Faces of Africa – Lessons from My Heritage

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Hargeisa, the capital city of the self declared state of Somaliland, is Sada Mire’s home away from home.

Sada lives and works in the Netherlands. A professor of Archaeology at the University of Leiden, during the holidays, she returns to Somaliland to extend the research works she started many years ago.

While in high school in Sweden, she began to be confronted with issues of personal identity, and understanding her historical roots and heritage.

Sada Mire walking among ancient ruins of Somaliland

Just an hour’s drive north of Hargeisa, Aw-Barkhadle is one of the first heritage sites where Sada begun her Archaeological work. This remarkable site hosts the ruins of an ancient city and an Islamic shrine, that sheds light on the ancient history of the region.

The horn of Africa is believed to be the location of the fabled land of Punt as was recorded in ancient Egyptian texts. Also known as the land of the gods or the land of plenty, Punt had deep trade ties with Egypt dating back 2000 years or earlier, and was rich in resources such as gold, ebony, ivory, spices, incense and trees, treasures cherished by the Egyptian Pharaohs When the civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991, 15-year-old Sada and her family had to flee the country for Sweden as refugees.

Wild animals depicted in the caves of Dhaymoole, many of whom have gone extinct in the region

Sada and her archaeological team are on the road again. This time Sada will be travelling to Dhaymoole, about 200km northeast of Hargeisa. On this trip she is accompanied by 3 scholars of Astro Archaeology. They are taking this trip to try and discover how archaeology, can reveal the level of knowledge about the galaxy and universe of the ancient cultures in the region.

The Dhaymoole heritage site is about 8 kilometers away, and the team accompanying Sada comprised of Ahmed, Abshir and Aden have to walk all the way.

The Astro Archaeology team are experts in folklore based on ancient astrology of the region.

Ancient paintings in Laas Geel, depicting a cow with big horns and prominent udders

After about an hour of trekking, Sada and team arrive at the mysterious caves of Dhaymoole, believed to be about 3000-5000 years old.

In the 15th century, an explorer from China’s Ming dynasty, Zheng He commanded seven naval expeditions through the Indian ocean. During his 4th and 5th voyages, Zheng He’s fleet visited towns along the east coast of Africa of what are now Somalia and Kenya. Inspired by the visit, envoys of the region would pay homage to the Chinese Emperor,  presenting treasures  including an African Giraffe, which caused a huge sensation in China.

Sada Mire explains the paintings to the security guard and her student

To the east of Hargeisa, the region of Laas Geel hosts some of the most amazing ancient works of African art ever to be discovered.

The Laas Geel site has a series of about 18 caves, with each having unique stories depicted in form of rock art.

An Islamic Shrine in Aw-Barkhadle, believed to be the tomb of the first Islamic religious leader in the region.