Somalia

The human face of Mogadishu (Part Two)

Mogadishu is a unique travel destination for me, so sometimes I do feel boxed in. Although I am from neighboring Kenya and can possibly pass off as a local, with skin the complexion of dark chocolate, and the traditional garb slipped on; a long abaya, a headscarf and another scarf covering my head, chest and shoulders, I cannot just get up and go. I am not permitted to go out of our heavily fortified hotel without the presence of heavily armed security.

With our armed guards at Jazeera Beach

With on of our armed guards at Jazeera Beach

I quickly realize I just can’t have a water-tight itinerary, as the driver may wake up and choose to take his kids to Afgooye, or the armed guards who are meant to accompany you everywhere may not be available, so pretty much you do spend some days sheltered in the hotel or doing some shopping at nearby clothing and perfume stores.

Purchasing an abaya

Purchasing an abaya

Shopping at a clothing and perfumery store, Mogadishu

Shopping at a clothing and perfumery store, Mogadishu

But Hotel Makkah Al-Mukharama has a beautiful courtyard and a grand rooftop with a fresh breeze blowing in the hot Somali weather. The palm trees sway about in the wind, and uniformed waiters are ever present to take your orders. The food is first class and I feel the tight bond of brotherhood, people looking out for each other. I can’t sit alone for a minute without someone coming over to say hello and ask where I am from. On several occasions, I am asked to pull my chair close and join in the conversations. I get to talk to ministers and government officials who patron the hotel frequently, which is pretty cool.

A breakfast of pancake and lemonade at Hotel Makka al-Mukarama

A breakfast of pancake and lemonade at Hotel Makkah al-Mukharama

A healthy lunch served at the hotel: Rice with raisins, steak and salad, washed down with fresh melon juice.

A healthy lunch served at the hotel: Rice with raisins, steak and salad, washed down with fresh melon juice.

The mug at the hotel

The mug at the hotel

The lobby

The lobby

At the courtyard, Hotel Makka al-Mukarama

At the courtyard, Hotel Makkah al-Mukharama

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Rooftop view of Mogadishu

Rooftop view of Mogadishu

A view of the sunset from Hotel Makka al-Mukarama

A view of the sunset from Hotel Makkah al-Mukharama

The dread and sober realization that each day I spend there would potentially be my last, quickly fades away as the city welcomes me as it’s own. I have heard a couple of shots ringing out in the day and night, but my hosts say that sometimes shots are fired as a warning to scare someone who’s not listening. So aclaimitized are the locals to the background noises of gunshots and odd grenades that they have a name for it: Mogadishu music.

Mogadishu is a highly conservative and strictly islamic city, so covering up is compulsory. I get to visit Liido beach stretched out in its white sands to water an azzure shade so blue. Kids are playing and wading in the water, the women swim with their hijabs and abayas on, which is a surprise. I get by feeling the sand through my toes and waiting for the waves to run over my feet. Men with big guns milling around make their presence felt, and the restaurant next to Liido Beach serves platters of seafood, al-fresco style. I as well get to visit Jazeera beach and go out to the waters on a boat. There’s an ancient relic, an old abandoned mosque that stands on cave rock jutting out into the water. I manage to purchase a shell at the end of my tour and the friendly seller gives me a tiny shell necklace free of charge.

At Liido beach

At Liido beach

At the Liido beach

Fun at the Liido beach

With friendly beach goers, Jazeera beach.

With friendly beach goers, Jazeera beach.

With friendly beach goers, Jazeera Beach

With friendly beach goers, Jazeera Beach

With Rashid and the media team of Integration TV on a boat off Jazeera beach

With Rashid and the media team of Integration TV on a boat off Jazeera beach

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Looking out to the Indian Ocean

With a souvenir shell from Jazeera beach

Holding a souvenir shell from Jazeera beach

The next few days involves interviews, I get to talk to Mohamed Sheik-Ali Ahmed who is organizing the first International Book Fair in Mogadishu from the 26th to 28th of August, and then I am asked if I’d love to go to a Somali wedding. It is all fun and pomp at the wedding, I get to enjoy first hand, the culture, the food and the strong oral tradition of the area.

Discussing the International Book Fair

Discussing the International Book Fair with Mohamed Sheik-Ali Ahmed

Women dance with bride Aniisa at her wedding, Mogadishu

Women dance with bride Aniisa at her wedding, Mogadishu

(continue to part three)

 

12 replies »

  1. WOOW! I enjoyed reading every bit. So glad you were able to visit and hope I can too. Sudan and Somalia are the 2 African countries I fell drawn to the most. One love from Jamaica:)))))

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  2. It must have been fun to attend the wedding. I can’t begin to imagine how it must have felt trying to swim in the abaya :-). Amazing how beautiful the city is. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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  3. You really rocked the look with a shawl and those blinging sunglasses. Congratulations on being a part of the TV team and being interviewed, etc. That must have been swell. The local wedding looks great too!

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    • Ah, there’s nothing like a Somali wedding, that was the icing on the cake that was my travel experience, had so much fun that I kept on asking my hosts, “Is this work?” “We are having so much fun in what is considered one of the most dangerous places on earth!!”

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