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Somalia travel guide

About Somalia

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.

Key facts

Area:

637,657 sq km (246,201 sq miles).

Population:

11,079,013 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

16.6 per sq km.

Capital:

Mogadishu.

Government:

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 Mohamed Hussein Roble since 2020.

Travel Advice

COVID-19 Exceptional Travel Advisory Notice

As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.

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