Think Somalia and what springs to mind? Pirates, Civil War, Islamic militants? Suffice to say it’s not your average holiday destination. Until 2012 the country had been without a government for two lawless decades and, although the fractured nation has witnessed a period of relative stability recently, it remains highly dangerous.
Travel is possible in the northern districts of the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland, a quasi-independent state that has broken away from the rest of Somalia. Travellers, however, should avoid visiting other areas.
And that’s a shame, because behind the turmoil lies a destination of considerable beauty. Somalia has a varied landscape of mountains, deserts, tropical rainforests, undiscovered beaches and coral reefs. Sadly, much of it is under threat from unregulated logging, drought and the ongoing civil war.
Modern day Somalia developed from a string of Arab sultanates, which were scattered along the northeast coast of Africa. As Arab influence waned during the late 19th century, the British, French and Italians designated these territories as protectorates. These were the subjects of various treaties, forged amid frequent clashes between the colonial powers and the neighbouring Ethiopians, and between the European powers themselves.
The problems Somalia experiences today were sown in 1960, when the British and Italian Somalilands were merged. Inherited tribal rivalries and territorial disputes have dominated the country’s history since.
Years of fighting between rival warlords and an inability to deal with famine and disease have led to the deaths of up to one million people. The area is still extremely volatile, with attacks taking place, especially in the capital of Mogadishu.
Those keen on travelling to the region would be well advised to visit neighbouring Ethiopia or Djibouti instead. But if you are set on Somalia, there are a handful of attractions to see including the Laas Geel cave complex, which offers exquisite Neolithic art and stunning rock formations
Gorgeous beaches and beautiful coral reefs can also be found along the coast, but you’d have to be one dedicated beach bum to seek them out.
637,657 sq km (246,201 sq miles).
11,079,013 (UN estimate 2016).
Federal republic. At the Arta Peace Conference in 2000, an interim parliament was established. The northern part of the country considers itself independent as the Republic of Somaliland with Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud as president since 2010, although it has not achieved international recognition.
Head of state:
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed since 2017.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheyre since 2017.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are standard.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
There is a dangerous level of criminal activity by armed militia throughout Somalia. There have been murders, armed robbery and a number of incidents of kidnapping. There are regular outbreaks of inter-clan violence throughout Somalia.
British government officials serving in Somalia live and work under strict security rules. All British officials live in secure, guarded accommodation and travel with close protection teams at all times.
Humanitarian needs are great in Somalia, with over 3 million people in need of assistance. Displaced people living in settlements and other vulnerable groups will remain ‘food insecure’.
The displacement and overpopulated refugee camps may lead to a significant increase in disease, increased risk of crime over food security and a heightened security threat to foreigners.
There is tension on the Somaliland/Puntland border in the Sool and Sanaag regions.
There is a high threat of maritime terrorism in the territorial waters and international waters off Somalia. While there have been no successful piracy attacks since May 2012 off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, the threat of piracy related activity and armed robbery in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean remains significant. Reports of attacks on local fishing dhows in the area around the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa continue. The combined threat assessment of the international Naval Counter Piracy Forces remains that all sailing yachts under their own passage should remain out of the designated High Risk Area or face the risk of being hijacked and held hostage for ransom. For more information and advice, see our Piracy and armed robbery at sea page.