“We are unpaid Ethiopian ambassadors promoting Ethiopia’s societal and cultural values”

By Desta Gebrehiwot

A small signboard written both in Amharic and Somali languages visibly stands in the nerve center of the heart of Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, a bustling and densely populated city.

The signboard reads Ethiopian Barbershop. It is one of the small Ethiopian shops doing big work for their country. The barbershop is an instance of Ethiopian mementoes that the city of Hargeisa bears.


A walk at the center of the city can help any passerby easily grasp the deep connection between Ethiopia and Somaliland and learn the extent of Ethiopia’s mark in the city.

Assefa is on the right side of 30. He is the manager of the barbershop and is one of the barbers in the shop who are all Ethiopians.

He happened to be in Somaliland at the invitation of his friend, but surprisingly, he made Hargeisa his second home and has been residing there since 2018.

In the barbers, Ethiopians carefully cut and shave the hair and beards of all customers. In the background, Ethiopian music plays, and the clients, all Somalilanders, glare at the mirrors, awaiting the fine look they were craving.

All of our customers are Somalilanders, and they like to have their hair cut by Ethiopian barbers. The barbershop, frequented by people of all ages, is now planning to open branches in another part of the city.

‘Our Somaliland customers, Assefa said, “are satisfied with the quality services offered and the ethics observed.”

The barbershop is one of the small Ethiopian-owned and run businesses that are oiling the skids in deepening people-to-people relations. Right on the veranda, people dine and drink Ethiopian coffee served in Ethiopia’s traditional coffee-making ceremony.

Assefa told the Herald that the public opinion towards Ethiopia is genuine and positive. Besides the social and cultural bond, the people now cherish bilateral cooperation at the government level. The people liked the Ethiopian coffee and dish, and now the port deal, Assefa added.

There has been positive sentiment following the deal. The day-to-day business interaction, according to Assefa, is making life for Ethiopians better in Somaliland.

“We are unpaid Ethiopian ambassadors promoting Ethiopia’s societal and cultural values.”

In touching distance to the Ethiopian embassy is also Enkoba Restaurant, a small yet famous Ethiopian business on the outskirts of the city. The restaurant at launch time is packed with customers, and the restaurant is bedecked with Ethiopian cultural souvenirs while portraits of famous Ethiopian emperors hang on the wall.

Born and raised in Addis, Muna Mohamed, the restaurant owner, came to learn the art of cooking Ethiopian food at a young age. In her twenties, Muna moved to Somaliland and married a Somalilander. Hargeisa then became a place where she began her culinary journey. Sometime later, her love and passion for food led her to open a successful restaurant. Muna acts like the main chef and is very much involved with the food that comes out of her kitchen.

She prepares and uses all the key ingredients that define the distinct flavors of Ethiopian cuisine. All while continuing the tradition.

Unpaid Diplomats, Small Outfit With Big Job, Ethiopian Business Fostering Ethio-Somaliland Bonds
Small business with big job, Ethiopian business fostering Ethio-Somaliland ties

Also, offering Ethiopian dishes in the center of the city is Abyssinia Restaurant—the restaurant, which is widely known in the city also a rendezvous for Ethiopians.

The manager of Abyssinia restaurant, Wendwesen Aregawi, has been living there for 5 years and is a manager in the restaurant. We operate freely and face no trouble. So long as you operate lawfully, you will become profitable. Somalilanders are admirers of Ethiopian dishes. Have a good attitude towards Ethiopians. Since most Somalilanders sheltered in Ethiopia during the civil war, they are familiar with Ethiopian culture. “We have a long list menu of Ethiopian dishes and find cousins. Now around 30 Ethiopians are making their living in the restaurant.”

Almost 90 percent of the customers are Somalilanders, Wendwesen said. Ethiopian meals are delicious and easy to get used to, Ismael, who usually comes to the restaurant for dinner, said.

“The first time we experienced Ethiopian cousins, we were impressed with Ethiopian food. They are flavorful and spicy, which makes them akin to Somaliland dishes,” Abdulahi said commenting on the restaurant’s service.

The Ethiopian embassy in Hargeisa should facilitate joint platforms where the two peoples can exchange their cultural values.