Women and children in Dollow, Somalia
Women and children in Dollow, Somalia © Trocaire

Somalia is a country on the coast of the Horn of Africa, with a history dating back millenia. The ancient Egyptians knew the region as the 'land of spices' and ancient historical texts note the prosperity and trading power of the people living along this coastline. During the colonial era the region was so sought after that the territory was divided between the British, Italian and French, partly to dilute the power of a local population unified under the same language and religion.

Tragically, however, Somalia has been beset for many decades by civil war, clashing warlords and waves of rebellions and coups, and has for some time been considered one of the most dangerous countries on earth. Despite various efforts to stabilise government and subdue warring factions Somalia has been essentially in a state of anarchy for nearly three decades. Since 1991 Somalia has effectively been divided into three separate states: Somalia to the south, the independent state of Somaliland in the middle, and Puntland to the north. Of the three, Somaliland is the only destination with a proper administration and some sense of peace and stability.

Extensive travel warnings are in place for Somalia, and travellers are warned that rates of kidnapping, murder and piracy are high. The huge upsurge in piracy over recent years is centred on the remote port of Eyl - the Somali pirates are a law unto themselves, hijacking ships for ransom and governing their region with total impunity.

One day peace will come to this tragic part of the world. When it does, tourists will experience the thrill of a virtually undiscovered destination, including the delights of the longest coastline in Africa. There are 1,864 miles (3,000km) of beaches, astounding scuba diving at Las Geel, world-class Neolithic rock paintings, and a unique ancient culture to discover, all just waiting to be appreciated.

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