11 Photos That Will Make You Want to Visit One of the Most Dangerous Countries in the World
Often known as one of the "most dangerous countries in the world", Somalia usually makes headlines for political turmoil, rather than its beauty.
Since the fall of brutal military dictator Siad Barre in 1991, the east African nation has been engulfed in civil conflict, targeted by ruthless pirates and political strife for decades.
It's also had a long, difficult history of meddling from powerful entities: From the colonial rule of the Italian empire, and more recently, U.S. support for the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006.
The country has only recently defeated the insurgency of al-Shabab, taking back towns held by the terrorist group.
While many government tourism departments, including the U.S. and Canada, have warned against traveling to the region, the country is not as dangerous as it once was.
"A bright future for Somalia is within touching distance," Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon wrote on Twitter.
Filled with landmarks that speak to the country's rich history as a colonial trading port, as well as untouched natural attractions, Somalia's social and cultural heritage is certainly worth noting.
We take a look at Somalia's beauty beyond its dangerous label:
1. Mogadishu, the nation's capital
Mogadishu is easing toward peace and normality for the first time in decades. The seaside capital of Mogadishu, where a Somali cafe owner prepares coffee for his customers, is full of life for the first time in 20 years after African Union and Somali troops pushed Islamist militants out of the city in 2011.
2. The national theater
The Somali National Theater ireopened for the first time in 20 years.
"I see so much difference as a longtime resident in Mogadishu," said Abdiaziz Nur, a 31-year-old Mogadishu resident. "I had never dreamed that I would either walk through Mogadishu's streets or drive my car at night, but now we feel glorified and proud."
3. Colonial ruins in Mogadishu
Once the jewel of the Italian empire, Mogadishu features scenic landmarks that stand as a testament to the country's rich history and heritage under colonial rule.
The old town of the Somali capital, including Hamarweyne and Shangani, host some of the oldest buildings, mosques and the remains of one of the largest Roman Catholic churches in eastern Africa.
4. The famous Uruba hotel
Once catering to dignitaries and thousands of the Italians during its golden age, the Al-Uruba hotel was an iconic landmark in Mogadishu.
Located near the deep blue Indian Ocean, not far from the presidential palace, the hotel is now peppered with war wounds. Still, the hotel's sandy white beach and scenic views attract tourists and visitors to the landmark attraction that once drew people from across the region to dance.
5. Playing at the beach
Somalis play football near the Lido beach in Mogadishu.
6. Baathela beach
Located in Berbera, Baathela is one of Somalia's uncrowded, unspoiled beaches that has seen more visitors in recent years.
Berbera was once the capital of British Somaliland between 1870 and 1921. Now the capital of the Sahil region, the city is located along the oil route, making it the main commercial seaport for Somaliland.
There are also remnants of historical buildings made of coral and Russian architecture from the 20th century.
8. Las Geel rock paintings
Located about 55 kilometers northeast of Hergeisa, the Las Geel rock paintings were discovered in a complex set of caves by a French archaeological team in 2002. These beautifully well-preserved Neolitic paintings of Laas Geel, meaning "source of water for camels," are estimated to be between 5,000 and 11,000 years old.
Depicting indigenous humans, dogs, cattle and antelopes, this site has become a major tourist attraction in Somalia.
9. Mogadishu beach
Once the heart of violence and civil conflict, the nation's capital is slowly moving toward becoming a tourist hot spot. Boasting sun-soaked beaches and deep azure blue waters of the Indian Ocean, Mogadishu has become a must-see location for visitors.
10. Daalloo escarpment
Somalia's expansive, untouched landscape impresses visitors in both scale and beauty. The Daalloo forest, known for its abundant wildlife, leads to the escarpent allowing for picturesque views down the valley.
11. Nugaal Valley
Nugaaleed Valley, also known as Nugaal Valley and located on northeastern Somalia, features an extensive network of seasonal watercourses, permanent wells and is bounded by plateaus that reach elevations of 1,650-3,300 feet above seal level.
It has also long been the home of a pastoral nomadic population that return during the dry season.