Why do they call them khakis

Khat chew in khaki pants

Welcome to Somaliland, it's piss! ", Calls the child soldier with the gold tooth at Hargeisa Airport, a Kalashnikov and two ammunition chains are hanging around his neck. He pushes a SIM card for my mobile phone into my hand, a gift from the government to the few visitors, “call your family, tell them it's super safe here.” Only now do I understand that he actually means peace by piss , Peace. Welcome to Somaliland, the most bizarre country in the world.

Maybe it was because I was always a pacifist. A teacher's child, a conscientious objector, my brother dragged toads across the country road, the parents of my friends from the Waldorf kindergarten chained themselves in front of the Hamm-Uentrop nuclear power plant. Maybe it was cockiness after all the sweet cream up to here. In any case, I wanted to go on a beach vacation where no one else goes.

I didn't want to die in the process, so I chose a compromise. Mogadishu: too dangerous. North Korea: too gray. Afghanistan: too little beach. So my choice fell on the city of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden, at the top left in what is probably the most prominent state ruin in the world: Somalia. If you want to go to Berbera, to the turquoise shores of the sea, where there are coral reefs, fresh fish and sandy beaches, you have to plan your trip from Hargeisa, the self-proclaimed capital of the self-proclaimed state Somaliland.

The country has been in civil war since the collapse of Somalia under the dictator Siad Barre more than 20 years ago. For fear of fueling the Somali conflict, the world does not recognize Somaliland. Though it has a fairly democratically elected government and even police officers. The cars, painted in blue with the words "POLICE", are on patrol. Unfortunately the cars from Hong Kong are right-hand drive, but in Somaliland they drive on the right. Which often leads to nasty accidents when overtaking.

In the "Oriental Hotel", a concrete block with heavy curtains and an inner courtyard, in which a battalion of fans is desperately fighting the heat, I meet the Gruber couple from Austria. They are both over 70, khaki clothes, bushy eyebrows, he has Parkinson's and talks a lot, she is silent. “I'm a country collector,” says Gruber proudly. He has traveled to Somaliland because he urgently needs to complete his collection. Gruber still needs two states, then he has seen all 193 states in the world recognized by the United Nations plus a few not recognized. The Canadian Stephen Fenech joins us. He says he's in the process of preparing his last big trip. Fenech is on the shortlist for the Dutch project "Mars One". If things go well for him, he will be one of the first people on Mars. Such fellow travelers can only be met in Somalia.

The next morning I get up early because I have a goal: where do you go to the beach? For breakfast there is a suspiciously yellow piece of butter with an orange jam that is so sweet it takes my shoes off. Looking for a taxi to Berbera, 158 kilometers away, I walk through the capital, which looks like a gigantic sandpit. I discover a single paved road, the rest is sand.

In front of the shops there are metal boxes one meter high in which the money, the Somaliland shilling, is piled up in stinking large bundles. I exchange US $ 20, it doesn't seem like much, I am presented with a bulging plastic bag with Somaliland shillings. Recounting impossible.

The only noteworthy monument in the city is a shot down war plane, a MIG, which is enthroned on a Soviet-looking concrete stele and is rusting to itself. The windows in the fuselage have burst. A pair of birds has built a nest.

The taxi is a 30-year-old Toyota with cracked windows and a prayer mat in the back. “Berbera?” Asks one of the guys standing around the car. Before I can nod, my suitcase is taken away and I am pushed into the passenger seat. From there I put the handbrake on because eleven other passengers are getting on. I'm supposed to put one foot in the driver's footwell to the right of the accelerator, the other on the passenger side. The handbrake hurts your bottom.

We crawl out of Hargeisa at a snail's pace, Somali music booms out of the boxes, the driver chews khat, a drug made from the shrub of the same name. Around 98 percent of the male population of Somalia are dependent on the herb. It is supposed to increase the sex drive, make you talkative, keep you awake. And destroy the brain in the long run. I try to forget the handbrake and enjoy the landscape.

A short time later I stuff my cheeks with khat like a goddamn rabbit. At first it tastes bitter like green tea. But soon the landscape around me, the barren rock, the undergrowth, the camels and the red-assed baboons become more exciting, wilder, pristine and beautiful with every kilometer that the decrepit Toyota covers.

My luck suddenly ends at a barrier that seals our street. Next to it are armed men who - like everyone here - scream incessantly. Highwayman? An ambush? I am pulled out of the car and taken to a sky-blue barrack, where I have to hand in my passport. Explanation? No. But constant roar.

To ensure some security in Somalia, which is plagued by hostile clans, warlords and Islamists, there are military checkpoints on every major road in Somaliland within a few kilometers. Apparently every foreigner has to be guarded by three soldiers. I didn't know "Sorry." I pull some khat out of the bag and offer the policeman a few stalks of it. The barrier goes up.

My translator, a tender man with a high voice and a fluff over his upper lip, wants to talk. He shares his khat with me and tells me in English what his cousins ​​work. There are many. I sprinkle “yes”, “no”, “indeed” and “interesting”, but above all I enjoy the beautiful landscape. Three hours later one of the sights of Somaliland finally: The international airport of Berbera. At 4,000 meters, it has the longest runway in Africa. The USA planted the concrete runway in the steppe at this point. Allegedly to have a replacement runway for their space shuttle. But a spaceship has never landed here. Not to mention the longed-for holiday fliers full of funny tourists in a party mood.

Berbera could compete with the most beautiful places in the world, with the Ilho do Moçambique, with Gorée Island or with Lamu, if the shadows of war would not still hang over the city. Bombed out buildings crumble in the center between plane trees, two wrecked cattle freighters from Yemen are rusting in the bay. In the few simple hotels, the room costs an average of ten dollars. But there is a clear view of the sea and garbage dumps.