Located in the northeast region of Africa, Somalia makes up the Horn of the continent. Bordered by Ethiopia and Djibouti, Somalia is a country with a complex history and untouched marvels. For anyone seeking a unique and adventurous trip, Somalia is ripe with opportunity for finding hidden treasures within its natural landscapes. However, due to the fragility of country it is deemed an unsafe country for tourists and should be avoided until further notice.
When looking beyond the dangers of the fragile country, Somalia’s coastline is dotted with regal, white buildings that reflect the historical influence of colonialism. Behind the buildings, stretching far and wide, crystal blue waters of the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea can be seen undulating in the dry air. Charming boats float in bays, adding a touch of color and humanity to the view. With a predominantly desert climate, the country has is known for incredibly high temperatures and droughts. Stark landscapes stretch across the country, with sparse vegetation and unique rock formations.
However, due to unstable security situations and threats from extremist groups, there are often travel warning issued by the US Department of State warning US citizens to avoid all travel to Somalia. For the safety of yourself and anyone you are traveling with, be sure to research all possible travel warnings before venturing into Somalia. If it is absolutely pertinent for someone to visit Somalia for either business or special circumstances it is vital to arrange the proper assistance and convoys to help navigation through the highly dangerous country.
WHEN TO TRAVEL – WEATHER
Somalia is rich in desert landscape and therefore is rich in a desert climate. The country sees extremely high temperatures, generally throughout the entire year. Temperatures can reach as high as well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The country has seen widespread drought and only sporadic rainfall. You can expect the daily average temperature to reach highs anywhere between 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 100+ degrees Fahrenheit. In the evenings the temperatures drop between 77 degrees Fahrenheit and 100+ degrees Fahrenheit.
The parts of the country which have higher altitude often seen lower temperatures, as well as the coastline. With the southwest monsoon season coming through the coastal region between May and the end of September, these months are the best to find yourself in the country.
Though it is dangerous to visit Somalia, if one is visiting the country they should pack for hot weather and humidity. Light cotton fabrics should be sought out, along with clothing that properly conceals the body as the country is conservative.
SOMALIAN CUISINE AND DRINKS
There are four different regions of Somalia and each has a different spin on local cuisine. With the regions divided between Southern Somalia (where the capital city of Mogadishu is located), Central Somalia, Puntland, and Somaliland, there is always diversity of options when it comes to food and beverages in the vast country.
However, on a whole the staple meals of Somalia are often cereal based. Millet or corn is ground into a flour and turned into pancakes or made into a warm porridge-like meal. These meals are then supplemented with meat products, milk or rice to add substance to the dish.
One of the more unique local staples of Somalia is a twist on the traditional Italian dish of spaghetti. A carry over from the country’s historical connection to Italy, it’s not uncommon to see spaghetti served frequently and abundantly throughout the country. With the meat sauce made with large chunks of beef instead of the more traditional ground beef, the fresh tomatoes, onions, and spices are fairly similar to what you might see in classic spaghetti sauces. Though the dish looks much like the Italian counterpart, you’ll find it called baasto throughout the country.
Due to its close proximity to the coastline, Somalia cuisine also includes fish and seafood when possible. In addition, though the traditional Somalian diet is often low in vegetables fruit is often in abundance and people can gain nutrients from items such as the popular plantains, mangoes, and pineapples.
POPULAR SITES OF SOMALIA
Somaliland: As one of the only places in Somalia that is even remotely seen as potentially safe for outside tourists, Somaliland is the northernmost region of Somalia and offers spectacularly unique and vibrant glimpses into a country most never see. From markets to rock paintings, there is colorful culture to absorb within the confines of Somaliland. However, it’s important to keep in mind that despite the slightly more lenient view of Somaliland it still has travel advisories and is often
Las Geel: Step back into ancient time with the epic and emotional rock paintings found at Las Geel of Somaliland. The rock paintings, hundreds of them, are so well preserved it will feel like time was frozen and you are witnessing the art as if it is freshly painted. From cows to humans, these paintings offer a rare glimpse into what life looked like for the ancient cultures of Somaliland.
Central Market in Hargeisa: Located in the heart of Hargeisa, Somaliland, this market allows you to view the life and times of the everyday townspeople. With fragrances and sounds filling the air, the Central Market is an ideal place to learn what it means to live in such an untouched land. The market is not limited to food goods, but is also a sort of flea market with housewares, textiles, clothes, and even electronics.
Hargeisa: As the capital of Somaliland, this small capital city is as unique as it is understated. Though there are no large attractions or special destinations for visitors, the city is welcoming to tourists and eager to prove its status of being one of the more safe places to visit in Somalia. With adequate hotels and affordable exchange rates, Hargeisa is an ideal destination for anyone looking to explore a place far, far off the beaten path.
PRACTICAL INFO FOR SOMALIA
A visa is required to enter Somalia and must be obtained well before visiting. Airports and seaports are controlled by local governments and may have different requirements for entry. US citizens are able to obtain a single entry, seven day validity visa. It’s important to note that the United States does not have an embassy in Somalia. In addition, while Somaliland is a more stable country it is still not advised to travel within the region unless with proper guides and prior organization. Research any and all travel advisories that may be in place before planning time in Somaliland.
Banks and Currency
The official currency of Somalia is the Somali shilling. The currency is found in both banknote and coin form. Banknotes come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 shillings and the coins are found in 1, 5, 10, 50 senti and 1, 5, 10 and 25 shillings.
Somalia only got its very first ATM in 2014 and are not readily available throughout the country. In addition, even if they are found they are not guaranteed to work.
It is important you spend time researching travel warnings that might be in place with your particular government for visiting Somalia. This affects not only land travel, but travel by sea as well. If planning to travel by ship or vessel anywhere near the coastline of Somalia be extremely conscious of the possible danger to your safety. There are common accounts of piracy taking place off the coast of Somalia. If it is absolutely necessary to travel by vessel near the coastline of Somalia be sure to organize a convoy that ensures you are not traveling on your own.