Sunday, October 02, 2005

A day out to Jigjiga

With the milkman
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
After a couple of days of discovering the joys and wonders of Harar, it was time for another adventure, this time a day out to Jigjiga. Jigjiga is the capital of the Somali Province of Ethiopia, 125 kms, east of Harar and just 160 kms from my birthplace of Hargeisa and is accessible by many buses going there from Harar.
So the first fun of the day was the bus ceremony, this time enlivened by the specatcle of lots and lots of ladies trying to bundle as much fresh top quality qat into the bus as they could. The roof was used, as were the racks above the seats, the gangway, under the seats, on their laps and everywhere. As the journey went on the qat would be taken out of the plastic bags, aired, passed around and put back. It seems as if demand is almost infinite so any amount taken could be sold for a good profit. As the bus was almost full when we arrived and we were given two seats at the back, it only took us half an hour to get gouing after many false starts, but it was still early.
The tarmac road gave out about 3 kms out of town, but the dirt road was pretty smooth as we passed idyllic rural scenes of boys, men, women and girls tending their flocks of goats or camels, moving their herds of white cattle, all set in a green rolling landscape, with little villages dotted around houses made of red mud bricks, some rectangle some round, with pretty straw roofs. No photos, as the windows were dirty and we were dreiving so fast.
At Babile, we stopped and we could see the fascinating rock formations there. Rocks rounded and weathered, balances on other rocks, many sticking up like fingers... all along the valley. Hope to go back there this afternoon or tomorrow, so you may get to see some photos later.
Eventually, we got to Jigjiga and were soon surrounded by a bunch of freiendly people asking where we were from, what we were doing, were we journalists and so on..... until some man in uniform shooed them away and told us that we could not just turn up in Jigjiga, we needed permission. So we were forced to follow him through crowded streets, full of colourful Somalis, many calling out to us and offering their hands. Every now and then a few camles would pass us, led by women, carrying a bundle of syticks on their backs, walking very silently, quite fast, nimbly finding threir way through the crowds. At the police station, as it turned out he was police, we were asked by a very friendly man what we wanted and we told him that we just wanted to spend a day in Jigjiga and go back to Harar and that we had been brought there by his colleague who said we needed a permit. He told us we didn't need a permit and then he introduced us to one of his colleagues, who was equally friendly and asked us exactly the same question to which we gave exactly the same answer. All very pleasant, and soon we were back out on the streets, only a little bit lost.
Well, we walked around for about three hours, gathering crowds of friendly people everywhere we went, some for a chat, some for a photo. It was always good to talk about Somaliland and, of course, about football! Often there were so many people around, we ended up stopping the traffic... the horse and carts, the camels and donkeys, the boys with wheel barrows (yes, they were back, not seen since Sana'a but here there were lots of them offering their services of carrying things. If they were not used, the wheelbarrows made good beds.
The biggest hit was when we went out to find some camel's milk to drink, intrigued by the so-called power of the substance. Well, finally we found some ladies selling the milk from yellow plastic bottles and we tentatively drank it. It tasted like cows milk mixed with barbecue ashes, a sort of burnt taste. Anyway, it seemed to amuse the locals one of whom reversed roles and took a photo of the tourists.
Eventually it was time to find the bus station again and this time we were one of the first on the bus, so we got good seats at the front with a window next to us.. great for taking photos of the landscape. However, it took about an hour and a half to load up, unload and re-load and finally start, by which time the dark clouds had come over and the day was getting late, so altogether too dark for any photos.
No qat this time, but plenty of women and this time. First they were just noisy. Then they started fighting each other. Then they started shouting and fighting with the ticket boy. Then they fought with another chap. Then all was still. And then it would start up all over again. Lots of pushing and shoving and threats to throw cans at each other. I had read in a book written in 1960 that Somali women could be pretty terrifying, having been treated so badly by their men and it seems that very little has changed in the intervening years. Fish wives... and worse. I am ready to believe that the women we see on the buses (who are ALWAYS loud, if not violent, are more an example of market women than indicative of the total population. I hope so, for the sake of them men.
Anyway, we pulled into Harar in darkeness at 8 after a heavy fall of rain. We found Monique, the Belgian lady we had met the day before and we moved our things over from one hotel to the other (we were forced to move to make way for some tourist groups). At the new hotel, we found little sign of the promised hot water, but there WAS water and we had the opportunity to view the hyenas from the window at the back. Hyenas just wandering the streets looking for scraps of meat thrown in the ditch. The ditch is also used as an open toilet and it was intriguing to see a man pee-ing just 10 metres or so from a pacing hyena. He (the hyena) looked fat enough, so it was probably safe, but I wouldn't have done it!

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Anonymous Gwen Wordingham said...

Hi I just found your blog, doing some research about my own previous experiences in this area - you were lucky with your meeting the police in such a friendly way! I was detained arbitrarily in Jijiga in late 2013, spent 27hrs under armed guard for no reason at all, trying to travel to Somaliland to do PhD fieldwork. Luckily I managed to bluff myself and some travel acquaintances into a hotel for the night rather than a cell though the guards stayed with us outside the door of our rooms... Jijiga is notoriously the place where many Oromo and Somalis have been detained suspected of rebel activity with the ONLF forces and held incommunicado, as I found out too late to avoid the city! I'm glad you had a good time there despite the slightly confusing police encounter! It's nice to find a good experience of the city.

30 March, 2016 00:45  
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