Somaliland - At a glance


Berbera Somaliland by Eric Lafforgue Berbera stands on the Gulf of Aden opposite Yemen © Eric Lafforgue

Location The Republic of Somaliland comprises the most northwesterly part of Somalia. It extends for roughly 400km from west to east along the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden, and is nowhere more than about 150km long from north to south. It lies between latitudes 8˚ and 11˚N and longitudes 43˚ and 49˚E.
Neighbouring countries Djibouti to the west, Ethiopia to the southwest, and the autonomous but unrecognised state of Puntland State of Somalia to the east. Somaliland and Puntland are still legally part of Somalia, which is bordered by Kenya to the southwest.
Area Approximately 137,600km2. It is a rather small country by east African standards, comparable in area to Greece, Malawi, Bangladesh or the state of Arkansas.
Climate Most of the country is low lying, dry and hot, especially in summer when coastal temperatures soar to above 40˚C.
Status Unrecognised constitutional presidential republic since 18 May 1991.
President Muse Bihi Abdi
Vice-president Abdirahman Saylici
Population 4.5 million (2017 estimate)
Life expectancy 52 (Somalia)
Capital Hargeisa
Other main towns Burao, Borama, Berbera, Erigavo, Gabiley
Economy Predominantly subsistence agriculture and pastoralism, as well as import and trade between the port of Berbera and neighbouring Ethiopia.
GDP US$1.9 billion (2015) or US$345 per capita
Languages Somali is the official language and almost universally spoken. Arabic and English both have a semi-official status, with the former being a mandatory school subject, while the latter is often spoken to a very high standard by returned exiles.
Religion As good as 100% Islamic
Currency Somaliland shilling (Ssh). The US dollar can be used for almost all transactions.
Exchange rates US$1 = Ssh 574
International telephone code +252
Time GMT +3
Electrical voltage 220V, 50Hz
Weights and measures Metric
Flag Three horizontal bands: from top, green, white and red. There is a black star in the middle of the central white band.
Public holidays Somaliland has four fixed-date secular and four moveable Islamic public holidays. Note the weekend is effectively Thursday and Friday.

Back to the top

Somaliland articles

View all

Five reasons to visit Somaliland

Although not having received recognised autonomous status by the rest of the world, Somaliland is a unique, strange and intriguing place that is seemingly worlds away from its Somali neighbours. 

Read more...

The world’s best markets

From Uruguay to Uzbekistan, these are some of the best markets you'll find around the world.

Read more...

Rock on

Africa has some magnificent centuries-old rock art – how many have you visited?

Read more...

Related guides and other books

View all