Thursday, May 25, 2017
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The Mogadishu I never imagined!

By Umaimah Abdulahi Issa

“I can’t believe am letting you go” she frowned. “Don’t worry about me hooyo, did you not travel to Mogadishu for your higher studies at a younger age than mine”, I replied trying to ease on her.  “But that was another Mogadishu, where tranquility and peace existed, it was times when development was the standard, togetherness and fraternization was norm, days where congenial way people lived made us feel the proud of Somalinimo; and patriotism rooted deep in our bones in a period of relative freedom and cosmopolitan values of acceptance.”she said smiling as a blissful memory of beautiful moments fluxed through her mind.  That was a sad farewell with my mum, who have studied, lived and worked in Mogadishu two decades back.

Those of you that speak in the language of politics will only find my anecdote a futile and never be interested in reading it; this will not be lament for a failure neither a tweak to the vandalized politics.  I will just be speaking on behalf of the hope that resonates in the good spirits that still live in Mogadishu; the innocent children, the beautiful young mothers, the punctilious young fathers, the ambitious young students, the people of Mogadishu that insisted to stay alive despite the bleakness of their country, I want them find solace, knowing that Mogadishu had stories of other than the misfortunes.

Central Mogadishu, 2009

Born and bred in Borama; Somaliland, a home of sagacity, enlightenment and stability, I was among the luckiest generation of Somalia that was born after the collapse of the once great and gratified Somalia. I am luckier than thousands of young Somalis. We have been enjoying relative peace and stability, over those decades that my young brethren in Somalia, have unfortunately been suffering from the protracted anarchy.  Though Somaliland is only five years older than my age, it’s never been immature to give us the chance to grow up in peace, where we smiled with sun rise, and got access to education, no matter how the system might sometimes have been poor. Nonetheless, we matured with pens not bullets; we dreamed and developed ambitions to compete with our peers in the other world. Besides, the lack of international recognition, we learnt that through peace and love, disputes are solved, and that enmity is odd to norm. We grew up with the confidence that we choose our leaders by our vote- the democracy, though tribalism – a curse on all Somalis- may sometimes make it bit flavorless.

Midlast year my asthma worsened and I got allergic to the weather of Borama, hence, I had to leave the city. Diredawa, my second home, was in my plans till I got an offer from Mogadishu, a city that had never even been in my fantasy.  I made my mind and judiciously took one of the hardest decisions in my life. But all my beloved ones thought I was doing most awful adventure, and yeah they had the right to, because going to Mogadishu is synonymous to many, thanks to the biased media outlets, like putting yourself in butcheries.

I kept wondering why on earth would my dad (May he rest in Jannah), loved an outrageous and most violent city in the world? Why my mum would always have this hope; that the city which had long been ordeal of destruction will reborn with its all amazements? I, along with many Somalis of my age, that have never been in to the city, can barely know another Mogadishu existed. Since most of its history was destroyed by the war, we could hardly imagine that Mogadishu was once a stunning, sophisticated, and functioning city.

I really didn’t have anything else to expect other than destruction because all I could hear about Mogadishu was nothing else but tragedy, deaths and explosion. While these stories may contain some unfortunate truth, they are not the only stories of Mogadishu to offer. Imagining that Mogadishu had such interesting which could be all that worth of love was hard, until I came and witnessed that the city had a beautiful story which is underneath the rubble and the years of sickness.

In the beginning, I wanted to knock on every door and ask why you still live in this bleak city and not fled. I wanted to ask each of those thousands of young brilliant students that go to schools. What sense does it make for you, when you don’t even know where your future is heading to! Why those young men and women keep struggling in the different faculties of the universities. For what purpose they will pursue studies, with all these mayhem in their country:  the unemployment, the corruptions and tribalism. Those businessmen/women how would gamble to invest in a place where the life is risky and that’s so exposure at same time. Those young soldiers that are alert to refine the security.

Mogadishu Peace Garden

But what surprised the Kenyan author Rasna Warah about Somalis is exactly what gave answer to my dazzled questions “What constantly surprises me about Somalis though is their inherent optimism and resilience. Despite all the years of civil war, most Somalis still believe in – and love – their country.”   And I could agree with, for the courage and buoyancy is something I have learnt from my fellow Somalilanders. Apart from the fact that many Somalis developed the psychological state of being droopy to those horrendous events, caused by the conditions in which they gained from the vulnerability, I still believe that their persistence and their will to move forward is fueled by their faith that they belong to the country and their believe that things will turn right, not sooner, may be, but the dawn of Mogadishu will come. Because we went through the worst and life goes on, that is what people of Mogadishu taught me.

Sitting in Mogadishu’s peace Garden, you will never believe in those people went through sadistic years. The well turned-out kids, the pretty young ladies, the classy young boys, the affectionate beautiful young couples, tranquility pictures smile on all faces. The same scenes are found in the Lido beach, where peace and love are applauded. These moments in Mogadishu turns the imaginations of the past glory of Xamar Cadey, the white pearl of Indian Ocean, a lovely and vibrant city where every age group enjoyed plenty of entertainments that included movies theatres, disco clubs, football and basketball tournaments, great hotels and restaurants along the beaches and so on. The Mogadishu that Hadraawi, the greatest Somali living legend, labeled it the pilgrimage of East Africa in his poem of Xamarey ma Nabad baa:

Xulad geenyo ugubeey;
Darmaanxoosh u dhalataay;
Xil-dhibaankanabaddaay;
Xajkiigeeskabariyeey;

Thus observing what is in the city is never enough for one to touch the deep beauty of Mogadishu. All around you see is feeble city that’s just recovering from wretched damage. Instead, I opened my heart to the city so that the light that glared from the city, which never been subdued, could touch my heart. I realized there is untold story about the city, in which media barely shares with us. My curiosity begun to unlock the literature – other than the sad stories- anthropologists and social entrepreneurs have said and written about the city. Luckily, I found those praise worthy spirits that worked hard to argue the world that the Mogadishu I never imagined had existed. Thanks to Hassan Abukar for giving us chance to glance back Mogadishu in its era of prosperity in his book of Mogadishu Memoir. Rasna Warah and her co-authors, for the Book of Mogadishu then and now. Andrew Hardling, for his book Mayor of Mogadishu, Marry Harper for yelling out to the world not to get Somalia wrong. If state failed, it is never that society failed. The faith of Professor Abdi Samater and some many others in the Somalis gives insights to explore beyond the ruins in Mogadishu. To all those that spoke on behalf of the many passionate Somalis in the city whose beautiful stories are never heard.

If the voice of the rising hope is silenced, the endless cycle of glumness stories in media will continue to take over. I like traveling, I like going new places more and one thing I like most is telling what’s worthy of that place. The visibility can be told by everyone, but the hidden story will need a heart that sees the beauty beyond the ruin and hears the voice of the hope that calls under grieve of the strain. This piece of mine will be an equivalent with the beautiful stories I will be writing about romantic town of Amasya, the secret behind cleanness of  Kigali, the grudge for the Syrian children orphaned by the wars, the natural beauty of Kauai, Hawaii and so many other places.  But what will make my Mogadishu trip the most interesting, is that Mogadishu is the city where my parents lived and spent most beautiful moments in their lives; and how the city won to disprove my prejudices is worth mentioning.

In conclusion, Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist theorist and politician is quoted saying  “Be a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.” The wounds and destructions inherited from the conflicts will not be healed in short times; it will take years, if not decades. We all can speculate what the future may hold for we already see how things are going. The solutions for Somalis have long been discussed and debated by those experts it concerns and there is no room for me to add, due to my relatively poor competence in the field. Nevertheless, what I know is that nations fail, once destroyed wealthy and property can be rebuilt, but only if people are inspired and they have faith, their hope will never be in vain.

Umaimah Abdulahi Issa Goth
Email umaymagd@gmail.com


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