From Hargeisa to the coast at Berbera and the hill town of Sheikh. Orange dots on an otherwise all red FCO map. I'm not sure if driving there counts as ok. I suspect not. The strategic road to the port is crumbling at the edges, but paved all the way (other than the desert turn off to the paintings of course) and it even has yellow central line markings at times. As always, there are numerous roadblocks, ropes stretched across our way and soldiers checking the vehicles. Soldier Abdi puts his beret on when he sees one coming up and chats to the guards on duty and they let us through.
My hotel is on a beach on the Gulf of Aden; it’s a flat rocky stretch, scattered with bottles. It reminds me of a semi cleared waste dump. The surf is high, and some locals are frolicking in the waves, fully dressed of course. I don’t think that’s for me, and I can imagine the uproar if I actually take my clothes off. Besides, the relentlessly blue sky has given way to cloud and drizzle. My bungalow room is comfy, until some little brown bustards (aptly named) begin to party on the corrugated roof.
Berbera Town Tour
Berbera is sited on a strategic point at the entrance to the Red Sea and the UAE are commissioning a military base here, an interesting development in the ongoing Cold Wars with Iran, and with the west. There’s an atmospheric port area, with a fish market and a cluster of associated restaurants and numerous faded and collapsing buildings, British and Ottoman, finally ravaged by the war. It’s very quiet - Guide Badri explains that this is because it’s cloudy and people have stayed in bed.
The road ascends, through increasing cloud cover, to the little town of Sheikh, atop the mountains, where more crumbling buildings are testament to the British rule. There’s the remains of a fortress and the governor’s house. We eat lunch in a tent that’s part of a wayside restaurant – tuna fingers, goat soup and rice. Animals come to beg for titbits, there’s a tabby cat under the table and some horns appear at the head of the table. ‘Fucking goat,’ shouts Abdi. It appears that’s he knows more English than I thought.
Now, back to Hargeisa