So over the weekend I went “sightseeing” in Hargeisa with some of my co-workers. Sightseeing might be too strong of a word. There isn’t really anything of touristic interest here. Even the two pages on Hargeisa in the 10-page Somaliland/Puntland/Somalia chapter of the Lonely Planet Africa book – the only thing that even remotely approaches a guidebook to this region – start the Sights section with the sentence, “Let’s be frank: it’s the ambience and the sense of exploration that are the pull here.” So, not much to see. Meaning that what little there is to see, I have no excuse for not seeing it.
The main monument is the Somali Air Force MiG jet on Independence Avenue in down town Hargeisa. In 1988, the military dictator Siad Barre, who was in charge in Mogadishu, gave orders to the Somali Air Force (based at the Hargeisa airport) to bomb the city of Hargeisa, leading to over 10,000 civilian casualties and the near total destruction of the city. He killed his own people simply because they opposed his dictatorship. One of the MiG jets used to bomb Hargeisa is now erected (above a ghastly mural) as a memorial to the civil war.
The only other monument of note, for those people who find themselves desperately searching for sights, is the Somaliland independence statue, which features a giant fist gripping a map of the unrecognised state of Somaliland, labelled with all the cities. The date on the side of the monument is May 18, 1991, the day Somaliland declared independence from Somalia (now observed as a national holiday). We stopped here to take pictures and drew quite a crowd of onlookers and questioners. They probably wondered what the crazy white people were doing…