There’s a downside to being well-traveled — any time there’s a disaster overseas it feels close to home. This week’s earthquake in Nepal was another one of those disasters.
I visited Nepal in 1994 at the end of a year-long trip across Asia. I’d been working as an archaeologist in Bulgaria and went overland through Turkey, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, and India to make it finally to Nepal. That trip gave me some of my favorite spots on Earth — Cappadocia, Damascus, Isfahan, Varanasi, and the Himalayas. Like most people who visit Nepal, I went for the trekking. While the view from Annapurna base camp is something I’ll never forget, the people and ancient art and architecture of the Kathmandu valley have also stuck with me after all those years.
Due to its location on the Red Sea, the northern Somali region has always been part of an international trade network. For many centuries, however, the main focus of the trade was in what is now Eritrea, which was the coastline of successive Ethiopian empires that traded with Egypt and out into the Indian Ocean. Two eastern outlets are in what’s now Somaliland, the port of Zeila and Berbera. Trade routes led east from the Ethiopian highlands and crossed a short stretch of desert to get to the coast.