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July 19, 2011 / calebdresser

Las Geel

Most people who make the journey to Somaliland aren’t here to see the sights. Nonetheless, almost everyone eventually ends up visiting the cave paintings at Las Geel, one of the country’s only real tourist attractions.

Las Geel, which means “watering place of camels,” is an ancient cave complex in the desert outside Hargeisa. The cave paintings, which are somewhere between 3,000 and 9,000 years old, cover the walls and ceilings of numerous grottoes and overhangs along the side of a nondescript stone outcropping. It is believed that they were painted at a time when the desert here was green; they depict cows, dogs, people, an elephant, and a lone giraffe. The nature of the civilization that created them – and the story of its demise – are lost. Even the secret of the paint remains a mystery. When a French archaeological team attempted to create similar art using locally available materials, their creations flaked and disappeared in less than two years.

While the government has designated the site a protected area and requires permits and guides for access, the future of the site remains uncertain. Now that it is known, an increasing level of tourist traffic could damage the paintings if it is not managed appropriately. Even more concerning is the plight of numerous other sites around the country, many of them still undiscovered, which could hold additional clues to the pre-history of the region. Nonetheless, the art is a boon to the future of Somaliland, and well worth a visit for anyone that happens to find themselves in the region.

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3 Comments

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  1. becky / Jul 19 2011 3:46 pm

    I’m glad you checked this out! I googled “Las Geel” after reading the caption of your fb profile photo, and found this blog: http://happyunderthesun.blogspot.com/2007/01/las-geel-somalilands-main-tourist.html

    -Becky

  2. Leeann Louis / Jul 20 2011 4:31 am

    This pictures look unbelievable; wish I could’ve seen this place too! I like your mention of the French archaeological team – the image of a group of professional scientists drawing on cave walls makes me smile 🙂

  3. minstrelm3 / Jul 20 2011 4:08 pm

    Early art is somehow really fulfilling to me. Your photos are wonderful! I am fascinated to read about the French team trying to make paints that endure. That’s amazing. I agree with Leeann, too, re. scientists drawing on cave walls. Funny, really. What cave did they choose? Remember the rock art we saw while rafting in Utah? And the comment in Belize that every cave found in modern times has evidence that the Maya were in it hundreds of years ago, when that region was a less wet, less jungle-like woodland. How amazing that climates change so much.

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