In a very quiet morning, where both the city and its atmosphere enjoy purity and freshness left by the last night’s rain, the sun rises and sends its colorful and yet to be warm rays to the people and other inhabitants in the city, to welcome them to this beautiful day. The air is very clear that one can visibly see the famous Girls’ Breast Mountain (Naasa Hablood) from every corner of the city. These breast-like hills, though uneven, are two small pyramids in the East of the city. They are very popular that Hargeisa Municipality uses them as their logo as well as the symbol of the city. Such beautiful morning compels you to write about your city.
Hargeisa is encircled by mountains. One can safely assume that the early settlers of the city have chosen this position strategically, to get warmth in the winter, when this part of the country is moderately cold, unlike the coastal cities by the Red Sea. The Marodijeh dry river (doox) runs from West to East and divides the city. It only floods the rainy seasons – Gu’ and Dayr – but its water quietly passes the city, unexploited, and ends up in the Red Sea, not to mention that they sometimes claim lives. The doox has two small bridges and several unofficial crossings.
Hargeisa is the city of firsts as Edna Adan, also from Hargeisa, is the woman of firsts. It is the first city where an independent Somali flag was raised – on 26 June 1960, when Somaliland celebrated its independence from Britain. When the issue of modern education is raised in the Somali context, Hargeisa has to be mentioned as it is where it all started, at least in Somaliland. In 1943, Fisher School (now Sheikh Bashir School) opened its doors and in the first class in the same year, registered two young boys, among slightly over dozen others, who will go down the history to become eminent politicians and, eventually, presidents – they were Mohamed Ibrahim Egal and Abdirahman Ahmed Ali.
This city has a very special place in the history of modern Somali music. If the geneses of the modern Somali music is traced, one has to definitely start with the Hargeisa Brothers band (Walaalaha Hargeysa) in the 1950s and their composers and singers whose names dominated the Somali theaters in the three decades leading up to the Somali tragedy (which began in the late 1980s), but more captivatingly, whose music and poetry remains alive as long as Somalis who speak the Somali language and enjoy its music and poetry remain breathing in this world.
The names of the stars who belonged to this band have a special place in the hearts and minds of every Somali; among them were Abdillahi Qarshe, Ali Sugulle, Hussein Aw Farah, Hudeidi, Mohamed Ahmed Kuluc, and Sahardid Jebiye, to name a few. Some of these names either composed, made the music for or sung the most famous independence songs in 1960 which remain unparalleled to this day in terms of the power of their words, catchiness of their rhythms, and eminence in illustrating nationalism. By the same token, Hargeisa Brothers played a vital and an unequivocal role in the Pan-Somalism movements which led to the merging of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland in 1960 – so did Hargeisa –, and the later Somali irredentism to reclaim the other three missing Somali territories.
In the 1960s and 70s, when the Somali music was at its peak, Hargeisa again produced quite a number of exceptional singers and composers. What about contemporary music? In spite of the fact that Somali music has been floundering in the last three decades, Hargeisa played an influential role in reviving it – a prime example is that it produced the Horn Stars (Xidigaha Geeska), the most popular present-day Somali music band.
Music treated Hargeisa well as it treated the music well. It is the city whose name is mentioned in songs more than any other Somali city or, in other words, the Somali city to which the most songs are dedicated, often saying nice things about it: “the home of wisdom; the mother of poets” in Awale Adan’s song; “the freedom park” in Salah Qasim’s song; “the home of intellectuals” in Sahra-Ilays’s song; and the city that “nurtures composers and singers” in Abdirahman-Dhere’s song – note that I mentioned the singers here rather than the composers whom these verses belong to.
Notwithstanding music, Hargeisa also excelled in other areas of arts in recent years; Hargeisa International Book Fair, held annually, is the longest-running book festival in the Horn of Africa. Moreover, in the last decade or so, there has been a dramatic increase in writing and publishing not to mention that Somalis have historically always been portrayed as an oral society who do not keep written records – given the supremacy of poetry and storytelling among them, Somalis were in no doubt oral society.
Above all, Hargeisa’s recovery from the total destruction it underwent in 1988 from its own “national army” which reduced it to rubble and ruins, is a testament to its strength and assertiveness. Today, Hargeisa not only recovered but it expanded in size, improved in appearance, and increased in population – over one million people currently live in Hargeisa.
Unfortunately, that beautiful Hargeisa is impaired in a number of ways and undeniably faces grave challenges, chief among them are poor and inadequate water and road infrastructures. Hence, Hargeisa and its population lay claim to the social services and the public resources they deserve which, not only necessitate full commitment from its public institutions but also unreserved sacrifice from its residents.
Hargeisa is home to all. To those who choose to live in it. To those who decide to enjoy its beautiful and perfect weather. Our Hargeisa. Long live Hargeisa.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Muhumed M. Muhumed “Khadar” is a researcher based in Hargeisa, Muhumed M. Muhumed (Khadar) is the author of “Kala-Maan: Bilowgii iyo Burburkii Wadahadallada Soomaalilaand iyo Soomaaliya” and a number of scholarly articles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints of Somaliland Chronicle, and its staff.
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