Normally I blog about Tech stuff but today I will go off topic to tell you my story of my trip to Somalia. I’ve made some great new friends during my time in Somalia, but it is one place that I never want to go back to, because even though I am Somalian, I cannot at all relate to Somalis there as I grew up in USA. Somalia has a completely different culture and I lack lots of Somali words because I have become accustomed to talking and writing in English.
Built by Turkey for Somalia.
I decided to visit Somalia with my aunt to go see my grandma who I haven’t seen ever since I was a little kid. I came to USA when I was 7 years old in 1992 as a refugee with my aunt when major war broke and masses of people went fleeing to USA, Europe and Australia.
The moment I got off the plane to Mogadishu from Turkey, I immediately started feeling how hot the weather was compared to Mogadishu. To the people used to this hot weather, night time wind feels cold to them and they wear sweaters or jackets but it feels like warm air to me because I came from Minnesota which can get very cold.
The Airport looked like it needed a complete remodeling because it was nowhere near close to modern and Turkey is said to be building a new Airport in Mogadishu. Turkey is the key player in rebuilding Somalia, and I’ve seen many trucks and construction vehicles they donated to Somalia, they also built main road that is wide and is used by almost all vehicles and African Union Soldiers.
I was staying at Raasa Hotel and while at the entrance I heard a loud bang and that kind of sounded like it could of been a big tire exploding but when I started seeing the Police cars and Ambulance racing towards where the bang came from, I suspected a suicide car bomber exploded there but I later found out through news that it was an IED left on the street which targeted some governmental figure and his guards. Al-Shabaab terror group were said to be behind it, and this is when I wished I can get out of the country and wished I listened to the travel advisory warnings for Somalia. The Turkish airline headquarters there said they could not get me a way to get back to USA sooner than July 20 because I transfer to U.S. Airways which they have no control of. I really hated the fact they could not adjust my ticket.
All Hotels had big concrete barriers and AK-47 armed guards sitting at entrances because a few months prior to when I arrived, one of the nearby hotels had suicide car bombings.
Flies were everywhere and got into my eyes and face constantly. Another annoyance was the fact that drivers constantly hit there car horns for the stupidest of things like a driver ahead slowing down. Constant car horn noises all the time from sunrise to sunset, and the sun always set at 6:30 there. They ate Camel meat in Somalia more often than cow meat and Camel meat sure tasted similar but better than beef. Restaurants had some good food but were in poor shape. I saw a man bring a big ice brick in a donkey cart and then used his chest to carry the ICE into the restaurant and as he passed me he smelled horrible and looked dirty, ever since that time I asked them to not put ice in any of my smoothies or drinks.
We went to Beledweyne after a few weeks of staying in Mogadishu, and the thing that sucked about Beledweyne is that the electricity stopped running at 9pm. Both Mogadishu and Beledweyne are said to be powered by Gas generated electricity. After I saw my grandma in Beledweyne, we decided to head north towards a place called Moqo-Kori where my half sister lived. I supported my half sister for a long time by sending her money while I was in USA and the U.S. dollar is worth a lot in Somalia. $1 is 20,000 worth of Somali shilling. Everything in Somalia is cheap: Cappuccino, Tea and even smoothies are like .50 cents or less and people there use something called EVC which is like a cell phone credit card, you pay with your cell phone by sending money to the phone of the person you are buying from.
My cousins were saying to not go to Moko-Qori because I will risk being kidnapped by Al-Shabaab and that they can ask me anything about Islamic religion, and if I get a question wrong, they can behead me. I was scared by this but some other people said that African Union soldiers drove them away so they are not there, I was comforted by this fact. I had access to very slow internet there so I Googled African Union Al-Shabaab and read that the African Union soldiers conducted Air attacks and also ground attacks against Al-Shabaab and drove them away. Saddest story I read was when Al-Shabaab terrorists attacked African Union and Somali Soldiers in a hotel they were staying in.
I saw my sister and came back just fine from Moko-Qori without any trouble or signs of Al-Shabaab. Even though we took an Airplane to Beledweyne, we ended up driving back to Mogadishu because the Airplane service from Beledweyne to Mogadishu runs once a week and I hated Beledweyne, Mogadishu was far better and less crowded. In both cities, cars shared the streets with Donkeys.
On my way back from Beledweyne, the driver picked up some guy that want a ride for a short distance, but we later found out that he could be working with Somali soldiers to gather information on what is going inside a car traveling towards Mogadishu. Even though we were law abiding, we noticed soldiers started stopping us at various points in the main road towards Mogadishu. They checked our cars for anything suspicious as their main job is to stop anyone heading towards Mogadishu that has explosives or ill intentions.
We suspected the man we picked up earlier heard me speak a little English, and he told soldiers ahead to take money from us so we can pass. The first group of soldiers were like Gang members and they appeared the Government doesn’t pay them well because they were demanding $30 which is a lot in Somalia. We gave them $30 but one of them started asking me where I came from and the driver tried to get his attention away from because he knows they are thieves, and that didn’t work. I asked him why is he asking me that question and he demanded I answer so I told him USA. He then asked me what tribe I was and when I responded he started smiling and told us we can go after taking $30. Driver told me that they could of stole my smartphone if they wanted.
During the entire time in Somalia I felt the government was corrupt because Soldiers and traffic controllers are paid very little. I was told that some Government officials stay at hotels for $3,000 while everywhere I go I saw poverty and people living in horrible self made houses of metal sheets and clothing that did not offer much protection. Lot’s of people begging for money, even the airport itself had people begging for money. The Government can at least build housing for people with all the wealth it has. There is also discrimination going on from what a person told me when I asked him why doesn’t he find a job with the government. He said the Government often times gives jobs to same tribe people and I thought people were above tribe stuff.