Hargeisa, 23 June 2009 – ARR will be writing about his journey to Somaliland and will be offering advice to anyone who may want to travel to this Horn African nation. ARR was born abroad and this is his first trip to Somaliland.
The women of Somaliland are among the most beautiful of God’s creation. Apart from those that are destroying their skin and inviting skin cancer to their final years by insisting on altering their complexion, I have witnessed some of the prettiest faces I have ever seen. While I don’t think I would ever be able to reconcile how I was raised in my life abroad with how the local population was raised; something keeps telling me that the local women would make better wives and mothers. Writing that may get me in trouble with some friends from abroad but the truth is; I think I may have finally found home.
I was still wondering why our women insist on wearing every colour in the spectrum of light in two garments which is a question that has haunted me in my previous 26 years of observation. One day and totally out of the blue I finally found the answer. On one of the many walks I take with my mother she was asked if she was a widow due to the fact that her clothing was colour coordinated. Aha! The answer had finally revealed itself. In taking a trip to the top of one of the hills on northern Hargeisa to get some exercise I found the answer to one of the most pressing questions of our times (at least for those of us in the Diaspora).
This was one of the most fun hikes I took with my mother because this time she wanted to go as much as I did and didn’t complain as much about the rocky roads as she normally does. Most people spend their entire trip to Hargeisa inside of a car but for health reasons I have insisted on treating my mother like Hager and both ends of Hargeisa like Safa and Marwa. From this one particular hill located just north of Man Soor I was able to see Naaso Hablood as well as the very famous mountains with the same name.
From this vantage point you can see almost all of Hargeisa but what I had to admit is that the view to the other side was much more spectacular and inviting. Just north of Hargeisa lies a flat area of land that seems to never end with shrubs and greenery extending for as far as the eye can see only to be cut off by majestic mountain ranges that appear as a silhouette in what would make a very picturesque painting.
After a few of these nature hikes I’ve taken with my mother I am yearning and looking forward to my trips to Daallo and Sheikh Mountains. I also hope that this will provide an answer to those who jokingly accuse me catering to only one particular corner of Hargeisa. I am not one of those boring people who are the same tribe on both sides but have in my blood a nice variety that I love equally if not more than my father’s side.
As a youngster I used to love to go camping and one of the most fascinating things about a trip outside of the city limits is the cloud of stars that are clearly visible to the naked eye. While the Northern Lights are not visible in Hargeisa there are literally thousands of stars that light up the sky. So far I have only been able to locate the North Star, Venus and the Big and Small Dipper and would probably notice more celestial objects if I knew them.
While my nephews and nieces have been complaining with a passion similar to the Iranian protesters that there is nothing to do while our Satellite receiver is down I have had the pleasure of enjoying the cloud formations above during the day and the immaculate stars at night. This along with the Adhan that cuts into whatever activity you have at hand are some of the most enjoyable aspects of my trip to Hargeisa thus far.
The city is literally littered with Masjids and almost everywhere you go you can find a new Masjid being built. While this has sparked an inner feeling of joy in me as a Muslim I think that there is something else that should be considered. I recently visited a sick relative in Hargeisa hospital only to see how small it was and how inadequate the facilities were. A very nice lady who I spent time discussing the hospital with showed me the extension to the old hospital that her family had built as a donation and encouraged me to find more donors for the hospital (This is the public Hargeisa hospital and not the private for-profit hospital Edna Aden had built with charity she collected on a premise of free health care for all).
In the rush to build Masjids to try to help those who lived a life of sin there are literally hundreds of Masjids being built at the expense of other crucial facilities that should be helped with families’ charitable funds. I made a promise to myself that I would do what I can now and probably bequeath something to hospitals and schools in my will when the time came.
I had also continued to investigate why in The City of NGOs (twelve hundred of them as I had heard) there are still so many people living in poverty. While I accept poverty as an inevitable reality what I couldn’t accept is the rumour that nearly half of the funds allocated to Somaliland are embezzled in Kenya (Not cool! We have a restaurant named after one of your very famous children). While that is obviously an issue that needs to be tackled; it still doesn’t excuse the mismanagement that is taking place here in the sphere where we have control.
I have been to a few NGOs and from what I can see so far the people that work there get as much work done as a Gulf Cooperation Council employee. While there are no doubt those who work as hard as they can to make a difference I can’t help but feel that they could do more if they were focused on the objectives of their organisations rather than their salaries. As I had mentioned I have started to mobilise and get an NGO together and will be working on this as a long term and well thought out project during the free time that I have. I guess this is the best place to say thank you to my friend M. Al-Maktoum who has offered to support this charity from the very beginning.
The past few weeks have been quite interesting in many other ways. I was forced to part ways with my long hair and beard after weeks of being taunted in the streets by almost everyone. Out of frustration I had been tempted on numerous occasions to speak with my hands (which are much better at speaking Somali then my mouth mind you) but eventually gave in to logic and decided to get a haircut instead.
I had uploaded pictures on my mobile of how I look with short hair as an example and have to admit that the barber pretty much got it right which was ‘cool’. I’m sure he would’ve noticed that he made both sides uneven if he wasn’t busy chewing away at Qat while cutting my hair. What wasn’t ‘cool’ is that he had initially tripled the price I paid for the haircut claiming that they charge by hair length. After much bargaining and agreeing to give him a tip we settled on a price that I knew was too much but didn’t mind parting with.
I also had the chance to go one night to Imperial Hotel for the launch of a children’s book called Riyaaq. I didn’t understand much of the clever wordplay and chanting contained in the book until I got a hold of the book myself and started reading along. It was amazing that such a beautiful book would be made available to our children teaching them morals and parables in the melodic tone one can hear being sung in many of the classrooms in the city. Since there are many children who don’t have access to an education and even more whose education has been left to schools operated by self interested and inexperienced profiteering businessmen I found this book to be something special and welcome to our youth.
I also had the pleasure of taking part in the funeral of one of Sheikh Madar’s offspring and have made it a new habit to go to as many funerals as I can which I started to do in England. I find it fascinating that there is not a single tear shed at funerals here and that the deceased children are the ones that go in the grave themselves and place the deceased person in their final resting position.
I have also had an experience with Hargeisa’s notorious traffic jams that are usually caused by nothing other than a simple and absolutely inconsiderate idiot (not by the traffic warden that disappear for half an hour at a time). It took us twenty minutes to cover twenty yards because one man and his will to have his car cleaned in the middle of the street was more important than the mass of cars that also needed to use the same street. We all yelled at the cleaner who said “I don’t care, I’m getting paid” and I will have to admit I was very tempted to pay him a hundred times as much to smash the windows and slash the tires. If there weren’t hundreds of witnesses I probably would’ve seriously considered doing this myself.
Apart from visiting the Somaliland Medical Association and then the wonderful Nurses Association (where they teasingly reminded me of my mother’s days as a nurse in a short skirt!), of all the things I had done I would have to say the most interesting thing was the near hour of uninterrupted chat I had alone with Rageah Omar at his family home which was only disturbed by a brief visit by Faisal Ali Warrabe (the leader of the Ucid party) to give condolences to Rageah.
Faisal seems like a nice man and asked me a couple of questions about his nephew from Toronto who is a good friend of mine that I couldn’t or wouldn’t answer. Although I and Rageah are both related and descendants of good friends I had never spent time getting to know this particular relative and have to admit he was a very interesting person regardless of his credentials. I think he deserves the success he has achieved because he is quite a brilliant man and a sincere and genuine individual.
I guess the next best experience I’ve had in the last few weeks was when I went to visit a few ministries yesterday and found that there were both utterly incompetent and very competent individuals working in our government. Some of the very old people I encountered were extremely difficult to converse with and narrow minded while there was a younger generation present who were looking forward to the advancement and progression of Somaliland. While it’s fun to criticise the current government I also have to give credit where it is rightfully due.
The thing that has annoyed me the most, even more than the corrupt NGOs so far is the Somaliland Suldaan system. I can openly tell you that whoever the Suldaan for my particular clan is does not represent me as I have neither voted for him and he just happens to be the child of a very smart man who I’m sure deserved the title. I surprisingly enough don’t personally think that reason and intellect are transferred genetically in totality to offspring therefore nullifying the entire inherited Suldaan concept.
I still can’t seem to come to terms with this inherited title and wanted to share my opinion with the world. Being supportive of my inherited Suldaan would make me feel as foolish as those who vote based on clan allegiances so they can brag about someone who doesn’t care the least about them holding such and such a position, or, as dim-witted as some of the so called Somalilanders I have encountered who still dream of a Somali Weyne.
While I have been critical in many ways during my trip to Somaliland so far I also see all the good that is here but haven’t found many who are brave enough to openly question the areas where we need change. I have always been the type of person to let someone know when there is a bugger in their nose or they have a hole in their shirt. I find this my way of showing people I care as it would be twice as easy to simply ignore. I look forward to adding much more insight from my personal experiences and giving a broader perspective when I have the opportunity to travel to more places in Somaliland.
I had originally intended to delay writing this third instalment until I had more experiences but was encouraged by the many wonderful emails and phone calls from all over the world I have received. I was quite shocked that this blog I am writing for SomalilandPress has been syndicated on various other Somaliland website and will try my best to fit all of the requests I have received into my increasingly busy schedule and will continue to share my inner most thoughts in the process.
To Be Continued…. ARR