Somalia, Spaghetti and Pirates


Hanad and Abdi sit up against the courtyard wall in the clammy evening heat. A large straw mat has been laid out, which serves both to keep us off the insects and to catch all the pieces of khat leaves they are dropping as they chew the night away. Nearer the perimeter wall, Mohamed and…

Polo’s Bastards Worst Destinations of 2011


Well, 2011 was a hell of a year and a lot of countries made a play for their place in the list of the worst of 2011 with unexpected and out of character descents into dangerous territory everywhere from Greece to Norway and the UK. The Middle East saw massive changes and Mother Nature really…

Becoming the Dictator – Preparing yourself for the role

So it all rolls down like this. You side with the rebels, against some idiot who thinks he has the authority to run this country because of some stupid ritual called an “election’ – the nerve! You know you can do better, people’s will be damned, once you’re in the driver’s seat this backwater of a country can get where it’s supposed to go.

Adventures in Hebron and Nablus


I refer to Palestine as that region otherwise known as the West Bank and Gaza and at least nominally under Palestinian political control. I refer separately to Israel as that region on the other side of the 1948 Armistice Line, the pre-1967 borders. I am fully aware that in the complex and convoluted geopolitics of…

Holiday in Abkhazia


“Take as much sovereignty as you can stomach!” was Boris Yeltsin’s message to the regions of Russia in the summer of 1990, as the Soviet Union was collapsing around him. Many areas did just this, and managed a peaceful transition to independence, with fifteen sovereign republics emerging from the ashes of the USSR. But even…

Road Trip to the D.R.C.

Mountain gorillas Virunga National Park 2

Ever since arriving in Angola for work last year, I had been pouring over maps of the region, examining what travel opportunities my new location afforded me. One neighbouring country in particular stood out: the Democratic Republic of Congo. The true heart of the Dark Continent, the Congo still seems to capture the imagination, over…

Sudan and Darfur: Same Old Same Old


It’s been four years since I stepped on the sands of The Sudan, so coming back felt both familiar and a bit strange. Arrivals at Khartoum airport seemed much the same, though arriving at 2.30 a.m. on a Turkish Airlines flight meant that more than half of the only 30 or so passengers on board…

Somalia: Mog-to-Kisimayo Road Trip (aborted)


Enough of this… In Mogadishu for how many days – running around in circles, militias in tow – adding to the quantity of armed men surrounding us every time we crossed an arbitrary barrier. Indeed, each time we had to cross into another warlord’s territory, another militia truck would have to be added to our…

Getting High With Piracy on the Seas

So, you look to the sea. Oddly enough you ain’t ever eaten fish, certainly not the swimming sea-going type, having goats all at your bidding for your entire life. But there is this vast thing on the horizon, a big blue undulating mass, beckoning you. You can stick some wood in it and get happiness – which is sort of similar to a goat, but just a little more complex.