A discombobulated country on the horn of Africa. Affectionally known as 'the land of spices'
Somalia. Its certainly hot and spicy.
A backpacking trip through here would guarantee a bit of a rush. The experience would leave you with the hair permanently standing up on the back of your neck. Or just leave you.....
Its a country when pretty much anything goes. The reality of day-to-day life in Somalia is the stuff hopelessness is made of.
Without a functioning government in this country since 1991, the country has gone through a bit of a turbulent time of late, a bit of a free-for-all.
And by that I dont mean freebies or free-dom in any sense..
The large land mass that was once home to the largest army in Africa during the 80's, has now barely enough soldiers to protect the fragmented capital city of Mogadishu.
Corruption and extortion seem to be the very threads that hold together the fiscal policy of the country.
The entire economy is based upon these two pillars of power abuse.
From the barely audible or rarely visible government to the dare devil rooky pirates, there's plenty of characters in between who are just as shady.
Al-Shabab fighters control the southern and central parts of the country. Proudly charging round on camels sprouting their religious and political ideologies. They even have the odd crack at taking Mogadishu, the country's capital city, also known as the 'city of death'. The transitional government only controls a few square blocks of the capital city. The remainder is controlled by rogue war lords, powerful clans and/or extreme Islamic-inspired militias.
Odds are, you could probably haggle on the price of your hostel room, playing them all off on each other.
'ah come on...willy the warload said he'd do it for a fiver...Al Shabab don't have any mixed dorms available.....and your the government, surely you could offer me a bit more of a 'discount'
Loosely interpreted, the name Al Shabab can mean 'the youth' and as it happens to be, there are no girls in the gang, so they are also known as 'the lads', or at least thats what they call themselves.
Standard sharia law applies in the southern and central regions and 'the lads' are known for their no-nonsense responses, you don't really don't want to be cracking out the skimpy bathers down at the beach.
(This photo of a dead US solider being dragged through the streets was taken by a journalist whose collagues were only days earlier beaten to death for taking photos)
If your volunteerpacking, be very wary of the stats stacked up against you, in the past two years, 42 relief workers have been merked. Goneski.
Paul and Rachel Chandler, a couple of greypackers traveling around the world got mixed up in the madness, to say the least. The couple now hold the accolades for the longest held captives by Somali pirates, a cushy 400 days at the hands of these ruthless thugs and criminals of the high seas.
They were released a couple of months ago. Needless to say, don't think they'll be going back anytime soon.
So basically, any form of independent backpacking adventure would basically classify as suicidal. The only way you can even think about moving about is with armoured guards, private security or Ethiopian or official Somali troops. It is likely no matter which one of these options you choose, you will engage in some form of street battle.
Pack a bullet proof vest. And your hanky. There might be tears.