IMPERIALISTS have long coveted Somaliland’s coast. Nowadays visitors to Berbera, its main port, can stroll from an old American air base, pass a clutch of buildings where the British ran the territory from the late 19th century until independence in 1960, then trundle on to Moscow Village, where Russian technicians were billeted in the era when Somaliland was absorbed into Somalia, and the Soviet Union was its key ally.
But imperialists come and go. It was the Ottoman Turks, lording it centuries before the British, who have left the finest architectural mark. Their limestone villas, with arched colonnades and latticed windows, still line Berbera’s unkempt streets. Whitewashed mosques and even a synagogue can be glimpsed down its alleys. The port of Zeila, north-west of Berbera, hosts a crumbling seventh-century mosque.