On a global index of odd capitals, Hargeisa would be a strong contender for one of the top spots. It’s a down-to-earth, friendly place that’s undergoing a rapid transformation. The streets are alive, the roads are busy and the air is thick with a very bearable cacophony of mobile phones, vehicle horns and calls to prayer. Sure, the capital of Somaliland still bears the scars of the civil war that destroyed the country in the past decades, but look past the makeshift shops and housing and you will see Hargeisa’s unmistakable pep and determination to rebuild. As with any city in transition, it offers plenty of contrasts: donkey carts jostle for road space with 4WDs and battered minibuses, goats and sheep roam through the dusty side roads, elegant Somali ladies stroll down the main drag, turbaned clan elders relax over a cup of sweet Somali tea and youngsters from the diaspora watch Manchester United on Al-Jazeera at a modern cafeteria or update their Facebook page at an internet cafe.
Hargeisa has all the conveniences a traveller could hope for: good-value hotels with English-speaking staff, a couple of tasty restaurants, internet cafes, electronics stores, shopping malls, tea shops, markets, bus stations, taxis…but no alcohol (that would be too good to be true!).
Hargeisa lacks standout sights but if you enjoy the feeling of being the only tourist wandering its streets, it might just get under your skin.