Somalilandsun: Las Geel Ancient Rock Art as Glimpsed by Asma Dhama

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Somalilandsun: Las Geel Ancient Rock Art as Glimpsed by Asma Dhama

Despite being officially a part of Somalia, the self-proclaimed country of Somaliland is practically an independent nation for the past three decades. While no country or international organization have recognized Somaliland’s independence so far, it is considered as the most peaceful and prosperous region of Somalia, spared from the perpetual insurgency and instability that ravaged the rest of the horn of Africa. Due to its relative calmness, Somaliland witnessed an increasing number of tourists in recent years, drawn to its virgin beauty and sheer authenticity, marveling at the country’s myriads of hidden gems, with Laas-Geel, one of Africa’s finest rock art sites, standing out as a breathtaking relic of mankind’s earliest pastoral communities.

This a description of the ancient Somaliland rock at  from by self proclaimed socialite Asma Dhama in her  A Glimpse of Laas Geel, Somaliland (Info, Photos and History) below verbatim

Roughly 50 Kilometers away from Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, Laas Geel is a rocky outcrop jutting out of the desert plain, adorned with cave paintings that date back to the Neolithic times.
Literally translated as the camel’s well in the Somali language, this secluded rocky formation sits along two intermittent streams and blesses with abundant groundwater, serving in the past as a stopping point for ancient nomadic tribes with their camel herds.

photography by: Asma Dhama


While the site was well known to the region’s local inhabitants for hundreds of years, it was a delegation of French researchers under the direction of Xavier Gutherz who rediscovered Laas Geel, revealing it to the outside world. Besides the marvelous plethora of paintings, the group also found ancient tombs and tools all over the area.

photography by: Asma Dhama


Due to the outcrop’s granite features and dry weather all year round, Laas Geel has one of the world’s most well-preserved cave paintings, characterized by strong and bright colors, almost unfaded in spite of its insanely long period of existence.

photography by: Asma Dhama


The paintings are scattered across 20 cave chambers, the largest of which is 10 meter long, containing numerous depictions of animals and humans alongside each other, marking the beginning of a pastoral way of life, where the first domestication of livestock animals took place over the course of several millennia.

photography by: Asma Dhama


Among the depicted figures, the bulk are white horned cows with peculiarly elongated torsos and necks, some of which are seemed to be colored with red and white stripes, probably representing an ornamental mat that was widely used for ceremonial purposes by the pastoral tribes who populated the area around Laas Geel.

photography by: Asma Dhama


While the vast majority of rock paintings in Laas Geel portray cattle, there also depictions of humans, dogs, monkeys, antelopes and even giraffes. Interestingly, the horned cows appear both single and as part of a large herd, usually led by a human figure, a clear indication of the tribal artists’ cultural and prehistorical context.

photography by: Asma Dhama


Part of what makes this site so exceptional is the vividness and colorfulness of the paintings, not only black, red and white as one might assume, but also brown, violet and orange, all of which are exceedingly bright when compared to similar sites around the world.

photography by: Asma Dhama


The exact age of the site’s astonishing art is unknown, yet most estimates suggest Laas Geel dates back to anywhere between 4,000 BC to 10,000 BC, at the times where humans began forming pastoral communities all over the horn of Africa.

photography by: Asma Dhama


The site’s spectacular paintings are far from being its sole charm, as the natural arid surrounding is worthy by its own right, dominated by a rocky desert terrain, occasionally dotted with acacia trees.

photography by: Asma Dhama


From Hargeisa, it’s about a 45-minute drive on the main road and then additional 15 minutes through an unpaved way. Several travel agencies in the capital arrange organized tours to the site, but it’s widely recommended to book a trip in advance.

photography by: Asma Dhama

About the Author Asma Dhama in her own words

Asma Dhama

I’m a psychologist and mental health therapist, living in Hargeisa, Somaliland.
Photography might be a hobby of mine, yet its significance goes far beyond just that, as it’s my way of giving everyone in the world the opportunity to experience the wonders of my beautiful country through the camera lens.

For more content like this please check my social media pages at:

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