My first afternoon after arriving in the capital of the internationally unrecognized country of Somaliland, I called the only +252 number I had: a friend of a Fletcher School aluma who had steered me to this forgotten corner of the world. Rooble Mohamed, a lifelong Somalilander working for Handicap International, greeted me like an old friend and invited me to join him and a couple of compatriots at a new café in town, since Thursdays were the night to go out. (The weekend is Friday. Just Friday.) Sure, why not? Well, the law that prohibited foreigners from being out at night without an armed guard seemed like a legitimate reason to say no, but I thought I should be a little adventurous on my first night there. So, not two hours after arriving in Hargeisa, I was in Rooble’s tinted window sedan, rolling through the city streets blasting Tupac and keeping my head down so the cops wouldn’t see me.
The café was owned by two Somali cousins from the Canadian diaspora who recently returned to start the venture. Continue reading