Archive for the Shopping Category

Livestock market

Posted in Animals / Fauna, Shopping on April 27, 2011 by Home Strange Home

Owners marking their camels.

Hargeisa doesn’t have much in the way of sights, but one that is definitely worth seeing is the livestock market. Located about a 20 minute walk from the main drag, it takes place daily in the morning, and it is best to go early to see the most animals and activity.

As I have mentioned before, the livestock trade is the backbone of the Somaliland economy. Most of the livestock are sent to the port of Berbera, where they are exported to the Middle East. At the Hargeisa livestock market, animals are traded for both domestic use and export.

The market is a large open dirt plot, with a handful of shelters.  Essentially, it is just a gathering of animals and people under the hot beating sun. There are a couple crowds of docile camels that just stand there with their camel perma-smiles and occasionally get herded around by their owner.

The owner of the camels welcomed us to have our photo taken with his animals. In doing so, we soon attracted a crowd of curious Somali observers, so that we were soon squeezed in between a crowd of camels on one side and a crowd of people on the other side.

Also for sale are goats, sheep, and a handful of cows. Although there is lots of open space in the market, the owners keep their herds together in a dense little pack, so you will come across a cluster of twenty goats huddled closely together as if they were packed into a small room.

The price of the camel depends on the sex of the camel, its age, its size, and its state of health; an average adult male camel will cost $800. Goats cost between $50 and $100 dollars. We left without buying anything!

Like a goat night club.

Like a goat night club.

A crowd of camels - for sale!


Gold market

Posted in Shopping on April 2, 2011 by Home Strange Home

More gossiping, less gold selling.

In down town Hargeisa, there is all sorts of stuff for sale in the souks, from fruits and vegetables to cloths, books, qat, and toiletries. (Don’t get too excited, though – many of the things westerners are used to consuming back home are not available here). Yet the colourful parade of items for sale is a treat for the eyes, especially near the central mosque where you pass the gold market.

Now I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, this is no Dubai gold souk – the Hargeisa gold market basically amounts to a bunch of ladies sitting behind small wooden table-boxes which act like a miniature display case for their limited range bright gold earrings and necklaces. If you want to have a peek, they will open the glass top of the case and you can inspect the tray of wares. Every time I’ve walked past, they don’t seem to have too many customers, but they are always busy chatting amongst themselves.

A typical gold shop. Er, box.

Ramshackle market shopping

Posted in Shopping on March 21, 2011 by Home Strange Home

A strong gust of wind would surely blow the market to pieces.

The central market down town is quite a ramshackle affair, but if you want to get (somewhat) fresh fruit and veg, or shop for fabrics and clothing, it’s the place to go. The whole place is a bit shambolic, without much rhyme or reason.

Most of the market “stalls” don’t even amount to that, but rather are nothing more than a wheelbarrow with a piece of wood on top, the goods laid out on display, and a large umbrella propped up to protect them from the sun. Amusingly, the less sophisticated sellers don’t even have a proper umbrella pole or wheel barrow, but rather just sit on the ground and hold up a regular small umbrella with their hand (you can’t get much more basic than that).

My Somali is at this point non-existent, so purchasing items can be a bit of a challenge – first I have to point at what I want (or, worse, mime it if I don’t see it in front of me) and then, because we can’t even communicate prices or numbers to each other, I have to hand over bills one at a time until I’ve paid enough.

Hargeisa central market.

Painted shop fronts

Posted in Shopping on March 19, 2011 by Home Strange Home

In case you were wondering what this shop sells...

In a place where photographs are considered fancy and illiteracy is an issue, a good way to advertise whatever you want to sell is to get an artist to paint a picture of it on the front of your establishment. All around town you see such paintings, sometimes elaborate and sometimes rudimentary, on store fronts and concrete walls.

The ones for the corner shops are not too surprising – not unlike a 7-11 or off-license back home, the “window” front (or wall front, to be more accurate) displays the brands of soda you can buy and reminds you to top up your mobile phone there.

But where things really start getting amusing (and sometimes slightly scary) is when they advertise things like medical and dental services. Let’s just say I really hope I don’t need any dental work done while I’m living here. Check out a few confidence-inspiring examples below.

A cosmetic surgery clinic for women with abnormally large asses.

A dentist for people with an exceptional number of teeth.

Hmm, are these FDA-approved?

Grocery shopping

Posted in Food / drink, Shopping on March 15, 2011 by Home Strange Home

Your typical rainbow-coloured hole-in-the-wall shop.

There are no supermarkets in Hargesia. There aren’t really any grocery stores either, at least as we know them. If you want to buy food, you either go to the market, or one of the ubiquitous corner shops which are colourfully painted on the outside to advertise their wares.

Don’t get your hopes up too much, though, because usually half the items that are painted on the shop front aren’t actually available for sale inside. The selection is pretty limited and every hole-in-the-wall shop sells essentially the same staples.

The shopkeeper sits behind a counter and behind him are shelves that reach to the ceiling, stocked with the likes of canned goods, bottled condiments, and boxed soap. You tell the man what you want and he picks it out for you. If you ask for something like sugar or flour or salt, you order it by the kilo or half kilo, and it will come to you in a flimsy plastic bag.

Some of the gas stations have fancier shops wher you can browse the shelves yourself; this is probably the closest it comes to western-style grocery shopping, and the few that exist are on par with a British off-license (except, of course, there is no alcohol). These shops also have some imported food products, and you can buy things like butter or milk or cereal which you can’t get elsewhere (yes, you read that correctly, all of the above can be considered speciality items).