After being offline for almost 10 days, my uncle finally got internet installed in his crib, and I’m back!
In many ways, not having internet for almost two-weeks forced me to branch out my comfort zone, and really interact with my cousins, aunts, and uncles – a blessing in disguise, if you will.
Now onto the good stuff, namely: how am I liking Mogadisho?
I have to say, I really love it here. I mean, I definitely expected to like it, but I didn’t necessarily expect to love it.
I guess the question is, why? Why would you love living in a city that has been war-struck for 23+ years, and that still suffers from instability?
- Mogadisho is not as un-safe as international media outlets make it seem: Despite the constant use of the terms “world’s most dangerous city”, “failed state”, and “ungovernable”, Mogadisho safety-wise is not all that bad. I’ve walked around the city, and have driven around with my uncle quite extensively since I’ve arrived, and I never once felt that I was in danger. Its crazy, in those moments, you forget that Somalia doesn’t really even have a stable government. That being said, there was a car-bombing by the Presidential Palace just two days ago – so I’m not naive enough to believe that Somalia is 100% safe – cause it’s not. I guess it should also be mentioned that being ethnically Somali skews my perspective of safety – if a white woman in a jilbab was walking around Mogadisho, I’m sure she’d get more attention than me – and may possibly feel less safe (similar to how I felt in Istanbul). All I’m saying is, especially if you’re Somali, the dangerous aspects of living here can sometimes be blown out of proportion.
- It’s nice fitting in: As I mentioned in my last post, the astonishing lack of diversity in Istanbul consistently dismayed me during my stay – I stood out no matter where I went. What’s awesome about Mogadisho is that since I’m ethnically Somali, I’m part of the majority – and so, I feel a relief I haven’t felt since I left Toronto for exchange. Everyone looks like me, everyone is Muslim, everyone speaks my language, everyone eats food I grew up with. Its a freaking awesome change after feeling like an outsider in Turkey. There’s also just a comfort that comes with being surrounded by your culture. When I was flying out to Mogadisho, I checked in late and actually ended up on stand-by (horrendous experience, highly unrecommended), and so, I had to wait for everyone to board the flight before I could get on. While I was standing at the counter looking increasingly anxious, Somali passengers would come up to me and ask me “Abti, mahaa daare?” (What’s wrong?) and I felt *so* comforted that these people, my people – actually gave a shit about me. Awesome.
- The ocean: Somalia has Africa’s longest coastline, and Mogadisho has two beaches (Liido and Jazera) that cradle the Indian Ocean. I can’t even explain how stunning it is. Straight turquoise waters, bordered by sandy white beaches – it looks like a scene out of a dream. I’m happiest near water, so having such a stunning body of water close-ish to my crib makes me very happy.
- The stars: Somalia has experienced very little pollution, and if you go out at night, you can literally see hundreds of stars dotting an inky black sky. This may not be a big deal for people, but as a girl who was born and raised in the smog-ridden city of Toronto, I haven’t had many opportunities in my life to gaze up at these burning lights in the sky.
- Meeting family: If you’re Somali, you know that the stream of people you’re related to is literally endless. This is what happens when your mom and dad both have 11 siblings (grandma, how’d you do it!?). That being said, it’s been really awesome meeting family members who love my parents, and who in turn love me. It also gives you access to this part of your parent’s life that occurred before you came into the picture, which is trippy, but always interesting.
[side note: I really wanted to include photos I’ve taken of the city on this post, but the internet situation here won’t allow it #eastafricaproblems]
So that’s Mogadisho so far!
In exciting news, I will be conducting a project over the summer where I’ll be interviewing and photographing people living in the city, as part of my quest to give the international community a more comprehensive understanding of what Somalia truly is.
More details on this soon.