From white sands to caves and ‘Hafuun’

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By: Yasir Ahmed- Baffo
Founder: Somali Tourism Association (SOMTA)

Somalia’s tourism gems are diverse.
The Somali’s ecotourism industry is finding its footing after two decades of fraternal civil war. The conflict may have destroyed lives and property and displaced wildlife, but Somalia is still blessed with a wide range of natural and cultural values that makes ecotourism a highly viable and potentially valuable investment.

Needless to say, Somalia has the longest coastal line in Africa, stretching about 3,333 km. This means its beaches are vast and diverse.

In the early 70s and 80s, Somalia was enviously perceived as one the most fascinating touristic destinations in the Horn of Africa, due mainly to its striking beaches, kind and friendly people, exotic cuisine, luxurious accommodation, serenity and more.

Somalia has unexploited architectural heritage and beautiful pristine beaches that are of great tourism value. Some of those destinations are Sinbusi and Baravo beaches in lower Shabelle, Bush-Bush national Park, and Goobweyn in Lower Jubba (where Jubba River and the Indian Ocean meet). Others include Hafuun (the Horn of Africa) in Barri, Daalo Mountain in Sanaag, rivers Shabelle and Jubba, and many other natural destinations.

After the fall of Somalia in 1991, the tourism sector, including ministry of tourism, was destroyed. Before then, the tourism ministry owned a number of star-rated hotels and restaurants, as well as national parks, game parks and zoos. The remnants of some of these are still visible.

From 1992 to 1996, Somalia’s tourism industry was inactive due to the UNISOM mission that controlled much of the country. The only active businesses in the industry were air and land transport, and a few guest houses.

From 1996 to 2006, the country’s economic wheels began to roll again, with Bakara market at Ceel Macaan port as the edifice on which Somali home-grown economy was based.

It was from here that domestic tourism and business tours started gradually through movement of commercial goods and people across the Kenya and Ethiopia borders. Local welcomed those business travellers to use the inns, guest houses, hotels and land transport.

From 2006 to 2011, the country underwent destabilising political events, and this disrupted tourism activities. In that period, many Mogadishu residents migrated to other regions and neighbouring countries in search of more secure environments.

Somalia has unexploited architectural heritage and beautiful pristine beaches that are of great tourism value. Some of those destinations are Sinbusi and Baravo beaches in lower Shabelle, Bush-Bush national Park, and Goobweyn in Lower Jubba (where Jubba River and the Indian Ocean meet). Others include Hafuun (the Horn of Africa) in Barri, Daalo Mountain in Sanaag, rivers Shabelle and Jubba, and many other natural destinations.

In early 2012, Mogadishu, the heart of Somalia, started to invite Somali investors to rebuild and construct the country, especially in tourism and hospitality. The country had found peace. The investments in hospitality started to create job opportunities for young Somali boys and girls.

The building of hotels and restaurants in the town and on the beaches played a huge role in the country’s economic recovery, peace progress and social reintegration.

Before the civil war, Mogadishu was lined up with trees filled with the fragrance of flowers and menthol, fine architecture, splendid weather and revitalising atmosphere. It was simply one of the most beautiful cities in Africa.

There were many other regions in Somalia with modern hotels and restaurants that were not much affected by the war. Some of such destinations quickly recovered in late of 1990s.

For the time being, Somalia offers tourists a wide range of experiences, such as beautiful beaches with golden and white sand, waterfalls, hot springs, caves, bird watching, diving, river cruising and the damage caused by the civil war in what is referred to “Dark Tourism” (for visitors to appreciate the impact of war). There are also historical sites in the country, some of which were built centuries ago.

The Somali Tourism Association (SOMTA) in Mogadishu has advised the department of tourism to adopt the National Ecotourism Plan (NEP), which prescribes policies and guidelines for the conscientious development of ecotourism.