We embarked on our journey to Burco city- a 120-mile of tarred road, passing by crags and pinnacles of bush and tree-clad escarpments. There were some military checkpoints but they were usually manned by a single soldier. Most of them wave you through with no accompanying hassling.
We approached the outskirt of Burco. On the road leading to the entrance, one’s attention is caught with a recurring roadside sign every 500 metre with the name KULMIYE printed on, the ruling political party of Somaliland. Once that fades away, attention is shifted towards the remaining patch of tarmac road where WADDANI (Somaliland’s largest opposition party) is distinctively painted upon in bright orange letters in a repeated pattern.
Burco (sand hill or dune in Somali) is a historical city whose short existence has witnessed a great deal of epic events. The capital of Togdheer region; It’s a city known for producing some of the most prominent Somali figures in history. With a population exceeding 300,000, it serves as a strategic trade hub buzzling with a huge number of merchants from as far as Kismaayo.
It has grown considerably and continues to grow on account of direct investment from the city’s flourishing diaspora community and the influx of rural people migrating to the city.
One observation that caught my eye was the vibrant nature of the locals; everyone was happy, contend and on the move, nicely fitting into the expanding dynamics of the city. There is a healthy level of competition and a peaceful aura clouding the city – “hoyga culimada iyo nabadda – the house of Islamic scholars and peace” they proudly proclaimed.
Burco is more conservative compared to other cities in Somaliland but that level of conservatism remains moderate, all thanks due the heightened vigilance of the locals and their scholars, who prevent it from becoming a hotbed for extremism. Islamic studies courses are on the rise and many from afar have graced the city to learn from its renowned scholars.
It was there where I slowly gulped my first 1 litre raw ‘caano-geel’ (camel milk), fresh from the udders of a healthy camel from the hinterland. Though I have heard the horror stories of never trying camel milk as a disaporian on your first trip lest you long for days of nauseating episodes, alxamdullilah nothing happend. Incidentally, it hosts the largest livestock market in Horn of Africa.