Land of the Pirates
The unvisited, the poor, the lonely, in a way annoying, in a way captivating Somalia!
What did I now about Somalia? Before heading to this “untraveled” part of the world, I knew it could be dangerous, I knew it was poor, I knew there were pirates hijacking foreign ships and I knew it was a muslim country. And I think that was pretty much it. Oh I also could locate the approximate location of the country on the map.
What do know about Somalia now? It is poor, really poor. Even the city centres look like a war zone, the beaches and fields are pool of garbage and plastic bottles. Somaliland declared independence in 1991 but it is not an internally recognized independent state. The people are very religious, as if this is the only thing left for them. Everything else they gave up, they don’t care. The world gave up on them, and they gave up on their own lives.
Many horrifying traffic accidents on the highways, many dirt roads that were supposed to be highways, many tired and hungary people festing at 35-40C during Ramadan, getting aggressive right around 4 p.m., right before Iftar (fest breaking time when the sun goes down), getting real friendly and cheerful right after Iftar, kids asking “what is the situation?” meaning “how are things?” and asking “where are you from? what is your name?”, kids giving high fives, women nowhere to be found in the society expect in the markets and their houses, restaurants refusing to serve lunch during Ramadan, some ships that could be pirate boats, people staring just staring, wondering what the foreigners are doing this land that all world has forgotten about…and what am I doing there? Other than saying where I am from when they ask, avoiding eye contact with the locals in crowded places like market place, streets, trying not to make any one upset or angry, trying to bare with my headcover and long skirt , long sleeves at that 40C heat, getting angry that I am covered, with my hair getting itchy under the covers, eating chicken fish (it is supposed to be fried fish but tastes like chicken, always served with rice and always the same meal in all restaurants), being stoned from a top of a mosque while trying to visit and take pictures…..I am observing, inhaling this new world, I get annoyed at times at their weird questions, staring looks, or the beach fool of garbage. But I am also feeling, feeling their pain, understanding and learning their world, accepting all the annoyance is not their fault, imagining how this could be a better place, if anyone needed them, if anyone thought they could be a “army base” or “a strategic location” or “full of resources”…but they have nothing or very little…and no one at the moment cares….then I see the smile on the faces of the kids, the hope in the eyes of the young boys at the high school we visited, while asking me “can you find us a scholarship?” assuming I am someone. But I am also no one…I am also one of those who will soon turn her back, forget and move on. I feel guilty and I know Somaliland captivated me in more ways then what I can describe here in words and it has contributed to my “seeing the world with different eyes” in a whole new way….It made me put things in perspective. See what I have, what we all have in our developed worlds. I felt like I don’t fit in to my old world for days and days after my return, and I thought about the Somali days every day for weeks and weeks…
Now I know better…it is not just the land of pirates…it is the land of unfortunate people…