Key Country Facts
The civil war in Somalia erupted in response to a 21 year-long dictatorship that was brought to an end in 1991. Also in 1991, Somalia was split into Somalia and the Republic of Somaliland, with the capital Hargeysa. The Republic of Somaliland is not officially recognized internationally.
Laas Geel, Mogadishu Cathedral
The top exports are sheep and goats, bovine, other animals, oily seeds, and molluscs.
The capital of Somalia is Mogadishu and the country’s population size is about 10.79 million people (2015). The official languages are Somali and Arabic, and the dominant religion is Sunni or Shafi’i Islam. The time zone is 7 hours ahead of EST.
As of January 2017, travelers should note that the U.S. Department of State warns citizens to avoid all travel to Somalia due to ongoing terrorist activities and the threat of kidnapping throughout the country, including in Somaliland and Puntland. Somalia is in an ongoing civil war. Areas frequented by foreigners, such as airports, government buildings, hotels, and shopping areas, are especially at risk of terrorist attack. The Mogadishu Aden Adde International Airport has repeatedly been attacked, including the detonation of an explosive device hidden in a laptop that came onto an airplane. U.S. civil airplanes (planes for tourists, business persons, and general travelers, for example) are currently prohibited from flying in airspace over Somalia. Sailing near the coast of Somalia should also be avoided due to the threat of piracy.
For those who do visit, one place to explore is Laas Geel on the outskirts of Hargeysa city. Behind the rocks in this area are small caverns which lead to well-preserved, old cave paintings. They are estimated to be between 4,000 and 7,000 years old. Home
In the capital, the Mogadishu Cathedral shows what remains of a once-functioning church that was bombed. The church now is used as a refugee and homeless persons center. Another church, the Union Mosque, is recently renovated and is a place that travelers can visit to get a better picture of Islamic and Somali culture. A quick place to see in passing is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument in downtown Mogadishu.
An especially fascinating place to visit is the Shanghai Old City in Mogadishu at the edge of the city along the coastline. Although it has been heavily damaged from ongoing civil war, it remains very popular as a tourist attraction. The city used to be occupied by wealthy Italians between 1920-1935 until it was later captured by British forces in WWII. In 1990, it was damaged from civil war. With such a long and changeable history, many travelers are fascinated by their time spent in this city and think of it as the highlight of the trip. Unfortunately, Shanghai Old City is currently not open to tourists because it is occupied by warlords, though it can still be viewed from the outside. [Note to Jim: The most recent reviews I found of Shanghai Old City were from 2016, so I can’t verify whether the city is open to tourists or not. The TripAdvisor and Travel USA description of Shanghai Old City says that the city is occupied by warlords and not open to tourists. Perhaps you can verify or disqualify this information when you visit.]