D2. LAS GEEL – HARGEISA
To go to Las Geel, Magnus and I book the day before with the hotel Oriental, where we are staying and also where I met Magnus, a Swedish traveler. Fortunately, we are two to share the costs: 110 USD for the rental of the vehicle with driver and military escort (mandatory), and 25 usd entry fee per person, so all together 80usd per person… But I have no doubt it worth it!
If the hotel does not organize this excursion, it is possible to contact directly the Ministry of Tourism in Hargeisa who finds you vehicle, driver, and escort for the same price.
It is not possible to get there by public transport, a private vehicle is necessary. The main road Hargeisa-Berbera passes 6km from the sight, but for security reasons, it is not possible to walk the last km. Well, that’s what they say…
We meet the driver at the hotel at 8 am. We leave on time. To reach Las Geel, 50km from Hargeisa, we take about 1h15, 50km of paved road in bad shape (potholes, bumps) and then 6km of track in very bad condition with big holes and rocks.
Las Geel, “camel waterhole” in Somali language, is an amazing place. This place was located at the confluence of two rivers where cattle and wild animals came to drink. It’s one of the only tourist attraction in Somaliland. The site was “discovered” in 2002, even if it was known by locals for much longer! Nobody was coming here, however, because it is said that the paintings were the work of evil spirits. The site is still little known and little studied
It consists of a series of rock walls of different sizes and heights, connected by a small path. The visit is done in about 2 hours. The paintings are splendid and still in good condition, preserved by the dry climate of the region. They were drawn in the Neolithic, that means between 10000 and 6000 years ago! Located in the middle of the desert on a small rocky promontory, we have a superb view of the surroundings.
The most common figures are those of cattle, which are clearly distinguished, but also men and women, dogs, giraffes, and elephants, which populated the surroundings at that time.
The site is however endangered. If there are no conservation efforts, some rocks may collapse. In places, we can see bird nests that have already damaged some walls. The trampling, the dust and the breathing of the visitors also make the paintings fragile.
We visit the small museum, a room with some panels explaining the site. Then we walk to the caves and rock shelters. It’s already very hot. We do not walk long to reach the first wall of paintings, a few meters, and a dozen steps. It’s impressive the number of figures painted here: women dancing, men with their dogs (hunting scenes), cattle, a man with two hands of five fingers well detailed, and even elephants that once populated the region.
Then we visit the following walls and caves, separated by a few meters from each other by a small path. The view of the surrounding landscape is beautiful.
We are back in Hargeisa early in the afternoon.