10 Reasons Why You Are Missing Mogadishu Right Now

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Bullet-scarred buildings in Mogadishu bear witness to the city’s destruction for over two decades. [Abdi Latif Dahir / Sahan Journal]

1. The slow afternoons spent lying on a thin mattress, in a vest, under one of the large neem trees lining up the front yards of the bungalows.

2. The swirl of leaves in the wind playing against the distant voices of the dugsi teachers exhorting their apprentices to read the Quran louder and with proper enunciation.

3. The early morning exchange of banter at the markets in Mogadishu, folks catching up on the biting details of the previous night’s events. The traders quibble over each other’s narratives, a detail missed here and there, loudly furnished by another, the whole eventually weaving into a group tale of what happened.

4. The “blasted beauty” of a quick drive through the streets: remnants of ruined buildings that once made this port city one of the most beautiful places in Africa. Haunted and eerie as the buildings might look, their irreparable damage, their blown out ceilings, crumbling columns, missing doors and bullet-scarred façades bear witness, like the prophets of yore, to the city’s destruction for over two decades.

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Football in Lido Beach is one of the most favorite pastimes amongst the residents in Mogadishu. [Abdi Latif Dahir / Sahan Journal]

5. Silver-haired old men with chapped lips, white turbans and colorful sarongs, sitting cross-legged at roadside cafés. Their talk, over sweet tea and samosas, might be light, but their huddle represents a promise of better days, a promise that the light talk might be a placeholder for something greater, someday.

6. For the book lovers, curling up in bed on Friday mornings with a good read. For the city teens: football. Anywhere and everywhere with an open space. One can’t help but admire – and envy – how these youngsters march in silence to their destined grounds; how the younger ones trail the older ones; the nonchalant confidence in which they carry their lanky frames.

7. People in the city venturing out to catch the cool air of the night in the humid summer nights.  Families spread plastic mats, tune to their favorite radio stations, and gather to dine under the glow of the stars in the dark Mogadishu sky.

8. Sitting for a sundowner in Lido Beach. As the sun sets in the horizon, football players carry their tired bodies back home; elaborately coiffured and perfumed ladies start arriving at the seaside restaurants, their families in tow; and the orange glow of the distant Port of Mogadishu comes to life. For an eventful half hour or so, the sounds of the waves crashing mix with the receding voices of the night and you can’t help but long for what Mogadishu was like in its old glory days.

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The ruins of the former Somali Parliament, with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier monument appearing in the far right. [Abdi Latif Dahir / Sahan Journal]

9. The image of Somali fathers, with their baggy pants, munching on tender cuts of goat meat or dhaylo; girls selling fuel by the dusty roadside, leisurely applying kohl to their almond-shaped eyes; mothers selling khat in open-air markets, jostling against weary-eyed men scrambling to get hold of the stimulant; lads from the diaspora desperately trying to catch the eyes of the local beauties; mullahs and mendicants in their religious robes (khamees); the wandering, bloodshot eyes of security guards peeking behind bulwarks: all coming together to form one big collage of Mogadishu.

10. Aaah – the water. They say, “Once you have tasted the water of Mogadishu, you always go back.” Once you have visited Mogadishu, I promise you, that wherever you go afterwards, you will always want to end your jaunt overseas, and come back to continue your journey in this charming city.

Follow me on Twitter: @Lattif

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