A note from James Willcox, Founder
“I just wondered about your Mogadishu trips, are all the people who go on them a bit odd?” - Untamed Borders guest.
When we started offering trips to Mogadishu even some of our long standing friends and supporters raised eyebrows. “Is there really anything to see and do there?” was a typical question, thinking perhaps that any trip to a city that has only recently acquired a functioning government after more than twenty years of conflict is simply a descent into voyeuristic misery.
I even had my doubts, but everyone going seems to have a great time. So much so that we have already run four trips to Mogadishu this year. Photos from those trips can be found here
Last summer I decided it was time for a visit. I personally like to travel at my own pace and find things out for myself, not being able to wander the streets without my security detail did grate. Although the lack of freedom was a bit of a hassle for me I loved every minute. Watching a football match, hanging out at the fish market and seeing the colourful boats come in past the old light house were great. My highlight was simply swimming in the clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean at Lido beach whilst chatting to a Somali chap who had lived in East London. Check out some photos from my trip.
The most surprising thing for me in Mogadishu was the energy of the place. After decades of destruction and decay the spirit of enterprise is palpable. It is something I have found in many post-conflict regions but it seemed even greater in Somalia. Everybody is an entrepreneur looking for opportunities.
The speed of recovery has seen Mogadishu make some unusual technology jumps. The mobile phone is the perfect example of this. When I came to pay for anything, a coffee in a hotel cafe or a bag of oranges in the market, I was given a piece of paper with a phone number on it. I would then transfer some of my mobile phone balance to the vendor. With banks not functioning and the largest Somali Shilling note worth 5 cents it is the most convenient way to transfer cash.
Travel is about opening your eyes and finding something new. In Mogadishu you open your eyes and amongst the ruins and building sites you find the world's first truly cashless economy.