Archive for the Landscape Category


Posted in Animals / Fauna, Landscape on May 7, 2011 by Home Strange Home

The beautiful Somali cactus on Google images.

Throughout town you see these cactus plants, which grow in a huge prickly clump that seems to sprout up everywhere. I often pass them walking down the dusty side streets in my neighbourhood. They must be quite hardy plants to survive in such sandy soil and with so little water.

Sadly, a lot of them apparently don’t survive – a good portion of the catci are shrivelled up and just about dead, and have gathered a huge amount of trash and plastic bags in the process, making them fauna-come-rubbish-dump. However, when you do come across a cactus plant in good health, it is quite cool looking.

The not-so-beautiful cactus next door.


Starry nights

Posted in Landscape on April 8, 2011 by Home Strange Home

Street lighting, African style.

One thing I truly love about Somaliland is the night. Yesterday we travelled out of the city into the countryside west of Hargeisa, in the direction of the Ethiopian border. After dinner, we lay on blankets on the roof, smoked shisha, and watched shooting stars sprinkle past in the night sky.

In the big cities I have been accustomed to living in – London, New York, Montreal – and even in the more modestly sized cities I once called home – Philadelphia, Edinburgh, Tunis, Utrecht – I never saw the stars, or even noticed that they existed for that matter.

Now Hargeisa isn’t particularly small (the population is estimated to be anywhere around 650,000 to 1.3 million), but the total lack of street lighting, the absence of any big buildings which remain lit up at night, and the general paucity of electrically-generated light  mean that the night sky stands out in a way I have never seen it before (save for those rare occasions on which I slept in the African bush or went camping). It’s a pleasure to go up on the roof at night and admire it. And even more so out in the countryside, the night sky is a feast for the eyes and the soul.

Termite mounds

Posted in Landscape on March 23, 2011 by Home Strange Home

Now THAT is a team effort. Go termites.

Last weekend we took a road trip to Burao, east of Hargeisa. On the way out of the city, driving through the flat, dry, endless bush, I caught frequent glimpses of oddly shaped towers that appeared to growing upwards from the earth.

Some were talk and skinny, some short and lumpy, each uniquely misshapen, like wet sand a child has dripped from his hand to form a melting sand castle. The ones I saw were the height of a person, but apparently these termite mounds can reach a height of up to 30 feet.

Evidently colonies of millions of termites can live in a single mound. Actually, they live in an underground nest one metre below the surface, and the above-ground mound is just a sort of ventilation system to control the temperature and moisture of the termites’ subterranean household. So, basically, in Somaliland, humans can’t hope for any air conditioning anywhere, but the termites get it. How unfair.

Somali “flowers”

Posted in Landscape on March 22, 2011 by Home Strange Home

A lovely field of Somali flowers.

As you may have noticed from previous photos, there isn’t much in the way of greenery in Hargeisa – no parks, no grass, no trees, no gardens, and no flowers… except what people sarcastically call “Somali flowers.”

By this they are referring to the omnipresent plastic bags, faded from the sun, snagged onto bushes, tumbling languidly across empty lots in the dusty wind, lining the non-existent side walks of the non-existent streets, getting trodden upon and chewed by goats.

Apparently rubbish collection only occurs once every 40 days (we keep a pile of rubbish in our back yard for safe keeping, although we don’t generate much given how basic consumer goods here are). Occasionally you see controlled fires to get rid of the trash. But more likely than not, you’ll just see it turn up in the lot next door…