April 2013: The second leg of our journey from Ethiopia to Mogadishu took us to Somaliland, perched on top of the Horn of Africa.
We travelled on local buses from Harar east to the border at Wajaale, where we met Mohamed, our guide, Mohamed, our driver, and Ibrahim our bodyguard. In Somaliland, when travelling outside cities the police insist you are accompanied by an armed escort for protection – while at the same time insisting that there is absolutely no danger and nothing to be protected from. We never quite got to the bottom of that contradiction.
To say that Somaliland is not set up for tourism is something of an understatement. This is a country where people seem amazed to see westerners, and are more amazed still if they hear you're a tourist rather than a journalist. Infrastructure is limited, and so is your freedom of movement.
This place has been forgotten or ignored by most of the rest of the world, and despite being peaceful and having a functioning, democratic government, police force and army for the last 20 years, it is still not officially recognised as a country in its own right.
It's not always the easiest place to travel – it can involve a lot of bureaucracy and confusion: tourists are such a rarity that on our visit police and officials didn't seem to know what to do with us and the rules around what we were and weren't allowed to do changed with every new person we spoke to.
It's also a challenging place to take photographs. As a strict Muslim society, most people we encountered understandably didn't want to have their picture taken – patience and politeness led to the portraits I was able to capture. But photography aside, the vast majority of the Somalilanders we met were exceptionally friendly and welcoming, and in the cities we were stopped every five minutes by people who wanted to exchange greetings and find out where we were from, with no ulterior motive.