Getting Shot In Mogadishu, Somalia And Surviving

To be totally honest, I wasn’t shot. But I did go to Mogadishu, Somalia and survive to tell you about it. And in the process, I was struck by a flying object on a Somali beach. By the grace of Allah, it was a ball, not a bullet or shrapnel from a bomb. But I did see lots of bombed-out buildings and meet people who survived terror attacks, and I can tell you that getting struck out of nowhere by any flying object in Somalia is an exhilarating experience…

I only spent two days in Mogadishu. But I saw a lot. And I also heard a lot and learned a lot from locals, and I want to relay that information to you. This includes a scheme that Somalis are allegedly using to take advantage of European asylum and immigration policies. Without giving away all of the details quite yet, they send “useful poor people” as anchors in order to relocate their families to Europe. 

As advertised, Somalia is indeed a failed state. The city of Mogadishu lies in ruins from civil war and countless terror attacks. There is rubble everywhere, and once-significant buildings — like hotels, banks and the parliament — are completely destroyed. Yet daily life goes on as usual for the Somalis living there. And if you hire the right tour agency, which will provide you a professional security detail, aka soldiers, it is actually quite a safe place to visit — even if you are a white man like me.

A former bank building

Unfortunately, I didn’t see any pirates in Somalia. Maybe that’s reason for me to return or to take a trip to Somalia’s autonomous or unrecognized breakaway regions. Somalia has a couple of those.

There were also pleasant surprises on this trip. In some ways Somalia is actually an anarchocapitalist oasis — not in the sense of Acapulco, Mexico, which plays host to an anarchist conference and a bunch of expats. Rather, with no central government capable of screwing things up, Somalia has a thriving telecom industry. There are six competing telecom companies, which provide internet that is incredible by regional standards. Also, as is the case elsewhere in East Africa, mobile payment systems are very common in Somalia. Yes, people in Somalia pay for goods and services using their phones. And there is plenty more to come on anarchocapitalism in Mogadishu…

WTF has transpired in Somalia?

How did things unravel in a place once known as “The White Pearl of the Indian Ocean?”

To make sense of the images I’m about to show you, it helps to have some background knowledge about how things went really wrong, or right — depending on your opinion — in Somalia. 

Somalia was colonized by the French, British and primarily the Italians. In 1960 it became independent. The northern French part broke off and became Djibouti. The formerly British and Italian territories united to form the Somali Republic.

The country adopted a constitution and had a nine-year period of parliamentary democracy. In 1969, Somali General Mohamed Siad Barre led a coup in which the military took power. A dictatorship ensued with Barre ruling Somalia as its president for more than two decades. But Barre’s regime progressively weakened.

In 1991, a coalition of clans ousted Barre from power. Somaliland, the former British colony in the north of Somalia, then declared independence. Since 1991, it has remained an internationally unrecognized state. But Somaliland is de facto independent and far more stable than Somalia proper.

Meanwhile in Somalia, the toppling of Barre’s regime created a power vacuum and civil war broke out. Different warlords were vying for power, clan warfare was rampant and famine was occurring. The United Nations launched a U.S.-led peacekeeping operation in Somalia. Not much peace was kept.

In October 1993, a mission targeting Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid sparked the Battle of Mogadishu and the famous Black Hawk Down incident. U.S. special forces, as well as Malaysian and Pakistani soldiers, were battling a Somalia militia loyal to Aidid. Armed Somali citizens were also taking part in the fight on the side of Aidid’s militia.

Armed with RPGs, the Somalis shot down two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. By the end of the battle, 18 American soldiers were killed and 73 were wounded. There were hundreds of Somali casualties, as well. After the battle, crowds of Somalis dragged the bodies of several American soldiers through the streets of Mogadishu.  

Where exactly did the helicopters go down? ?

Black Hawk Down became a famous film, which followed a book by the same title. What’s left over from the Black Hawk Down incident in 2019 Mogadishu? You’ll see later in this post.

In the 2000s and over the current decade, the Somali Civil War has continued but with some different players. Islamist groups emerged and seized parts of southern and central Somalia. The most notable one, Al-Shabab, which is an affiliate of Al-Qaeda, once controlled Mogadishu. Al-Shabab has since been driven out of Mogadishu, but it still frequently carries out attacks in the city. The deadliest attack was an October 2017 bombing in Mogadishu that killed nearly 600 people. 

On the side opposing the jihadis, there are Somali government and African Union troops. The Ethiopian and Kenyan militaries have also intervened on the side of the supposed government in Somalia. Other countries are also involved. For instance, the U.S. sends in drone strikes.

A Transitional National Government was established in Somalia in 2000, and it was replaced in 2012 by the Federal Government of Somalia. While this government has international recognition, it’s still extremely weak. Anarchy basically reigns in Somalia. 

Sex tourism in Mogadishu?

For those of you who are not aware, I have a goal to visit every country in the world. Right now, I’m at around 130 countries out of the 193 on the UN list, and I expect to complete all 193 within the next year and a half.  

I was determined to visit Somalia proper, rather than taking the safe way out and going to Somaliland. Mogadishu, a stronghold of the Somali government, is basically the only place for a tourist to visit in Somalia proper. 

I started doing research on visiting Mogadishu a couple years ago. The first account of visiting Mogadishu I stumbled upon was a post on the Naughty Nomad blog. The Naughty Nomad is an Irish guy, whom I once met while I was living in Malta. He travels around the world with the intent of visiting every country and hooking up with a lot of girls along the way. I don’t know how many girls he hooked up with in Somalia, but he did go there and produce some gruesome images of what happened during his stay in Mogadishu.

Naughty Nomad was organizing, or at least helping promote, tours to Mogadishu. But when I looked into the tourism venture he was promoting, it seemed to have stopped operating. 

Will I be a naughty or nice nomad in Mogadishu? ?

A few other tour agencies popped up. One is British-run. It is very expensive and only offers tours twice a year, which when I checked were already booked up for two years. Later on, I heard this company does not take you out of the secure zone of Mogadishu, so you miss the highlights of the city.

I tried contacting another tour agency, but they didn’t write back to me. That left me with just one choice: Visit Mogadishu.

How to VISIT MOGADISHU in 2019

Visit Mogadishu was very helpful.

I saw on Trip Advisor that the company Visit Mogadishu had good reviews. Now they are up to more than 30 reviews, which are overwhelmingly positive. 

I wrote to Omar, the owner of the company. He responded and said he would organize everything. That means providing an invitation letter and visa help, accommodation, guides, security etc. This seemed like a good deal, so I booked the tour and booked my flights. 

Visiting Somalia is not cheap. The two-day Visit Mogadishu tour costs about $1,400, excluding airfare. Including airfare — which is typically expensive in Africa — the trip cost me about $2,000. But it was more than worth the money. ?

The struggle of sending money to Somalia

In advance of my trip, I needed to send money to Somalia as a deposit for my tour. It is nearly impossible to send money to Somalia due to international sanctions. 

First I tried Western Union in the U.S. That didn’t work. Next I tried Western Union from a friend’s account in Germany. That didn’t work. Then I thought it might work if I had the money sent from a Muslim country. My business partner tried sending money from Lebanon. That didn’t work.

I tried to wire the money from Germany. Nope. From Georgia. That didn’t work either.

Finally I asked a friend who has a Dubai bank account. At last it worked, probably because there was a corresponding bank in Somalia. I sent 300 euros to Somalia. The company received 265 euros. That covered my deposit. 

Dubai saves the day

Nerves kick in

As the date of my flight approached, I was getting more and more excited but also a bit worried. Presumably, this was going to be my most challenging trip yet. In the past, I had been to frozen conflict zones like Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria. Once, I crossed illegally in to Myanmar, and more recently I visited Venezuela and ventured into Caracas amid the height of a political crisis. 

But this was my first time going to a place that recently was and basically still is a war zone. And in Mogadishu there are terror attacks on a very regular basis. Also, as a very tall, noticeable white person, I could probably be kidnapped quickly if I were to venture around town without armed protection.

Nonetheless, I was getting very excited about going to Somalia. In the days leading up to the trip I announced on Facebook that I was heading to Mogadishu, though I didn’t tell my mother. I told my father, and and he was fine with it.

My trip to Mogadishu began in Kenya. I had just visited Amboseli National Park, where I had fun watching hyenas scavenging antelope while on safari underneath Mount Kilimanjaro. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day, so I couldn’t get a good look at the mountain. This was the best shot I got of the tallest mountain in Africa. 

Can you see the peak of Kilimanjaro?

The next working I woke up at 3 am. This was not going to be a Curacao and Aruba-style screw-up. I had invested a lot of time and money in arranging my trip to Mogadishu, and I wasn’t going to miss it or the flights getting me there.

After getting lots and lots of Kenyan shillings out of the ATM and exchanging them for dollars at the airport, I boarded a 5 am Ethiopian Airlines flight from Nairobi, Kenya to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Then at 9 am, I flew from Addis Ababa to Mogadishu.

I couldn’t take a direct flight from Nairobi because it was apparently booked out, and the only other flight was in the evening. I thought if I was going to actually make use of two full days then I would have to take the morning flight, even if that meant waking up in the middle of the night. All was well. I caught my flights and arrived safely in Somalia. 


My arrival in modernized Somalia 

I landed in Mogadishu at 11 am. My first surprise was the airport. It didn’t have bombed-out terminals. Rather, it was a rather modern airport — more modern than most airports in Germany, actually. The airport had basically been destroyed in the civil war, but it was recently renovated. The security situation in Mogadishu has improved significantly over the current decade, and Turkey has poured a lot of money into renovating the airport. For that matter, Turkey has poured a lot of money into Somalia in general in recent years. 

Mogadishu is getting rebuilt

Now Aden Adde International Airport, as it is called, has a lot of traffic. There are several airlines flying in and out of Mogadishu to and from destinations across East Africa, as well as in the Middle East. In addition to Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways is also expected to soon begin flying in and out of Mogadishu, so some major airlines are popping up in Somalia. Air travel is another aspect of the Somali economy that seems to be functioning well right now.

I saw a  hotel for transit passengers was being built at the airport. That is because there are now quite a few flights transiting through Mogadishu to other locations, including in the Arab world. This is due in large part to Somalia’s location.

If you don’t already know or haven’t checked Google Maps while reading this, Somalia is located in a very strategic place. Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa, but it lies along the Indian Ocean next to both the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. It is the easternmost country on the African continent and has the longest coastline among countries on the continent. 

At immigration, I showed the officer my invitation letter and paid my visa fee. I proceeded through immigration easily and was then greeted by my guide Ali. 

I’m in!

My Mogadishu hotel

Ali picked me up at the airport and we headed out not in an armed car but rather on foot. Ali wasn’t packing heavy weapons, but you’ll understand in a moment why this was safe to do.

After walking for a bit, we arrived at a car. The car drove us to the so-called Airport Hotel, where I would be spending the night. Along the way we passed three checkpoints.

We arrived at the hotel, where I found a series of series of walls. First there was a big wall. Then there were two more barriers, which were raised so we could enter. Soldiers were standing guard.

Security guards checked us thoroughly. They checked everything I had — in my bag and on my body. After getting past the third wall, we were finally in the hotel.

It was interesting for me to find out that it was not actually Somalis who were running the hotel. Rather, it was mostly Ugandans and Kenyans.

The Airport Hotel… of course it has a bunker

I checked out the facilities a bit and sat down for lunch, which was pizza. It was not the best pizza, but it was better than nothing. 

Having woken up very early to start the day, I was tired. I napped for two hours, enjoying the hotel’s good air conditioning. Then I worked briefly, making use of the pretty good download and upload speeds — about 20 Mbps. 


My guide who will have 20 kids 

I got to know my guide Ali. He is 32 years old and already has 8 kids. But Ali is not satisfied. He says he wants to have 20 kids. Right now Ali has 1 wife. If asking her to give birth 20 times is a bit much, that’s okay. Islam allows him to have up to 4 wives. 

Right now Somalia has a population of about 15 million. Ali says Somalia needs far more people in order to be taken seriously in the world. 

Ali’s brother also served as my guide. He spoke very good English and was well-informed about the world, despite not having traveled outside the country. Ali’s brother was a history and geography teacher. 

Both Ali and his brother are very cool. They like to talk about Somalia as an offshore destination. Before we headed out into town, we had a chat about how the free market thrives in Somalia. Ali and his brother say Mogadishu is a business-friendly city because the government is too weak to enforce taxes and regulations. Some businessmen in neighboring countries are attracted to the free market and lack of income tax. 

Who knows what opportunities pass by on the streets of Mogadishu?

Somalia may be a tax haven, but it is nothing like Bermuda. It’s a place you go to avoid import taxes. ?

Ali and his brother say Somalia is a transit hub for car imports. Cars are shipped to Mogadishu, then driven across Somalia, through Al-Shabab territory and into neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya, they say. 


Getting to know the airport zone

Fortress Mogadishu

It was time to leave the hotel and start exploring Mogadishu. We would take things slowly, first getting a look at more of the secure zone that encompasses the airport and surrounding areas. 

This area goes by a few names. It can be called the international security zone. It can be called the Mogadishu International Airport (MIA) zone. Some people call it the Green Zone, a la the secure zone in Baghdad. This area basically serves the same function as the Baghdad Green Zone did. It’s an area where members of the international community can live and work in what’s basically an island within a war zone. 

In the case of Mogadishu, there are 30,000 foreigners living and working in this zone. The foreigners in Mogadishu are predominately UN workers and African Union troops, as well as some U.S. forces. Yes, the U.S. has soldiers in Somalia. It’s not just sending in drones from America. There are also diplomats working in a host of embassies that have recently popped up in Mogadishu. We drove by several of the embassies, including the American and Chinese embassies. 

UN employees and some others who work in the airport zone have their own beach — the Airport Beach. Mogadishu’s airport beach is a funny sight. It has airplanes flying directly overhead like the famous Maho Beach on the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean. But rather than a bunch of gawking tourists, it just has UN personal who are going for jogs and doing some sports. This beach is probably their only location for leisure or exercise in Mogadishu. 

Airport Beach with joggers, the airport and the Chinese embassy in the background

Other than jogging UN workers, there is the heavily fortified Chinese embassy beside the beach and lots of garbage and plastic along the shore. It’s very dirty, as is typical for Somalia. Still, if you concentrate on the ocean and the waves, it is a nice sight. We walked along the beach, watching some UN guys running and training. There were even some older white ladies walking their dogs on the beach. 

Happy times ?

For me, this experience was actually better than the St. Maarten beach, which I visited recently as well. Here in Mogadishu there was one time I didn’t notice a plane approaching until it was just meters above my head. That was the closest I had ever been to a plane flying by. 

Aden Adde International Airport

While in the secure zone, I managed to take some photos of the airport. I had some clear views of the airport and could see planes taking off. Unfortunately, I missed capturing that on camera. I did photograph one of the many helicopters, which are a common sight in the sky.

Common sight

Staying on schedule in Mogadishu

I wanted to see as much as I could on my first day in Somalia, but most of the sightseeing was left for Day 2 due to protocol. My guides said they do not take tourists out of the airport zone after 3 pm for security reasons. So I took it easy for the rest of my first day. We drank tea at the hotel, and I talked with Ali and his brother. 

The next morning I woke up at 8, and we headed out of the hotel in a Toyota Hilux pickup truck around 8:30. I was in the front with the driver, and Ali was in the truck as well. When we reached the end of the secure zone, four African Union soldiers hopped in the back of the pickup, and with the whole crew aboard, we headed into town.

The tour bus

First stop outside the secure zone: a bloodbath

My first real Somali destination was the fish market. It was the first real destination in the sense that it was the first place where I would step out of the car outside of the secure zone. Also, fishing is very important to Somalis. And that relates to pirates…

Leaving the secure zone…

With our soldiers along for the ride, we exited the secure zone and headed into downtown Mogadishu. Along the way to the fish market, we drove under Somalia’s Arc de Triomphe. The Somali triumphal arch is an Italian colonial era relic that has the words “Arco Del Trionfo Popolare” (arch of the people’s triumph) inscribed on it. We also passed the Port of Mogadishu, where there was a lot of truck traffic.  


We arrived at the fish market, which is a single building with blood-red floors. Okay, the floors are not entirely red, but they are literally blood soaked and stained. There are large fish all over the place, particularly lots of marlins and tuna. Some of the yellowfin tuna were huge. There was one fish that was definitely the largest tuna I had even seen. It was lying on the ground, soaking the floor with blood. 

Tuna, anyone? I’m allergic.

Visiting the Mogadishu fish market is exciting. The market is packed with Somalis carrying, cutting and hauling away fish. I took a bunch of photos, which was apparently something that some of the locals were not too pleased with. But they weren’t going to do anything to me because I was being protected by a soldier. 


We didn’t hang around very long at the fish market. We got back in the truck and headed to a place where many Somali fishermen go out to sea. 

Lighthouse beach

Lighthouse Beach

Next we drove to Lighthouse Beach, which has a lighthouse that is either very unimpressive or impressive, depending on your taste. Once a symbol of the city’s beauty, the Mogadishu Lighthouse is now a symbol of its destruction. The lighthouse is basically obliterated, though it is still standing and remains a very popular landmark. 

The lighthouse

This sort-of-white, now-mostly-gray, bullet hole-ridden structure stands at the edge of Mogadishu’s old harbor. It was built more than a century ago during the Italian colonial times. Nowadays its rumored to serve as a shelter for homeless Somali fishermen. 

For many fishermen, the Lighthouse area is their harbor. As you can see, there are countless fishing boats docked in the area. Of course, there is lots of trash on the ground as well. And fish carcasses. It’s not such a pleasant sight.  

Just a bit dirty

I wandered around the beach and watched as fishermen carried away their catches and loaded them into tuk-tuks. Who doesn’t love watching a big, bloody tuna hanging out of a tuk-tuk as it is being transported to a fish market? 

Notice the massive fish some of these guys are carrying?

Anyway, unlike in other areas of Somalia, Mogadishu has real fishermen. These guys go out and catch fish, not foreign ships to hold hostage. 

Fresh catch

Somali piracy in brief 

As I alluded to back at the fish market, Somali piracy is rooted in fishing. The story basically goes that, upon the outbreak of civil war, foreign ships began fishing in what Somalis say are their territorial waters. Large fishing operations in the area, coupled with ships dumping waste off the coast of Somalia, reduced the amount of fish Somali fishermen could catch. Angry fishermen and local opportunists then started boarding foreign ships with weapons and demanding ransoms. This grew into a very lucrative practice until foreign navies came in and basically put Somali pirates out of business or forced them to relocate and change up their tactics. 


The ins and outs of bombed-out hotels

Okay, back to the beach. Believe it or not, Mogadishu used to be a popular tourist destination. The city was dubbed “The White Pearl of the Indian Ocean,” which you can kind of understand when you look at this stretch of coastline and imagine what it used to look like. 

Right next to the lighthouse there used to be a resort. The hotel that once stood there is now in worse shape than the lighthouse. It’s ruined. 

Nothing but ruins

Unfortunately, hotels have very often been targets over the course of the Somali Civil War, particularly by jihadists. Why does Al-Shabab target hotels? Well, as I explained a bit, hotels in Mogadishu are quite fortified. Often government officials and businessmen are living and working in these hotels/compounds. 

This was the case for Omar, the owner of Visit Mogadishu. Omar had an office in the upscale Sahafi Hotel, which unfortunately was bombed by Al-Shabab last November. Omar survived the bombing but was injured. 

A total of 52 people died in the Sahafi Hotel attack. The attack consisted of three suicide bombers blowing themselves up inside vehicles and seven gunmen storming the hotel. There were about 50 soldiers guarding the hotel, and they killed the terrorists storming the compound, as typically occurs during attacks like this. 

Inside the hotel there were a lot of Somali officials. Most of the Somali officials survived the attack, but the owner of the hotel died. His death was extra tragic because he had inherited the hotel from his father, who died in a similar Al-Shabab attack in 2015.

Part of the Sahafi Hotel that is still standing

I had the opportunity to go inside what remains of the Sahafi Hotel. Even though the suicide bombers converged on the compound from three different directions and caused a lot of damage, some of the hotel still stands. I went up to the roof for some views of the city. The Sahafi Hotel’s good views used to attract tourists and visitors.

View from the top of what’s left of the Sahafi

The hotel is located in a “nice” part of the city, where there are many other hotels, as well as universities and hospitals. Also the Qatari embassy is next door. This area is close to the airport, but it’s outside of the secure zone.

The nearby Hayat Hotel

When I visited, less than six months had passed since the attack. It is quite a feeling to be inside a building that was recently destroyed by suicide bombers. 

Coincidentally, the Sahafi Hotel has a very similar name as the place that was targeted in the far more deadly attack a year prior. On October 14, 2017, a truck bombing destroyed the nearby Safari Hotel and killed 587 people, making it the deadliest terror attack in African history. 

October 14 Memorial (center)

I visited a memorial for the attack. It’s basically a flagpole in the median of a busy street with October 14 written on it. 

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

I also visited the obelisk-shaped Tomb of the Unknown Soldier monument. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is next to Somalia’s old parliament building, or rather what’s left of it.  Basically all that is left of the old parliament is one ruined tower. Civil war and anarchy got the best of this house of government.

I’m not going to say what I think of the parliament building ?

The locals’ beach

If you are looking for leisure in Mogadishu, you go to Lido Beach. It has restaurants, bars, decent-sized waves and thousands of young Somalis playing soccer. 

The Somali version of the pitch

This is where I got drilled in the chest by a soccer ball. I was walking around, watching kids play soccer and watching other young Somalis enjoying themselves on the beach. You may know from my recent experience at Carnival in Trinidad that I like people watching. Sometimes I get very consumed in my own thoughts and in people watching. In this case it was okay because I was close to a security detail. But that didn’t stop me from getting struck by a flying soccer ball. You know I survived, so I won’t carry on about this little experience.

Unlike the other beaches in town, Lido Beach is not that trashed and polluted. Even though it is so crowded with people, it was a good place for me to take in the beauty of Somalia and appreciate being in such an interesting part of the world. 

Liking Lido Beach ?

Apparently, Lido Beach also has a nice reef. I didn’t get to go snorkeling, though. It’s not like Venezuela, where you can ditch the capital for an island paradise — not that the reefs were the highlight of Los Roques.

It was lunchtime and we went to a restaurant. The restaurant is called Beach View. Surprise, surprise it had a view of the beach. See:


Actually what was more surprising was that there was wifi at this restaurant with a connection strong enough for me to livestream. I used this as an opportunity to announce I was still alive. 

Beach View had some tasty food. I ate some lamb, Somali bananas (yum) and rice. This wasn’t just any meal. For people in Somalia it was a very important lunch. It was the last lunch before Ramadan. 

Getting ready for Ramadan

On this special occasion, I was joined by some boys and girls who are young elites in Mogadishu. The girls were adorned in head scarves and burqas. They were eager to take selfies with me.

3 of my 4 future wives ?

My brief time at Lido Beach gave me a picture of the demographics of Somalia. In this country of 15 million people, 60 percent of the population is below the age of 20. And on average now, Somalis are having 8 children. That is a young, rapidly growing population. You can really sense that there is an energy and excitement among young Somalis. And some of these people are destined for Europe…


The migration scheme

Ali and his brother say this is a big industry. Clever Somali businessmen are exploiting the immigrant-friendly German, French and Swedish governments in a big way.

These businessmen finance the journeys of poor Somalis to Europe. They find very poor people who don’t have any prospects and give them money to travel to Europe. The journey is expensive — about $30,000 — and very dangerous.

Usually, the migrants fly to Ethiopia, illegaly cross the spotty Sudanese border and then cross the Sahara Desert to get to Libya’s Mediterranean coast, either traveling through Egypt along the way or going directly to Libya. 

Next is the highly risky boat trip across the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy. If they make it alive to Italy, they head north into other European countries and apply for asylum.

When the migrants are granted refugee status, then their wives and children can come to Europe. Here is where things become particularly interesting. The wives and children who come to Europe are not the real wives and children of these men. 

Just before departing Somalia for Europe, these men get married and they take with them documents proving they are married. These marriages are not genuine. The newlyweds are only married on paper. The “wives” are actually the wives of Somali businessmen who are financing the migrants’ journey to Europe. Now that the migrants have asylum, the businessmen’s wives and kids can legally go to Europe and live there.

After several years — in the case of Germany it’s five or six — the refugees can get citizenship. Then the wives and children of wealthy Somalis can live in Europe but also come back to Somalia from time to time to visit. 

Europe’s future?

Since their wives have become citizens, a while later, the Somali businessmen can also come to Europe and pick up German or some other residency and eventually get citizenship. The wealthy Somalis tend to be patient, staying in Somalia or elsewhere in Africa and doing business while their wives and children go through the naturalization process in Europe. 

Meanwhile, the men whose journeys they finance often fall into criminality in Europe. These impoverished migrants who lacked prospects back home in Somalia contribute heavily to a high crime rate among Somalis in Europe. 

I don’t know if this is all true, but it is a very clever scheme and it makes sense. 

You might ask, where is all the money coming from? Isn’t the $30,000 that the journey to Europe costs a lot of money by Somali standards?

Well, a lot of money actually flows into Somalia from all over the world. Much of it comes in the form of aid from the UN and various countries. Last year, the UN gave Somalia $75 million in aid for resettling refugees. Well, Somalia is a corrupt country, and a lot of those funds could be getting diverted to sending anchor migrants to Europe. 


Bakaara Market and Black Hawk Down

There were two attractions left for me to see in Mogadishu. Actually they are a collection of sights that are very much connected — they being Mogadishu’s Bakaara Market and the crash sites and battle relics from the Black Hawk Down incident. 

Bakaara Market is very emblematic of civil war-era Mogadishu. It is both a place of anarchy and anarchocapitalism. It is a true free market and a place where violence erupts and bloody battles were fought. In fact, much of the fighting in the October 1993 Battle of Mogadishu took place at or near the Bakaara Market. The Black Hawks were downed in the area.  

Bakaara Market

The Bakaara Market is 7 square miles in size. It is one of the largest markets in the world. 300,000 people trade at the Bakaara Market daily.

Need some groceries?

The market is notorious for being a place where you can buy illicit goods. For example, you can purchase forged passports, including forged German passports. 

There have been attempts to enforce taxation at the market, but they have been met with resistance from businessmen. There aren’t any regulations in force either. The Bakaara Market basically functions as a completely free market.

We drove through narrow streets and alleys in and around the market. It’s difficult to call them streets since they consist largely of potholes, and sometimes gravel or outright sand.

Tough terrain

This drive was like Return to Mogadishu, the film in which a pair of American special forces who fought in the Black Hawk Down battle come back to Somalia and inconspicuously drive through the Bakaara Market while recounting what happened on October 3, 1993. 

During my drive, I twice jumped out of the pickup to take selfies. I was instructed to spend no more than 10 seconds doing so since we were not in a very safe area. 

Speed selfie

What remains from the famous October 1993 incident are a couple of captured American tanks. One is in decent shape. The other is in deteriorating condition. 

The other tank

There isn’t anything marking the helicopter crash sites, or at least the one I visited. But I was showed where exactly one of the Black Hawks went down. There is now a big white house (go figure) at the location. I get the sense Somalis are still proud of having fought victoriously against the Americans. 

The crash site of one of the infamous Black Hawks

We departed the Bakaara Market area and started making our way back to the airport. Along the way we stopped at another market for some quick souvenir shopping. I bought two little Somali pins for $10. 

I payed in dollars but got some change in Somali shillings to take with me. The exchange rate was about $1 to 22,000 shillings. I never spent any of the shillings.

Dogs and roadblocks on the way out

We drove to the airport, and I continued taking photos along the way. I wanted to take photos of the four soldiers who were with us, but it wasn’t allowed. Well, it was allowed if I didn’t show their faces. So I’ve got a couple distance shots of the soldiers and the truck:

Do you see a reflection?

Thank you for your service!

Getting back to the airport was actually quite difficult. It was much more complicated returning to the secure zone than leaving it. 

There were at least six checkpoints on the way back to the airport. At two of the checkpoints you have to get out of the car and go through a complete patdown. At one checkpoint you need to take out all of your baggage, so bomb-sniffing dogs can give it a sniff. 

Then at the airport more bomb-sniffing dogs check out your bags at another security point. And this process repeats. By the time I made it to my gate, dogs sniffed my luggage four different times. And that was in addition to another couple security controls inside the terminal.

To me, Aden Adde International Airport is the safest airport in the world. 

Saying goodbye

Mogadishu is improving.

It wasn’t so easy to bid farewell to my guide Ali. He was sad I was leaving. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take a photo with Ali because it is too much of a security risk for him. Ali and his team are well known in Somalia, and right now it seems like they are the only ones taking people on tours outside of the secure zone in Mogadishu. 

I can vouch that Ali is a great guide. The experience was exciting and informative, and I was very well protected the whole time.

When I was in Mogadishu, there had not been a terror attack in two months. In the two weeks since I have been there, a suicide bombing did occur. But I’d still say it is safe to visit if you are protected by soldiers. 

From what I saw, there is hardly a chance of something going wrong. In addition to being protected by soldiers, there are checkpoints with passport controls scattered every few hundred meters around town. 

Unfortunately, garbage piles are a common sight in Mogadishu.

Of course there are other things that are not so pleasant about Mogadishu — all the garbage and the poor living conditions. The city is definitely not for everyone, but life there is manageable. And if you are into dark tourism like me, I highly recommend a visit to Mogadishu. If you are an anarchocapitalist like me, I believe visiting Mogadishu ought to be a requirement for membership in the clan.

If you want to book a tour, Visit Mogadishu is your company. They’ll answer whatever questions you have. And now you know that if you want to send money to Somalia, you do it via a wire transfer from the Emirates. So what’s stopping you from visiting Mogadishu?


So long Somalia. See you another time.