Tuesday, November 08, 2005

5,000 year old rock paintings

Laasa Geel rock painting 4
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Yesterday was Monday, the day we were to have lunch with Edna Adan at her hospital and that is exactly what we did, after taking the bus down into town and walking around a bit by ourselves.

We arrived a bit early but soon Edna arrived with her other guests, namely John Drysdale, a Brit and honourary Somalilander, who has lived here in Hargeisa since 1943 and Con, who is over from UK for a few days. We were joined by some other staff from the hospital including a midwife trainer from Nigeria, a doctor from Uganda and a nurse from Tanzania. They were here as part of a training programme put in place by the hospital to train local Somaliland nurses.

We had a very delicious and relaxed meal, after which Edna invited us to join her to see the rock paintings at Laasa Geel. These were recently (re-)discovered by a French team who had been working in Djibouti in some caves just outside Hargeisa on the Berbera Road. They are reckoned by the experts to be one of the top five series of rock paintings in the world. They have been very well preserved and show very clearly depictions of cows and other animals with people seemingly praying to them.

It was a lovely trip out to the countryside, past villages and large numbers of camels, sheep and goats, past the Maidens' Breats and onward into the hills. It was dry, sure enough and we crossed a number of dry river beds, near to which might be a papaya plantation, taking advantage of the water contained below. We saw a dik-dik, some warthog and some other antelope along the way, but it was certainly no game park. Odd to think that not too long ago, elephant, lion and cheetah would live here, and cheetahs apparently still do!

We also passed an old tank, remnant of the vicious civil war hear of the mid-to-late 1980's.

We had to drive just a couple of kilometers from the road to get to the rock paintings, most of which were painted on an overhanging celing of rock, near the top of some smallish hills. Most of the paintings were of cows, female cows judging by their udders, but there were alos people seemingly praying to the cows. Not a scene which is depicted anywhere else in the world. Not sure why the French would say they were painted three to five thousand years ago, maybe they could be much older. Good news for the future Somaliland tourist industry when these paintings are officially opened to the public.

Back at Edna's house, we watched a video made by her family of the destruction wreaked upon Hargeisa during the civil war, prior to the liberation of Hargeisa in January 1991. Hardly a single building was left untouched. Soldiers destroyed or stole all the windows and roofs, house after house street after street. It seemed like a horror video but just went to show just how much has been built up since. Apparently, after this vicious bombardment, Hargeisa was known as the city without roofs. Also, the man directly responsible for the bombardment is one of the big-wigs in the transitional government of Somalia.

We had numerous very interesting political discussions with Edna and Con, which had better not make this blog. Politics and NGO's - dirty business. But it is very clear what drives Edna in her efforts to obtain international recognition for Somaliland. She is a truely remarkable woman who has put all her life savings into the maternity hospital and is a great credit to her country.

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