Dusty town without much attraction, except as springboard for a trip to Somaliland.
First the good news: the gravel road from Harar to Jijiga, mentioned in our various guide books, has been upgraded to brand new tarmac, which cuts the travel time in half. I had installed myself in the front seat, next to the driver, because the trip – according to those same guide books – promised to go through spectacular country side: the Valley of Marvels, no less, and the “well-wooded Karamara Mountains”. Right! I did see some weathered granite rocks on the way, presumably the valley, but I completely missed any well-wooded mountains. Lots of charcoal for sale, though.
In reality, the country side here is getting ever dryer, and less and less inhabited. The only signs of life are the small rounded huts of nomads, along the road and further afield; these are made of wood and mud, it seems, and reinforced with the occasional corrugated iron sheets for walls and a collection of rags, and sometimes tarpaulin, stretched over the roof. If we have seen any poverty so far, this beats all of it – and yet, there are also herds of cattle, and especially large flocks of sheep and goat, presumably representing some form of wealth. Perhaps the huts are just convenient, easily packed up and placed somewhere else, for a change of pasture – if it may have that name, the ground is really dry, and whatever grass grows, looks burned yellow. But these people have little else, that is for sure, no government-supplied amenities, schools, hospitals, and almost certainly no fall-back position if their livestock dies, not an unthinkable prospect in these circumstances.
But back to Jijiga. Jijiga is the capital of the ethnic-Somali Ogaden region in Eastern Ethiopia. And what capital it is! According to our guide book, the town “boasts an unexpectedly cosmopolitan feel, which is reflected in the high standard of hotels, restaurants and other facilities”. Right! Not sure how long this guide book author had been traveling when he wrote this, but Jijiga is most certainly not cosmopolitan! The top hotel in town, the one with good western food, only provided spaghetti with tomato sauce, which was served in the lobby, because the restaurant was closed – and from the looks had been for some time. So had been the hot water supply, and the toilet flushing system. We found one other restaurant that looked OK, and which distinguished itself with using newspaper pages for place-mats. We found no other facilities. Well, yeah, there is a market, of course, and probably quite some “special supplies” on account of its proximity to the border, but nothing to get too excited about. Dust is what we remember most, about Jijiga, dust. No need to come here, unless you travel on to Hargeisa in Somaliland overland.