One of the few "non-countries", Somaliland enjoys independence since 1991. Officially one of the three regions in Somalia, Somaliland does not want to be seen together with Somalia. People want to be recognized by the international community, and countless times I was assured how safe and secure Somaliland was, as opposed to Somalia. As a former British protectorate, they speak English as first foreign language, and you can either fly in to Hargeisa, the capital, or your go overland from Ethiopia, or if you are adventurous, from Djibouti. We got our visa on arrival at Hargeisa airport, which set us back 60 USD, and I even managed to get at the airport a Somali SIM card which I used for the 3G internet connection with an investment of 5 USD, and which, to my surprise, almost always worked. We got a warm welcome from our tourist guide, and off we went to the cattle market, where the action was.
Indeed, I never felt unsafe. People even were not that shy when we expressed our wish for a photo. And Somalis have a good sense of humor and like to laugh. We were often approached by people "where are you from" and once when I said "from Germany" I got very high praises of our chancellor Angela Merkel.
Indeed, you need not change a lot of money, as the USD is the second currency in Somaliland. You can pay in USD and get your change in Somali Shilling. I even managed to draw 200 USD from the ATM. Brand new bills. Many Somalis even do not pay with cash at all. They use their mobile phone for payment, and it works. Every seller accepts "mobile money".
Safe indeed Somaliland must be. And strict, too. Women have to wear a veil, or at least a headscarf. So our 2 ladies were covered all the time. And no alcohol. Nowhere. Their drug is called Qat. A bunch of leaves in your cheeks, you chew them, and get some "nice feeling". Practically every Somali chews Qat. In the afternoon. One daily dose sets you back around 10-15 USD, and whatever money remains, the dutiful husband hands over to his wife. And, yes, about women. They were less shy than you would think. Even veiled, they stare at you, they even talk to you (if they speak English), and they do business. Quite active they are.
Berbera left an impression of a bit of old charm and decay. Not much happens here, but it is definitely one of the must-see spots in Somaliland.
The most famous touristic spot is Laas Geel, where you can see cave paintings of an age of perhaps 5,000 years.
What you can feel in Somaliland is the desire of the people to move forward. Everybody is busy. I believe to have felt hope. They want to get out of their political isolation, but the international community does not agree. Once drawn borders shall not be changed, and no dictator of the African Union will agree and recognize Somaliland. For fear of their own future.