My first step on Somali soil was in 2014. I had just finished traveling around the tiny country of Djibouti and after staring at a map, decided to overland it to Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia. The most hellish local ground transport ensued. I'm shocked I still considering using local ground transportation today after the ordeal. After 20+ hours and numerous breakdowns, I finally arrived into Somaliland only 150 miles from my departure point. That was in 2014. This trip I wanted to see Somalia proper and that meant Mogadishu.
Somalia, officially the Federal Republic of Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa. It is surrounded by Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. It's population is estimated at over 14 million. The majority of its people are Muslim.
I went through Untamed Borders in the UK as they are excellent specialist in logistics for such a trip. I was ready to go and landed into Mogadishu on Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. After a wait in the customs line along with some confusion, I finally found the person who was to transport me to the hotel.
My hotel was in the green zone, the area around the airport considered "safe". At least safer than the rest of Mogadishu. I entered the hotel and found a rather nice (for the country) business hotel. My guide showed up shortly afterwards and briefed me on the days events. I then had a couple of hours to sleep as my flight from Istanbul had been an all-nighter. We met in the lobby a few hours later and picked up the security team.
My security team consisting of four men in fatigues, although none of their fatigues seemed to match. Each man toted a Kalashnikov and sat in the back of an open Toyota truck bed. The US trained man sported a yellow balaclava, covering most of his face the entire time, in spite of the searing heat. Once ready, the Toyota led the way with men in tow and our vehicle closely following. This would be our way of transport everyday, at all times. One of the first stops was to the sight of the 1993 black hawk down area. Although nothing remains of the helicopter, we still stopped in the area it went down.
We continued to drive around the city and I was reminded to only take photos when they allowed. We pulled up to the ocean and as I exited the vehicle the stench of fish filled my nostrils. As we walked to the water's edge the stank increased. As I came out behind a building, I realized why. In front of me lay at least 100 splayed shark meat filets drying in the sun. My guide mentioned that although Somalis don't eat shark meat, they catch it, dry it and sell it to other Africans that do. The sight was actually amazing, although the stench was not. Nearby were several young men fishing for their dinner, or to sell.
We left the area and went off to the fish market. As I headed into the building I saw a young man just outside its doors gutting a large fish. As I walked inside the building, I was simultaneously fascinated and somewhat taken aback at the large amount of fish, men gutting and hacking them up with blood everywhere. The floor was a grisly sight! I made a mental note to throw my flip flops once I returned from the trip. I walked through the building, being careful not to slip on the blood-covered floor. Men were hacking away at their catch, most fish were huge. We continued outside where there were more catch-of-the-day. It was the most fascinating and authentic (raw) fish market I've ever seen. Somalia has an abundance of seafood!
We also stopped at the tomb of the unknown soldier and before I could approach, my security team positioned themselves around the monument and only then gave the ok for me to continue to the site.
Back at the hotel, I slept well in the surprisingly comfortable bed. Early the next morning we were off again. We stopped at the National Museum. After, my guide asked if I wanted to have coffee among the locals and I didn't hesitate to say yes! I was dressed in baggy, all-covering clothes, including head scarf. My guide mentioned I shouldn't have any hair exposed what-so-ever. After making sure it was all tucked in, we headed to a busy street. We stopped at a small shop for a desert type bread. It was delicious. We then ventured a big further for some coffee. A man sat in the street with his coffee maker. After letting him know how I took my coffee, I proceeded to sit in one of the available plastic chairs. Once the java was made, he gave it to me for a taste. Not bad! I was, however, more impressed by the fact that, instead of paying the man in cash (the local currency being deeply devalued) my guide instead, transferred the money using his phone to the man's account number which was displayed on the wall behind him! How modern!
We also walked around to check out some of the shops, many of which were women's shops with brightly colored long dresses.
The complete and utter lack of basic civil services was clear when I asked if I could mail a postcard. Sadly, there is no functioning post in Mogadishu.
Around lunch time we headed for Lido beach. We stopped at a nice open air restaurant and as my guide and I looked out over the beach, my security team was walking up the sand, checking out the area. I laughed as the local stray dogs started barking fiercely at the weapons-wielding, darkly dressed four-man team. We sat down and after a fish lunch, headed to the beach below us. Once again with the security team around, we walked along Lido beach. I saw a bunch of young men playing soccer on the sand. We also hopped in a boat for a short sail around the area.
Much of the time we simply walked around certain areas of the capital. The lighthouse of Mogadishu, on another beach, is a landmark of Mogadishu. We passed a variety of small boats haphazardly lying on the ground on the way, before reaching the hexagonal tower. Kids were playing in the dirty water that met the shore. A large, dead fish bobbed back and forth in the tide.
After another day spent seeing the capital, I went back to my hotel and headed to the roof top for some pictures of the setting sun and the nearby airport. After three days in the capital, my time in Mogadishu came to a close.
My guide told me that Al-Shabaab is alive and well in Somalia and around 10,000 strong. They do their best to keep them out of the capital, however, the latest explosion in Mogadishu was just a few months ago. I'm glad I got a glimpse into their daily lives. Unfortunately, it does not look promising. I hope for better days for Mogadishu and Somalia. Everyone deserves to live in peace.