But half-way towards Berbera, the soldier got out at a checkpoint and returned to Hargeisa. (So much for the mandatory – paid – armed protection insisted on by Government officials to travel anywhere outside the capital; not that I cared much, except for the additional expense.)
However, returning to Hargeisa 2 days later, it was difficult convincing a taxi driver to take me in a shared van without that military escort.
Luckily, I was well-hidden at the very back.
Seated behind many heads and tinted windows, ducking my white-face deep into my lap, avoiding soldiers’ brief glances at the driver thru his open window as we passed half-a-dozen checkpoints back to Hargeisa.
A Brief History of Berbera – Somaliland
Berbera was mentioned 2000 years ago by a Greek trader and then, in the 9th century AD, by a Chinese scholar who said it was a port for trading slaves and ivory.
Beyond these footnotes, we know little about early Berbera – a sparse story much like the surrounding desert.
Later mentions come with the Portuguese exploration of Africa’s Swahili Coast, when they sacked the place in 1518.
In 1546, the Ottoman Turks occupied Berbera.
From the 19th century, the story picks up, with the British explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton visiting twice.
During his second visit, hundreds of Somalis attacked his camp on the night of April 19th 1855. They killed one of his companions, but Burton escaped to Aden (a British-base in Yemen).
British Somaliland and independence
After signing treaties with Somali sultans in 1888, the British created a protectorate known as British Somaliland.
But this zone was really only a supply source of meat for their outpost in Aden (on route between Britain and India) and the Brits nicknamed Berbera as “Aden’s Butcher Shop”.