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Hargeisa is located in Somaliland
Location in Somaliland
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Country  Somaliland
Region Woqooyi Galbeed
District Hargeisa
 • Mayor Abdurrahman Mahmoud Aidiid
 • Land 71 km2 (27 sq mi)
Population (2015)[1]
 • Total 1,200,000
 • Density 1,600/km2 (3,000/sq mi)
Time zone EAT (UTC+3)

Hargeisa (Somali: Hargeysa, Arabic: هرجيسا‎‎[2][3] Hargeisa serves as the capital of Somaliland, a self-declared republic that is internationally recognized as an autonomous region of Somalia.[4]

During the Middle Ages, Hargeisa was part of the Adal Sultanate's domain. The city later succeeded Berbera as the capital of the British Somaliland protectorate in 1941. In 1960, the protectorate gained independence and united as scheduled days later with the Trust Territory of Somaliland (the former Italian Somaliland) to form the Somali Republic (Somalia) on July 1.[5][6]

Hargeisa is situated in a valley in the Galgodon (Ogo) highlands, and sits at an elevation of 1,334 m (4,377 ft). Home to rock art from the Neolithic period, the city is also a commercial hub for precious stone-cutting, construction, retail services and importing/exporting, among other activities.[2]


The place-name Hargeisa literally means "the place where hide is sold".[7] Although little is known about the city's pre-19th century history,[7] Encyclopaedia Aethiopica suggests that the settlement may have evolved in the latter half of the 1800s as a Qadiriyya settlement established by Shaykh Maddar, near a water-stop used by nomadic stock-herders on the way to the town of Harar. It thus proposes that the name "Hargeisa" was possibly derived from the sobriquet Harar as-sagir, meaning "Harar the little".[8]



Rock art from the Laas Geel complex on the outskirts of Hargeisa.

Numerous cave paintings from the Neolithic period are found in the Laas Geel complex, on the outskirts of Hargeisa. During November and December 2002, an archaeological survey was carried out in the area by a French team of researchers. The expedition's objective was to search for rock shelters and caves containing stratified archaeological infills capable of documenting the period when production economy appeared in this part of Somalia (circa 5th and 2nd millennium BCE). During the course of the survey, the French archaeological team discovered the Laas Geel rock art, encompassing an area of ten rock alcoves (caves). In an excellent state of preservation, the paintings show human figures with their hands raised and facing long-horned, humpless cattle.[9]

The rock art had been known to the area's inhabitants for centuries before the French discovery. However, the existence of the site had not been broadcast to the international community. In November 2003, a mission returned to Laas Geel and a team of experts undertook a detailed study of the paintings and their prehistoric context.

Northern Somalia in general is home to numerous such archaeological sites, with similar rock art and/or ancient edifices found at Haylan, Qa’ableh, Qombo'ul and El Ayo. However, many of these old structures have yet to be properly explored, a process which would help shed further light on local history and facilitate their preservation for posterity.[10]

British Somaliland

Women's market in Hargeisa, British Somaliland protectorate.

In 1888, after signing successive treaties with the then ruling Somali Sultans such as Mohamoud Ali Shire of the Warsangali Sultanate, the British established a protectorate in the region referred to as British Somaliland.[11] The British garrisoned the protectorate from Aden in present-day Yemen, and administered it from their British India until 1898. British Somaliland was then administered by the Foreign Office until 1905 and afterwards by the Colonial Office.

Berbera, a major trading harbour on the Red Sea, was the protectorate's first capital due to its strategic importance. However, the capital was moved from Berbera to Hargeisa, and the city was granted capital status in 1941. During the East African Campaign, the protectorate was occupied by Italy in August 1940, but recaptured by the British in March 1941.

The protectorate gained its independence on 26 June 1960 as the State of Somaliland,[12][13] before uniting as planned days later with the Trust Territory of Somaliland (the former Italian Somaliland) to form the Somali Republic.[14]


MiG monument in Hargeisa commemorating the Somaliland region's breakaway from the rest of Somalia during the 1980s.[15]

In the post-independence period, Hargeisa was administered as the capital of the Woqooyi Galbeed province of Somalia. Numerous new development projects were subsequently launched in the city by the Somali government. Among these initiatives was the creation in 1977 of the Hargeisa Provincial Museum. It was the first museum to be established in Somalia since independence in 1960.[16] The Hargeisa International Airport was also renovated and modernized, with the ultimate aim of equipping the facility to accommodate larger aircraft and offer more flight destinations.[17]

The Hargeisa International Airport was renovated and modernized during the 1980s.

After fallout from the unsuccessful Ogaden campaign of the late 1970s, the ruling socialist government of the Somali Democratic Republic under Major General Mohamed Siad Barre began arresting government and military officials under suspicion of participation in an abortive 1978 coup d'état.[18][19] Most of the people who had allegedly helped plot the putsch were summarily executed.[20] However, several officials managed to escape abroad and started to form the first of various dissident groups dedicated to ousting Barre's administration by force.[21] Among these rebel outfits was the Somali National Movement (SNM), which was supported by Ethiopia's then ruling Derg communist regime. By the late 1980s, the insurgent group had managed to capture Hargeisa, prompting air strikes by government forces. The ensuing bombing raids and crossfire claimed thousands of casualties and destroyed much of the city.[22]


A residential area in Hargeisa.

After the collapse of the Somali central government and the start of the civil war in 1991, SNM secessionists in the northwestern part of the country unilaterally declared independence. A slow process of infrastructural reconstruction subsequently began in Hargeisa and other towns in the region.

Since 1991, Hargeisa has undergone a large-scale facelift. The renovations have been largely financed by local entrepreneurs, as well as Somali expatriates sending remittance funds to relatives in the region through some of the various Somali-owned money transfer operators.[23] Most of the destroyed residential and commercial buildings have since been reconstructed, with many newer structures erected. Single storey buildings downtown are also progressively giving way to multi-storey edifices and high-rises.


Location and habitat

Hargeisa is located in a mountainous area, in an enclosed valley of the northwestern Galgodon (Ogo) highlands. It sits at an elevation of 1,334 meters (4,377 feet) above sea level.

Hargeisa countryside

The city used to be surrounded by forest when it was smaller in size, but the countryside around it still has small junipers. Near Hargeisa are the fertile Sheikh and Daallo mountains, which receive large amounts of rain. South of the city is the Haud savannah (Baligubadle), which attracts many different species of wildlife to graze in the area.

Hargeisa is situated near the town of Gabiley, which serves as an agricultural centre in Somaliland. That town's Allay-Baday area produces tons of tomatoes and onions each month during the rainy season. The city of Arabsiyo is also located nearby, and is noted for its lemon production.

Due to its relative fertility and greenery, wild animals come to the Hargeisa area to either breed or graze on the grassland savannah. Fauna that can be found in rural sections of the city include the kudu, wild boars, Somali wild ass, warthogs, antelopes, Somali sheep, goats, camels, and many different types of birds. There are also a number of both public and private menageries. South of Hargeisa is a grassland savannah, which attracts many types of wildlife to the area, including lions and leopards.


Hargeisa has a semi-arid climate (Köppen: BSh). The city generally features warm winters and hot summers. However, despite its location in the tropics, due to the high altitude Hargeisa seldom experiences either very hot or very cold weather. This is a trait rarely seen in regions with a semi-arid climates. The city receives the bulk of its precipitation between the months of April and September, averaging just under 400 mm of rainfall annually. Average monthly temperatures in Hargeisa range from 18 C in the months of December and January to 24 C in the month of June.

Climate data for Hargeisa
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 24.2
Daily mean °C (°F) 17.7
Average low °C (°F) 11.6
Average rainfall mm (inches) 2
Average rainy days 0 1 2 4 6 7 5 8 7 3 1 0 44
Average relative humidity (%) 65 65 58 57 56 55 53 53 55 56 61 64 58.2
Mean daily sunshine hours 8 9 9 8 9 8 7 7 8 9 9 9 8.3
Source #1: FAO (UN)[24]
Source #2: Weather2Travel (rain, rain days, sunshine)[25]


Meeting hall of the regional House of Representatives.

Situated in the Woqooyi Galbeed province of the Somaliland region, Hargeisa is the seat of the regional parliament, the presidential palace and government ministries.[26]

The municipal administration is currently led by Abdurrahman Mahmoud Aidiid (Soltelco). A member of the Peace, Unity, and Development Party (Kulmiye), the ruling political association in the region, he was elected Mayor on 14 April 2013 by a quorum of 24 city councilors.[27]


According to Demographia, Hargeisa has a population of around 750,000 residents as of 2015. It is the 652nd largest city in the world by population size. The urban area occupies 65 square kilometres (25 sq mi), with a population density of 11,600 inhabitants per square kilometre (30,000/sq mi).[1] It is primarily inhabited by people from the Somali ethnic group, with the Isaaq clan well-represented.


Qani Abdi Alin, owner of the Dheeman clothing firm, at the launch of the Partnership Fund for local commercial ventures.

Hargeisa is the financial hub to many entrepreneurial industries ranging from gem stonecutters, to construction, food processing, retail, and import and export firms.[2]

In June 2012, the Partnership Fund for the private sector in the Somaliland region was launched at Hargeisa's Ambassador Hotel. Part of the larger Partnership for Economic Growth program, the initiative will see $900,000 USD allocated to 13 private local businesses as well as the creation of 250 new full-time jobs, half of which are to be earmarked for youth and one third for women. The Fund is expected to improve job opportunities for 1,300 entrepreneurs through ameliorated product distribution and investment in new technologies and processing facilities. Eligibility is determined through a competitive and transparent selection process overseen by the Partnership program, the Somaliland Chamber of Commerce, and government officials.[28]


Buses are the most commonly used form of public transportation in Hargeisa. They travel on a number of routes serving nearly all of the city's districts. Intra-city bus services are also available, which connect Hargeisa to other major northern Somali cities and towns, including Burao, Berbera and Borama.

Vehicles on a main road in suburban Hargeisa.

With the growth of urban development, several new taxi companies have sprung up in Hargeisa. They are the brainchild of local entrepreneurs and Somali expatriates who have returned to invest in their hometown. The firms provide high quality and secure taxi transportation to all parts of the city, and offer long-term employment opportunities. Raho City Taxi was the first of these new cab companies to begin operations in the region. As of 2012, it has a fleet of around 40 vehicles, which include small sedans and vans capable of accommodating up to seven passengers.[29] Hargeisa Taxi is another of the recent taxi firms based in Hargeisa. It has a fleet of four small compact cars and seven passenger minivans, in addition to around 19 other vehicles. GPS devices installed by the Sahal Technology firm allow the cab company's dispatch office to monitor its taxis to ensure that they travel within the speed limit. The office can also disable the vehicles online in the event of theft. Other new taxi firms serving Hargeisa include Dalhis Taxi and Marodi Jeh Taxi. Fares are inexpensive, costing between 15,000 to 18,000 Somaliland shillings ($2–$3 USD) per ride,[29] with the national Somali shilling also widely accepted.[30]

For air transportation, the city is served by the Hargeisa International Airport. The Somali-owned private carriers Daallo Airlines and Jubba Airways offer domestic flights from the facility to various other towns in Somalia, such as Mogadishu, Bosaso and Galkayo. Trips to international destinations are also available, including to Djibouti and Dubai. It has recently gained more airlines such as Ethiopian airlines and fly dubai.


A school roster board in Hargeisa.

Various primary schools and nurseries are dispersed throughout Hargeisa. There are also several state-run and privately owned secondary and high schools in the city. Among these are the SOS Sheikh Secondary School and Abaarso School of Science and Technology, the latter of which is the pre-eminent secondary institution in the area. Abaarso School is located about 13 km (8 mi) west of Hargeisa.

In terms of post-secondary education, the city is home to a number of colleges and some universities. The main institutions of higher learning include the University of Hargeisa, Admas University College, Somaliland University of Technology, Gollis University and Hope University. Additionally, the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital offers nursing programmes to students.


Hargeisa has a modern telephone system, with most urban residents enjoying mobile or landline access. As online service providers have grown, a number of internet cafés have also sprung up throughout the city.

The main telecommunication services available in Hargeisa are operated by Telesom, Somali Telecom Group - Somtel and NationLink Telecom.

Notable residents


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External links