Throughout Hargeisa – even in the better-off neighbourhoods next door to large houses surrounded by compound walls – you will see these small patchwork domes, which serve as self-built shelters. The word in Somali for such a hut is aqal.
Historically, Somalis are a nomadic, pastoral people, and they were constantly on the move in the countryside herding their livestock. The arid landscape required families to move frequently to find pasture for their animals, and so their houses consisted of portable huts that they could disassemble, move, and reconstruct in their next grazing location.
While these ingenious houses were traditionally made from natural materials in the countryside, you see them today constructed out of all sorts of scrap materials, tarpaulin, plastic, and fabric, and families build them in the city on unclaimed plots of land. Near our house, a friendly family lives in such a hut, surrounded by a loose fence of branches and thorny plants.