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Honeymoon in Somalia

Somalia is on the Horn of Africa, and is bordered by Ethiopia to the west, Djibouti to the north-west, and Kenya on its south-west.

This is a country with a troubled past. Civil war, military coups, border disputes and warlordism are the general course of events here.

Things started to improve after the Ethiopian Army withdrew in 2007 after defeating an Islamist government, but since then violence has flared up again with the re-emergence of Islamist and other clan and warlord-affiliated militias. Somalia is currently ruled by the a Coalition government, compromising the Internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the former Islamist government. However, the government is currently waging a military campaign with radical Islamic factions that refused to merge with the government and are backed by al-Qaeda.

Getting around

Somalia was without an effective government for 17 years; as one can imagine this has had a negative effect on the roads. There are two different modes of public transportation that you can use in Somalia: buses and taxis. The only rule of the road that seems to still be in force is that Somalians generally drive on the right or centre.

Mogadishu beachWhat to see

The Somali beach near Mogadishu is very beautiful. Families usually go on weekends. It is important to be aware that women must swim fully clothed, as Sharia law is strictly enforced, and does not permit women to show much of their bodies or to mingle with men. It is not clear as what the situation is like currently. In other circumstances, the beach would make for an ideal destination; however, the general threat of banditry, armed conflict and especially piracy along the coast make this, along with every other option in the country, risky.

Language

Somali is the official language in Somalia. However, Arabic is spoken by many and represents a secondary language. As the Somalis are almost exclusively Sunni Muslims, Somali has borrowed much religious terminology from Arabic, although there are also Persian or Arabic loan words for everyday objects (e.g. Somali albab-ka (the door), from the Arabic al baab). While the southern part of the country was a former protectorate and colony of Italy, it is unclear just how much Italian is still spoken. Many Somalis speak English to communicate with the people who generally handle all of the menial jobs in their country. If you can learn a few words of Somali, your hosts and any other locals that you may meet will be very impressed and appreciative.

What to buy

The currency used in Somalia is the Somali Shilling (sos). Currently only the 1000 shilling note is used, and doesn't go far... a glass of (non-potable) water will cost 1000sos. The current exchange rate of 100 US dollars to Somali shilling is 3,300,000 as of May 2008. Much more useful is goods with which you could barter.

The Bakaara Market (Somali: Suuqa Bakaaraha) is a Mogadishu open market and the largest in Somalia.

Bakaara Market in the heart of Mogadishu. The market was created in late 1972 during the reign of Siad Barre regime. Proprietors sold and still sell daily essentials (including staples such as maize, sorghum, beans, peanuts, sesame, wheat and rice), petrol and medicine. Despite a new Coalition government taking control, Somali markets continue to operate largely in the absence of regulations. A wide array of weaponry is also sold, with guns sometimes being the only thing for sale at some markets. Currently, 80% of Somali males own a weapon. Be very cautious, as customers will often test their new weapons by firing into the air.

There are many things to buy here but be wary of cheap pearls as they may not be real. There are many good tailors in Somalia and it is a good place to have clothes made to measure and copied.

Food

Typical Somali cuisine

Somali meals are meat driven, vegetarianism is relatively rare. Goat, beef, lamb and sometimes chicken is fried in ghee, or grilled or broiled. It is spiced with turmeric, coriander, cumin and curry and eaten with basmati rice for lunch, dinner and sometimes breakfast.

Vegetables appear to largely be side dishes, and often are woven into a meat dish, such as combining potatoes, carrots and peas with meat and making a stew. Green peppers, spinach and garlic were also noted as the types of vegetables most commonly eaten. Bananas, dates, apples, oranges, pears and grapes are among some of the more popular fruits (a raw, sliced banana is often eaten with rice). But in Somalia, Somalis had a much larger selection of fruits - like mango and guava - from which they would make fresh juice. Somali stores, therefore, carry among the widest selection of fruit juices, both Kern1s juices as well as imports from India and Canada. And there is also a selection of instant juice: frozen or available as a powder.

The overriding characteristic of the Somali diet is that it consists of halal foods (Arabic for "allowable" as opposed to haram: "prohibited"). Somalis are Muslims and under Islamic Law (or Shar'1ah), pork and alcohol are not allowed.

Other common foods include a type of homemade bread called injera (like a large, spongy pancake) and sambusas (like the Indian samosas), which are deep-fried triangular-shaped pastries filled with meat or vegetables.

The Cuisine of Somalia varies from region to region and consists of an exotic mixture of native Somali,Yemeni, Persian, Turkish, Indian and Italian influences. It is the product of Somalia's rich tradition of trade and commerce. Despite the variety, there remains one thing that unites the various regional cuisines: all food is served halal.

Drink

Somalis adore spiced tea. A minority of Somalis drink a tea similar to Turkish tea which they brought from Middle eastern countries to their homeland. However, the majority drink a traditional and cultural tea known as Shah Hawaash because it is made of cardamom (in Somali, Xawaash or Hayle} and cinnamon bark (in Somali, Qoronfil).

The Zeila Coast

Islam forbids alcohol and Somalia follows this rather strictly. If you do find some, don't show it or drink it in public, as there's a strong chance that you could offend, cause a scene and may even be punished by authorities.

As for the coffee (kahwa) itself, try mirra, made in the Somali style. Sometimes spiced with cardamom, it's strong and tastes great, particularly drunk with fresh dates. Tea (chai) usually comes with dollops of sugar and perhaps a few mint leaves (na'ana).

Accommodation

Bosaso and Hargeisa have some Western-level hotels.

Source: Wikitravel.org

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