Aleppo dentist brings ‘Hollywood smiles’ to Somalis after fleeing Syria
During every visit to the self-declared republic of Somaliland, I notice something new. This time, there are even more multi-storey shopping malls, hotels and luxury villas in the capital, Hargeisa.
Just two decades ago it was known as The Dresden of Africa, the city pulverised by repeated aerial bombardments, its population gone, seeking refuge abroad.
A Saudi fast-food chain has arrived – cheeky red and yellow signs advertising fried chicken with an assortment of unhealthy trimmings.
But most of all, it is the Syrian dentists.
In the far-flung town of Burao, where nomads are losing livestock to a devastating drought, I see signs displaying pictures of dental disasters.
Mouths with wildly crooked, discoloured teeth and gaps where others are missing. All miraculously transformed into sparkly white Hollywood smiles. Above these images are the words “Syrian Dentist”.
It is the same back in Hargeisa. It is prayer time in the next-door mosque as I step into a building advertising the dental services of a Syrian.
A young Somali woman stands behind a counter filled with toothbrushes, floss and other items I do not know the names of but clearly relate to oral health. She asks me to sit.
After prayers, a Syrian man with an open face and a green T-shirt invites me into his consulting room. There is a modern white dental chair with blue plastic cushions. Posters on the wall show cross-sections of teeth and gums.