Africa has some magnificent centuries-old rock art – how many have you visited?Read more...
Las Geel - A view from our expert author
At least 5,000 years old, this prehistoric rock art is the most alluring site on the Horn of Africa.
Estimated to be at least 5,000 years old, and quite possibly twice as ancient, the superb rock art at Las Geel ranks among the oldest and best preserved of its type anywhere in Africa. It comprises about a dozen individual painted shelters scattered on a granitic outcrop that rises from the confluence of two wadis (dry watercourses), a spot where the high water is reflected in the name Las Geel meaning ‘Camel’s Waterhole’. The paintings have been preserved in situ by their sheltered location and by the dry Somali climate, and they remain striking both for their vibrant colours and for their rich complexity.
Their presence also provides incontrovertible evidence that the pastoralist lifestyle was well established in the region thousands of years before it reached Western Europe.
Easily visited as a standalone day trip out of Hargeisa or en route to Berbera, Las Geel is the most compelling tourist attraction in Somaliland, topping the Department of Tourism and Architecture’s list of potential UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The site was also visited by the broadcaster Simon Reeve for the BBC programme Places That Don't Exist, broadcast in 2005. And yet, incredibly, the existence of this fantastic rock art remained unknown to the outside world only three years before that. Although locals had long held the site sacred, it was first documented in December 2002, when a team of French archaeologists under Professor Xavier Gutherz was led here by villagers from nearby Dhubato.