Saturday, November 05, 2005

Back home at last!

Back home at last!
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here we are in Hargeisa! Finally, after 43 years away.

It was a sleepless night, like it was going to be Christmas Day, an early rise and then a long wait at the airport (on the way passing a few open topped lorries full of soldiers with machine guns), as the flight was delayed for three hours and when it arrived it was a very bumpy flight...... but at 15.20 we touched down.

The countryside looked a bit flatter than I expected, but just as dry and as we flew over we could see little flocks of white sheep and goats and the odd camel, against the golden brown background of dry scrubland.

Coming out of the plane, one could feel a cool breeze, under a bright blue sky. The airport buildings ahead of us. Should I kiss the ground, like the pope on his return to Poland? No, too melodramatic.... we just stepped out, with the widest grin ever on my face, glad to be back home at last.

We were the only plane at the airport, which was originally opened by the Duke of Gloucester in 1958 and has been renamed the Mohammed Egal airport after the first President of Somaliland.

We were met by a young chap from Edna's Hospital who took us through customs formalities before driving us into town and to the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital. Here we were shown in and introduced to Edna, who once she knew who her 'son' was gave me a big hug!

She invited us in for tea and we had a very pleasant chat, making arrangements for the days ahead. She also told us a lovely story about a young girl who had lost her legs in a landmine, who she had taken care of for a long weekend in Djibouti and how this girl was very afraid of the sea... well, after a long story, she was eventually flown to Switzerland to an international conference on landmine, attended by Princess Diana, amongst others and when she was asked what she most wanted by Boutros Ghali, then head of the UN she said she wanted to go to school. She explained that her school was too far away from where she lived etc... and eventually Mr Ghali offered, through UNICEF to build a school for her and her neighbours in what is one of the poorer areas of Hargeisa. This school is named after her and she ended up doing very well there and is top of her class now at secondary school, receiving computer lessons from Edna's Hospital as a result. We think we would like to visit this school when we are here.

Edna will tell us more about her hospital when we meet her for lunch on Monday.

After tea, we were brought to the very swish Ambassador Hotel of Hargeisa, where we have satellite TV, very comfortable beds, posh restuarants, lovely gardens, tennis court, gym :-), and high speed internet, lobster on the menu..... all at a price.

We went outside for a walk and chated to quite a few students, telling EVERYONE that I was born in Hargeisa, which invariably earns me a second and very long handshake.

Hargeisa is very much like what I had imagined, in terms of topography and feel and everyone looks to be busy and reasonbly healthy. Lots of commerce and few NGO's, the Somalis are a resourceful people.

But still strange to be here after so long. To actually see, feel and smell the place, to be with Somalilanders, to see the flowers growing in the gardens, the pretty houses, the views and so on.

Looking forward to seeing more and reporting back tomorrow.

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