Pontus Marine

Friday, August 18, 2017

Somaliland - Inside Hargeisa's only live music venue

(Hareisa , Sopmaliland ) Al Jazeera - Security is tight at one of Hargeisa's few nightlife venues.
Religious hardliners have threatened attacks on the burgeoning capital's only live music establishment, operated by legendary local singer Sahra Halgan. The statuesque Halgan left Hargeisa in 1992 and returned after 23 years living in France.
Made to resemble a traditional nomadic Somali dwelling, Hiddo Dhawr is lined with animal hide. Different textiles add to the decorative gumbo. Shades of beige and red - the hues of the sand and earth of this arid region - scatter across the walls. A man strums an oud, filling the large space with melodies influenced by neighbouring Yemen.

With a relatively expensive $15 entrance fee, the city's elite - businessmen to television personalities - sit at round tables, dining on camel meat, and spaghetti, a more benign legacy of Italian colonial rule.
Tonight we're having dinner with a former import-export tycoon originally from Mogadishu, simply known by many as "Chief".

A rotund man with a glint of relentless confidence in his eye, Chief fled to the United States during the war. He returned as part of a growing diasporan trend, given Somaliland's relative stability and growth, prefaced on a mass disarmament campaign in the early 1990s.

"First time in the Horn?" he asks.

A few slurps of spaghetti and he's ready to regale with stories of the former splendour of Mogadishu, long referred to as the "Pearl of the Indian Ocean".

"I used to import rice from Thailand, timber from Indonesia, electronics from Japan," Chief reminisces. "We would pair fine Italian wine with those sweet little lobsters [langoustines] on Lido beach."



Indeed, Somali territorial waters are home to some of the world's most prized catch, which also attracts foreign fishing - much of it illegal. Mogadishu's main fish market reveals an abundance of seafood, especially varieties of tuna coveted by European and Asian markets.

Returning to Mogadishu in the early 1970s as a university graduate from New Delhi, India, Chief expanded his father's business.

Chief's tales evoke images of what now exists in fading memories and collectible photography: A crisp, marbled city, where minarets, Italian colonial architecture and Arabic patterns seduced outsiders. Palm tree-lined wide roads bustled with Fiats, Indian rickshaws and cosmopolitan life. Stunning crescent beaches lined by the bright-teal Indian Ocean waters attracted a luxury tourist market of largely Italians and wealthy Europeans, drawn to the iconic ocean view of Al-Uruba and Juuba hotels; their bullet-ridden derelict ruins now haunting the city's coastline.
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