclimatise.
At first, the only way I could tell that a person had walked past us was by using my sense of smell. A whiff of manly sweat, a rush of female perfume, a trace of uunsi, a gush of petrol fumes or a hint of glue told me that a human had just glided past. Some cats ran past but I didn’t smell them. The mosquitoes buzzed around my ears but I couldn’t see them. This darkness was very tiring and I longed for a place with a bit of light. At this point, I have to confess that it was not always dark. Every once in a while a car would drive past and shower us in glorious light but then we would go back to even more darkness.
Only when we got to the shops did I feel I was in a real city! I walked into a couple of malls, a bookshop and even had a look at nuune’s favourite hang out. Unlike Somali shops in the West, the actual workers here were polite, courteous and very helpful. The image of Somalis that was ingrained in my mind for years began to fade away and I was enjoying this newfound respect for H town’s finest.
I am going to digress now and share with you a theory I am developing. It is to do with the contrast between the Somalis on the inside and those on the outside. Though the two share many characteristics, and though I only had a mere week to reach this conclusion of mine, I believe the Somalis on the outside to be ruder, rougher and more ignorant than those on the inside. Having met a couple of my fellow westerners there, I could not help noticing that they thought they knew it all and seriously believed the gruff, irresponsible and backward attitude they employed was actually the done thing! This is where my theory comes into play. You see; I believe that most of these outsiders have left home either as children or in their early teens. What was fashionable and accepted at the time (and that age) was to be rude, to play with words, to act tough and to shout as loud as you could in order to be heard. That fake nostalgia, those memorable days and the ideas of how it is to be a Somali stayed with them ever since. Now they return home with such an attitude and people either think them mad, get taken in by their theatrical acts or merely snigger behind their backs. Of course, all this may only apply to those from Somaliland and our southern brothers may turn out to be as hopeless as their kin on the outside (I doubt it but I shall withhold judgment for now).
On that first night, we went to Hargeisa University where an evening of poetry and prose was being held. The place was packed to the rafters with students, poetry lovers and many bored people that just enjoy the feel of being in the middle of a large crowd. The hall where the event was taking place was full and we could not push our way in. I discovered two things that night. One, the people of Hargeisa would travel for miles for a bit of entertainment. Two, that city has very pretty girls. The third discovery was not my own, it was foisted upon me. It turns out that my tourist guide knew them all (those HE did not know, knew him).
The University looked nice and had many faculties. But it also had that dreadful sand that can be found in every corner of Hargeisa! Now, it was not the sand that I objected to. It was actually nice brown sand. I disliked the idea of what may be slithering on that sand. It was night after all and most cold blooded creatures love to come out at night when unsuspecting tourists happen to be tabbing their feet against the sand in frustration and worry. Luckily, nothing came out of the sand that night.
The next day, after having my lunch (I slept right through breakfast and the morning) and spending some time talking to the hotel crew in the restaurant, my tourist guide arrived and proudly declared that I was going back to school! We were going to Hargeisa University (again) but, this time, we were attending a lecture. I took my camera with me and followed him to the car. We drove to the university and as we got out of the car, we were spotted by a traffic policeman. He hurried to us and demanded that we take photos of him. Just like he would direct traffic, he directed us on how to take the photos and what angles to film him in! There was no traffic whatsoever yet he still pretended to be dealing with a real heavy load and kept on blowing his whistle (until my tourist guide lied to him and said that this camera recorded sound). After dealing with this cheerful policeman, we went to the library and checked out the various books they held there. We later went to the IT section where we took photos of some picture frames of various graduates. After half an hour of milling about and chatting to different people it was time to attend the lecture.
I entered a classroom with lovely little tables and chairs. The tables were full of scratches and words like any that you would find in schools all over the world. There was a picture of a heart with the word IMAN on it. The words were faded and old, they made me wonder what this girl would look like now and how many children (or even grandchildren) would she have! Before I could get carried away with my daydreams the lecturer started talking to the room and asking them to help him fix the overhead projector. I started paying attention and felt embarrassed about intruding on this serious lecture (it was a real course with the certificates issued by an American University). These students have spent months attending this course and I suddenly appeared from nowhere and had the temerity to sit amongst them and act as if I understood what was going on (which I did). I found the lecture very interesting and was fascinated by the way peace building, conflict resolution and damaged societies were dealt with. The lecturer was very entertaining and his anecdotes were real good. I also discovered that some of the students in that room were some of the elite of Hargeisa Society (minsters, members of the gurti, etc). Some were not young men at all. But I suppose I will have to agree to that banner I saw and say that the road to success is always under construction.
As the lecture was reaching its middle part and the American professor was in his element, we were all distracted by the crackling sound of radio! We all looked back to see an old man walk into the room and stand there staring at his phone and listening to the blaring sound of BBC Somali! He paid us no attention at all and carried on listening for a full minute. Someone made a sound (I am not sure if they spoke to him directly) and that seemed to shake him out of his reverie. He grunted with a smile and walked out of the room! I am still dying to find out why he came into the room in the first place.
To be continued …………………………….