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Somalia

The most eastern country of the ‘Horn’ of Africa, Somalia was known in ancient times by the Egyptians as the Country of Punt. The Somali state is born from the merger of the Italian colonies in the South and the British in the North. It has been independent since 1959.

 

Before leaving

If you go to Somalia, there is a high probability that it will be for humanitarian reasons. The country is best known for being one of the most dangerous and unstable on the planet. If however you happen to have to go there, here is some information you should know: Somalia is a country in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Kenya to the south, Ethiopia to the west and Djibouti to the north. Its coasts are bordered by the Indian Ocean. The country has experienced a terrible civil war since 1991. Despite attempts by the United Nations in the 1990s and the establishment of a transitional federal government in 2004, the territory remains largely uncontrolled by the national security forces. A joint military intervention by troops of the Transitional Federal Government and Ethiopia led in early January 2007 to the withdrawal of Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) from Mogadishu. Somalia suffers drought and famine. If you go there, it will surely for humanitarian reasons. We advise against any trip to this country. Many charities do not manage to condense all the human suffering going on in this country. In ancient times, the Somali coast was known to the Greeks, Romans and Indians because it was an important trading hub for myrrh and frankincense. The country is indeed one of the few, with the Sultanate of Oman having incense trees. The European powers began to covet Somali wealth from the 16th century onwards but did not succeed until the 19th century. The British Empire, France and Italy claimed the Somali territories from 1875, while the Emperor of Ethiopia plans to invade the country. At the end of the nineteenth century Italy finally conquered the country, which it will control until the defeat of Mussolini at the end of the Second World War.  Off the coast of Somalia there are coral reefs perfect for diving. The white sand beaches are among the longest and most beautiful in the world. Before the civil war, Hargeysa, the former capital of the British colony of Somaliland, was a tourist town with a museum, theatre and hotels. It was relatively preserved from the civil war, unlike the capital Mogadishu, which was destroyed. South of Mogadishu, the Port of Merca (nicknamed “port of bananas“) and the coastal town of Brava are renowned for their beautiful Arabic-style architecture. Somalia is also the world’s largest camel breeder, so you’ll see this animal everywhere. Before the war, the wildlife was very present in the country: lions, elephants, hyenas, foxes, leopards, giraffes and zebras were living side by side in the savannah.
Somalia finally gained independence in 1960. The Somali state was created by merging the former Italian colonies in the south and the British colonies in the north. Between 1960 and 1969, Somalia tried the democratic system; unfortunately the political situation does not allow this system to last. In 1969 Mahamed Siyaad Barre becomes dictator following a coup d’état. Under the rule of the dictator, the country experienced major deprivations that lead to a situation of famine. When the regime of Siyaad Barre collapsed in the early 1990s, the situation was so bad that the country plunged into a chaotic situation which still exists today. The country is divided into several rival factions led by warlords.

Recommendation

Do not wear shorts – Remember this is a Muslim country.  Always ask for permission before taking pictures, as there are restrictions. If in doubt, refrain. It is usual to leave a tip of 10% in hotels and restaurants. We remind you that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs formally advises against traveling all over Somali territory. Armed militias, linked to the al-Qaida terrorist organization, control the south of the country. Journalists are very often targeted by terrorist acts and assassination attempts. Even NGOs members and UN agencies working in humanitarian projects face many risks. Pleasure craft boaters are also advised to be very cautious. Acts of piracy off the coast of Somalia are not rare (until 500 nautical miles). Many commercial and recreational vessels have been the subject of violent attacks, and hostage-taking is systematic.
Sanitary risks are also very important because of the poor state of the health infrastructure. Fevers and parasitic diseases related to mosquitoes are to be taken very seriously. It is also necessary to adopt basic hygiene precautions against cholera.

Pros
The kindness of the population
The beauty of the beaches

Cons
The civil war and insecurity are rampant on a daily basis (violence, crime, looting)
The difficulties of circulation in the country
Lack of comfort (water, electricity, food, care, housing) in some areas

Tradition

Somalia has benefited from the influence of many civilizations: Arabs, Indians, Africans and Europeans have intersected into Somalia over the centuries through trade routes where circulated the precious spices. They brought with them their habits and customs. The country has been completely Islamized for many centuries. The majority of people refer to the Sunni branch of Islam. Somalia is known in the Muslim world for having produced many thinkers and theologians of Islam. In the countryside, the inhabitant’s daily life is very different from ours. Many rural people come from the ancient nomadic communities. Livestock and agriculture play a very important role in the daily life of rural Somalis.

Cuisine

Arab and Italian cuisines are among the most popular cuisines in the big cities. Rice, spaghetti or macaroni are served in all sauces, with sheep or goat meat. Moreover, the roasted young goat, accompanied by spicy rice, is one of the traditional Somali dishes. We also eat a lot of fish and shellfish (shrimp, lobster, crab, and tuna) and fruits (mango, banana, papaya). The Somali breakfast is made of goat, sheep or camel liver, fried with onions and bread. The very spicy cuisine is traditional in this part of Africa. Spices are valued as very good for health; their use in abundance is a mark of respect to the guests coming to share the meal. On the other hand, serving flavorless and not spicy dishes can be considered an affront. Livestock milk (camels, goats, etc.) is an important source of nutrition for local people, who have been largely deprived in recent decades.

Souvenir and crafts

Typical souvenirs of the country include gold and silver jewelry, woolen clothing and baskets from the Muqdisho region, as well as meerschaum pipes and wooden carvings. The stores are open from Saturday to Thursday, from 8 am to 12:30 pm, and from 4:30 pm to 7 pm.

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