Hargeisa! Did you hear the name? I did not before we got a project of consulting of security framework for the Mobile Money platform. Hargeisa is the capital for Somaliland. Please do not doubt of my general knowledge. But it is true I was not aware of a country named Somaliland.
Somaliland is bordered by Ethiopia in the south and west, Djibouti in the northwest, the Gulf of Aden in the north, and the autonomous Puntland region of Somalia to the east. Lot of my friends, colleges, family relatives suggested not to go there and all of us were apprehending this as part of Somalia and all of them were scare of pirates! One of my friend referred me about a movie “Captain Phillips”. I have not seen it. But aspire to see it soon. But I did not even search once in Google about it. Believe me I am not claiming it now after my return, I did not feel to do it beforehand. I had only asked few queries about the geography to the client. My idea about any geography is that remote feedback we generally have is nothing but apprehensions, not true fact mostly.
Hargeisa is not well connected with Kolkata, India. Initially we had plan to go via Dubai so that journey will be little lesser (Kolkata to Dubai by emirates, Dubai to Hargeisa by Jubba Airways). But due to availability problem (Jubba goes on Saturday to Hargesia and return on Tuesday, only once in a week), we were forced to take different route. Kolkata to Mumbai (Jet Airways), Mumbai to Addis Ababa (Ethiopian Airlines), Addis Ababa to Hargeisa. We started to 26th May, 2014 at late evening from Kolkata and reached at Hargeisa on 27th Afternoon at Hargeisa (there is a 2.30hours time difference with India). There was layovers in Mumbai and Ethiopia also. But we could enjoy good time in cloud 9 lounge since we were travelling by business class tickets. We were very upset on the Airport Terminal 1 condition in Ethiopia. It seemed to be very backward compared to international standard. Later realized Terminal 2 is better and advanced. Terminal 1 is backward since it is very old. The scanning process very interesting. They were more interested to scan leather items (shoe, belt etc) instead of inside contents of the bags.
Somaliland got independence on 18th May, 1991 after the civil war with Somalia and in effect entire country is in a growing stage. Road, building, industries all are being constructed gradually. Our Hotel (Star Hotel Hargeisa) was near to Airport (around 15-20 minutes’ drive). Our project was defining the architecture and implementing the information security framework in perimeter level for the Mobile Money infrastructure in both DC and DR. The project was completed seamlessly in 7days time as per schedule. Due course we could explore, navigate the geography, culture, and people in depth and below are few interesting observations:
- The city is like a valley. The roads are surrounded by small hills which are fully populated
- The cars are mostly Toyota in the road and majority of them having Silencer right side top (as per below snap)
- Driving rule is right lane, but there is a mix of driver position (left and right )
- Weather is very nice. 30 degree at Daytime and 20 degree at night. Almost no humidity and in effect I could wear full sleeve shirt with blazer and did not face any problem
- Very bright Sunlight due to no pollution.
- There are two major Telecom Operators, but No POI (Point of Interconnect). Assume in india, one having Vodafone and other having airtel. But they cannot talk to each other. In effect everyone in that country carries both the SIMs so that communications can take place.
- On the contrary, mobile money is very eminent instead of cash/debit card/credit card.
- Office timings are different. People come office in between 7 to 7.30am and takes a break for four hours at 12noon. Afar lunch, prayer and rest at home they comeback at 4pm and work till 6pm.
- Friday is the holiday
- There is NO ALCOHOL in the country
- No entertainment facility outside home (like cinema hall etc)
- Majority of general people cannot speak English. Local language is “Somali”. I tried to learn few word/sentences. But can recollect one at this moment “subah wangasan”. This means “Good Morning”.
- One USD is equivalent to 7000 Somali currency. People earn in USD & spend in Somali. Both USD/Somali are accepted. I did not find a Somali note below 500. No coin etc available since those will be useless.
- Food habits are fully non-veg. There are no vegetables except salad, soup sometimes. Morning popular breakfast is Liver Fry. Entire day spreads with chicken, mutton, beef, camel meat.
- Food recipes are poor and could not found major brands (Like Mc Donald, Pizza Hut, KFC etc). We had something called “swarma” at USD 2 . It is nothing but Indian Chicken roll (though the taste is nowhere near indian roll). Biriyani, Chicken Momo, Chicken Roll all will have huge market potential here.
- People are very friendly and helpful. We are thrilled with the hospitality.
Entire Album can be seen under facebook album. Click here to view the same.
Overall awesome experience exploring east Africa. Looking forward navigating other African countries soon.
Africa Calling !