We dream of some places: reading stories and looking for information we wonder what are those far away places really like and hope that one that we’ll find our for ourselves. There are also other faraway places: our minds don’t conjure up any images when we hear the names because we know next to nothing about them and have no desire to go there.
Somali tea is strong, rich in spices, milky and very sweet. Some wouldn’t hesitate to call it disgustingly sweet, but as a person who loves tea and likes sugar I treated it as the drink of the gods.
When we sat down for breakfast at the Oriental Hotel in Hargeisa we ordered coffee – oh, what a mistake it was! I still remember our disappointment and incredulity that so close to the kingdom of coffee (and that was definitely what Ethiopia was), there might be people who don’t care about the proper preparation of coffee. It was the first lesson we learnt: while in Somaliland, drink tea!
Nobody will ask you in Somaliland what kind of tea you want, they just ask you if you want it or not, or often simply assume that you do.
The Somali name for tea is shaah – so you’re going to get shaah cadays (spicy tea with milk). Sometimes after meals you might also get shaah bigay (black spicy tea). Each Somali tea I drank tasted differently – they always do because various spices in various proportions might be added.
Each time however, the flavour that is easily noticable is that of cardamon.
2 glasses of water
1 glass of milk
2 teaspoons of strong leaf tea (or 4 tea bags)
6 cardamon pods
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon of grounded ginger (or a piece of freshly grated ginger)
Grind all the spices in the mortar. Pour water into a pot, add spices, sugar and tea leaves. Bring to boil and then simmer for a few minutes. Pour milk (you can also do it at the beginning, together with water) – simmer for a few more minutes.
Sieve the tea, pour into a pot and serve hot.
While we were driving from Hargeisa (the capital) to Berbera (an old port city on the Gulf of Aden) just before the dusk we stopped at the roadside bar. The sun was slowly going down but the heat was still unbearable. There were many tables set in the open air, crowd of men sitting around. I can’t remember how many there were but I remember thinking that it must have been half of a village, a village we couldn’t see. There was a lot of food but nobody was eating. Muhammed brought tea to our table carrying it in a funny holder (see the picture below). Everybody was waiting, the conversations were hushed, and judging from the glances we stirred up quite a lot of interest.
Then we heard the voice of the muezzin and the conversation stopped. Nobody looked at us any more, everybodby concentrated on the plates in front of them.Most of my treasured memories of travels are recollections of sitting. - These are the words of Robert Thomas Allan and I can’t agree more – especially in such moments as the one we had at that roadside bar – sitting somewhere, in the middle of nowhere, in the country that you hardly knew it existed a few months before.
Even when I look through my photos I sometimes find it hard to believe it’s not a dream and I did visit that place.
And this is what I like about travelling – you never know where you’ll end up in your travels.