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The crown of the African Horn is a curious place. Bathed in an incessant equatorial heat for virtually the entire year, its backcountry ranges from the acacia-spotted Sanaag plains of the north to the greener reaches of autonomous Jubaland in the extreme south. Delineating the entire country is more than 3,000 kilometers of coastline (the longest in all of mainland Africa), rising from the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean to the dusty plateaus of the Guban. Around Mogadishu – the capital – this gives rise to bustling Liido Beach, one of the social epicentres of town.
But the inhospitable plains and vast empty hinterlands are the least of the traveler’s worries here. Somalia has become synonymous with the social upheavals of East Africa as a whole. A brutal civil war is only just showing signs of slowing, while pirate vessels are the commanders of the coast and the sea waters. Many western foreign offices recommend against all travel in the region, while hopes remain as the country ploughs forward with a new democratic program and oil wealth emerges out of Puntland. Perhaps one day travelers will be able to freely join a Somalia tour guide and hit the coastal mountains of the Zeila Coast, taste the chilli-packed Somalian dishes and spy out lions on the Gelgel grasses. Time will tell.