The road to the port town of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden drops thousands of feet through a landscape of white sun-bleached rock, brittle thorn bushes and bone-dry riverbeds set against a backdrop of mountains sliced by desiccated ravines cut when the rain occasionally comes. It is an unremitting kind of beauty.
About an hour outside the capital Hargeisa is a nowhere place called Las Geel, Somaliland's only tourist attraction. Turn left between a collapsed house and the little village mosque then weave around the pair of long drop toilets and follow the dirt track for another 20 minutes and you reach one of the world's most impressive rock art sites.
Bright colored depictions of cattle and people adorn the walls and roofs of a series of caves as clear today as when they were painted thousands of years ago. The caves themselves look out over a cowboy country of dusty plains and rocky hills. You half-expect Clint Eastwood to ride by.
Berbera itself is a cauldron of a town. The sweaty humidity of dawn is replaced by scorching daylong temperatures that frequently top 100 degrees. The relentless heat is crushing. During the day people crawl into the shade to sleep or lounge listless on small wooden chairs.
In this unlikely seaside town one European man hopes to create a second tourist attraction in Somaliland — scuba diving. Steve insists that the diving among Somaliland's coral reefs is comparable to the Red Sea and hopes to draw visitors from across the Horn of Africa. His dream is admirable, but it's a hard sell: scuba Somalia anyone?