‘It wasn’t what I expected, it’s beautiful’: British-Somaliland youth explore their roots


Somaliland’s population was scattered across the globe by a civil war in the late 1980s. Though it remains unrecognised as a separate nation from Somalia, Somaliland is now a haven of relative peace in the unstable region. During summer the population of its capital swells with diaspora visitors who come from all over the world to spend their summer exploring the land of their family. Words and photographs by Kate Stanworth.Sara serves coffee to a customer in the Cup of Art cafe. She came back to live in Somaliland from Cardiff in 2014 and founded the cafe with her brother in response to what she saw as a lack of good coffee in the city. Sara has met with some local resistance to her project, but says it has made her more determined to succeed. Photograph: Kath Stanworth for the Guardian

Mohamed, 28, watches the sunset on a hill overlooking Hargeisa. He has travelled from Cardiff to spend the summer with friends and family. “I came to see the country, see the people, and have a bit of holiday in between,” he says. “I was born in a house down there [in the valley] just before the war, so I was two years old when the government started firing at us. Up on this mountain they used to put their guns, their shells and everything. That’s how the war happened and we started fleeing.” Photograph: Kate Stanworth for the Guardian.

Mohamed and his cousin Zak play pool – a western import – in a Hargeisa games hall popular with young diaspora visitors during the summer months. “People in the west have a different view about Somaliland, and Somalia,” says Mohamed. “When they think about Somalis they think about pirates, right? I had the stereotype at first. But now I’m amazed to see everything is just like the west – the only thing that’s missing is the snow.” Photograph: Kate Stanworth for the GuardianMarket stalls and traffic in Hargeisa’s bustling downtown area. In the lead-up to its split from Somalia in 1991, the city was bombed so heavily that it became known as the Dresden of Africa. The mass displacement of the population that came about as a result of the conflict gave rise to a global diaspora whose economic contributions have since played a vital role in the country’s recovery. Photograph: Kate Stanworth for the Guardian



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