Somaliland: Africa’s unofficial country
Outside Hargeisa modern facilities for visitors are scarce and basic, but there is plenty to see. At Laas Geel, an area just outside the capital, visitors can see the most significant Neolithic rock-painting site in Africa, a treasure of global significance where the strong, vibrant colours and stark outlines show ancient locals worshipping cattle and venerating a pregnant cow.
Farther afield a stunning drive through a dusty landscape takes you to the medieval port town of Berbera, site of a runway once secured by NASA as an emergency space shuttle landing strip. Tracks run along the coast west from Berbera, past mangroves, gorgeous islands and coral reef, to the towering cliffs and beaches around the historic city of Zeila, once part of the Ottoman Empire and a major centre for trade during the 19th Century.
History lovers are well catered for along the coast with ruined cities, thousands of years old, which had links with ancient Egypt and northern Ethiopia. Energetic visitors can hike up into the thick forests in the Cal Madow mountains, home to at least 200 endemic plants and rare and beautiful wildlife, including the golden-winged grosbeak and the beira antelope. But the main attraction of this unrecognized country, at least for me, are the locals.
Somalilanders are an inspirational people who have built a functioning state in a dangerous part of the world. The country, whether internationally recognized or not, is a stark and beautiful land and, thanks to both the landscape and the locals, one of my favourite places on the entire planet.
The adventurer and explorer Simon Reeve has visited more than 110 countries and been around the world three times for the BBC television series Equator, Tropic of Cancer, and Tropic of Capricorn. His latest televised journey, that included Somaliland, was titled Indian Ocean. Follow him on Twitter.