Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Somaliland update

This comes from my old roomie Danny, who is working in Somaliland.  I don't think he will mind that I have shared his travails here:

Update: Somaliland 1
First of all I have to ask the question, what the fuck am I doing here? Seriously.
So when I landed in Somaliland it wasn’t quite what I expected (not that I really expected too much). For starters my final flight landed in Berbera instead of the capitol, Hargeisa. Secondly Berbera, the hub airport of Somaliland, consists only of a clay building about the size of a doublewide trailer and a desert.
The reason why my flight was not continuing to Hargeisa wasn’t explained to me. One possible explanation is that the delay of our flight from Dubai might be the cause. Once we had boarded the flight in Dubai it became apparent that the luggage wasn’t boarded yet. This led to several individuals in the front of the plane to go into the cockpit and accost the pilot for at least 45 minutes, long after the final pieces of luggage were put into the plane. The second possible explanation is that its Ramadan, which apparently means anything goes.

When I landed in Berbera I got in an argument with a representative from the only airline company that flies to Somalia/land, Jubba Air.
He said, “you take bus to Hargeisa.”
I said, “I paid for a plane ticket to Hargeisa, I want to fly there.”
He said, “Now you take bus.”
End of argument
I was angry because I didn’t know any one in Berbera; there were no contacts there to pick me up. No contacts meant I would get hassled by government officials, which is exactly what happened. First they confiscated my passport and required me to exchange fifty U.S. dollars for the Somaliland equivalent, which is something like 4,000,000 Somaliland Shillings. In the process I was charged numerous banking fees whose purposes were poorly articulated to me (my contact later told me that all white foreigners had to go through that process. Next they wanted me to pay for a second visa just to leave Berbera, and to pay for an official police escort to Hargeisa. Fortunately I got my passport when I exchanged the dollars for the schillings, and hid behind the Jubba Air representative so that he would protect me from the government officials. I was really frightened by them. They looked at me like I was a newly discovered winning lottery ticket, and the last thing I wanted was to be left alone with them. Who knows what other surcharge fees they had in mind. Fortunately I got on a bus with the other jaded passengers and met up with my contact at the Jubba headquarters in Hargeisa.
So I’m at a place called the Red Sea Hotel. All I can say is that it could be worse. The fee was originally 20 dollars a night. I asked the manager if I could get a reduction in fees because I would be staying there for three months, and then prepared to get my haggle on. He offered me 15 dollars a night flat out, which was my goal in the first place, so I consented without argument. Literally 2 minutes later the manager told me that he had prayed to Allah, and had decided to reduce my fee to 10 dollars a night. Thanks Allah, life’s just too easy when you are this good looking.
TIA Danny, TIA.

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