One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia

Mogadishu, Somalia is one of those places in the world. You’ve never heard a single good thing and you likely know nothing about it except it’s supposed to be scary. Honestly, it’s for pretty good reason. Somalia is 30 years into a brutal Civil War that has taken a huge toll on the once thriving country. In that time, Somalia has been and is a safe haven for terrorist groups; has endured regular terror attacks, suicide bombings, and assassinations. It’s considered a failed state in the eyes of the world. But behind every negative media story and political naivety exist real people living real lives. One day in Mogadishu, Somalia showed me that there is life and there is hope in this proud city of 2.5 million people.

How to Get to Mogadishu

One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, how to get to Mogadishu

I flew to Mogadishu from Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airlines. There’s a daily flight at 8:50am and it returns at 12:25pm from Mogadishu daily. There are also regularly scheduled flights from Nairobi, Entebbe, Doha, Djibouti and Istanbul. Other cities and airlines you’ve never heard of run non-regular flights from various cities in the region at times. Flights can be expensive and unreliable for various reasons.

Mogadishu Airport & Visa Formalities

One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu airport, Mogadishu

Arriving in Mogadishu Airport can be a bit unnerving because you’ve just landed in Mogadishu, Somalia-that’s not your everyday kind of destination. You’ll see a ton of UN and NGO planes, military and humanitarian helicopters-basically a big clusterfuck.

One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu, Mogadishu Airport, welcome to Somalia

As you enter the air-conditioned terminal (it’s very hot and humid in Mogadishu), you’ll need to fill out an arrival form. Then you wait in line for visa authentication and they’ll stamp it into your passport-this goes quickly. However, you must have a work visa arranged ahead of time to travel to Somalia. This can be a bit of a challenge if you don’t have any “work” connections. As of time of writing, there are no Somalia tourist visas at all-there are no tourists.

One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu, visa

The airport is heavily fortified and can take a while to get in and out of with numerous checkpoints. Departing from Mogadishu Airport can take time and be an intense hassle. There are several security checks. At an outdoors one, you’ll be separated from your bags and forced to wait so dogs can sniff them. There will also be aggressive “fixers” trying to help you for tips. Get there early and be patient. MGQ is unlike any other airport in the world security wise. Seriously, I’ve never seen anything like it including places like Kabul.

Where to Stay in Mogadishu

One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu, Peace Hotel, roofdeck

If you take one piece of advice from me, it should be to stay at the Peace Hotel in Mogadishu. That’s all you need to know. Arrange your trip through the owner, Bashir. He is absolutely the man in Mogadishu and will arrange your accommodation, transportation and security team. Just trust me, it’ll be the best move you make for peace of mind and security. The security is a little expensive but you’re going to freaking Mogadishu-so just bite the bullet and pay up as getting kidnapped, shot or blown up would suck!

One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu, security

The Peace Hotel is the most heavily fortified hotel I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. In fact, it’s worth one day in Mogadishu, Somalia just to experience the fortification of the Peace Hotel and the airport. It’s a tourist attraction itself in my view and a fascinating place.

Peace Hotel, One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu

Before you leave the compound to go sightseeing, Bashir will give you a security briefing from what is essentially a mission control straight out of a movie. I’ve never seen such a sophisticated security and surveillance center in my life. You are transfixed by how hi-tech it is and how secure Bashir makes you feel. They have cameras all over the city and technology that shows any potential danger. It then offers alternative routes if necessary. It’s really wild. Obviously no photos were allowed.

One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu, Peace Hotel courtyard

Inside the Peace Hotel compound is a very comfortable, pleasant and even beautiful oasis in the middle of likely the most dangerous city on Earth. They have a beautiful courtyard, excellent gym, ping pong table, good restaurant, fabulous roof deck and sitting area. You never feel anything but safe, secure and amazed that you’re in the middle of Mogadishu when you’re at the Peace Hotel.

One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu, Peace Hotel, gym

The rooms are pretty standard tourist class rooms with decent air-conditioning and showers, excellent Wi-Fi and I do mean excellent Wi-Fi. Overall, Bashir and the Peace Hotel were the main reasons I really enjoyed my one day in Mogadishu.

What to do in Mogadishu

Lido Beach, One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu

The best thing to do in Mogadishu, Somalia is go to the beach. Somalia has 1500 miles of coastline around the Horn of Africa and much of it is very beautiful. Think Diani Beach, Kenya beautiful with a world of potential. There are several beaches in and around Mogadishu and I visited 3 of them during my one day in Mogadishu.

Lido Beach, One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu

The most popular and most beautiful beach is Lido Beach. It’s in the north of Mogadishu and is very popular with locals for hanging out, swimming, playing soccer, restaurants and some decent hotels with nice roof decks. The water is beautiful and the white sand, albeit trampled, was very nice.

Lido Beach, One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu, boat

Lido Beach is a bastion in a city filled with bombed-out buildings and constant checkpoints. I also recommend heading up to the roof of the Dolphins Hotel. Have a coffee or fruit juice and take in the views of Lido Beach and the Indian Ocean.

Lido Beach, One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu

Perhaps the most famous (at least in my eyes before I came here) site is the lighthouse and beach below it. I had seen many photos of this place during my research and it always looked pretty cool. It was always the beautiful beach below the bombed out lighthouse and other buildings. However, in reality it wasn’t beautiful at all.

Lighthouse Beach, One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu

The beach was filled with garbage everywhere. In fact, when we were walking on the beach; locals were just dumping trash down the small cliffs onto the beach. There were enormous trash piles of crap everywhere. It smelled like crap and looked like it too. The surrounding bombed out buildings made it still look cool but the trash level was appalling.

Lighthouse Beach, One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu

Finally, Jazeera Beach is another oasis of beauty and sanity in Mogadishu. Bashir owns several acres of beachfront property south of Mogadishu and is turning it into a resort of sorts with restaurant construction set to begin in January 2020. It’s gorgeous and like having your own private, beautiful Indian Ocean beach. You’d never believe you were in Mogadishu, Somalia. I had to keep reminding myself!

Jazeera Beach, One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu

Other sites include the monument of the Unknown Soldier; which is a big obelisk in town. It’s really not that exciting at all. They’re building a brand new Mosque modeled after the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. It was under construction when I was there under Turkish supervision. Turkey is heavily invested in Somalia.

Jazeera Beach, One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu

There are other things to see but nothing that interesting. Plus, you’re limited in what you can do because of security risks. I’m not a big market guy but you can visit some markets. However, they can be potentially very dangerous so I wouldn’t advise it. You’ll be exposed in tight, crowded quarters-it’s not worth it.

Final Thoughts on Mogadishu

Lighthouse Beach, One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu

Having visited sleepy Hargeisa, Somaliland several years ago, I must say that I liked Mogadishu much better. Even though it was just over 24 hours, one day in Mogadishu was the perfect amount of time for me. I really enjoyed it. I would have felt trapped in the compound if I stayed much longer.

Peace Hotel, rooftop view, One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu

Let me be clear, Mogadishu is not a burgeoning honeymoon destination. You’re not going as an alternative to the Seychelles. You’re going because you like adventure, excitement and you’re curious about a city that’s seen unimaginable hardships in the last 30 years. It’s not for everyone, that’s for sure.

The Peace Hotel Roofdeck, One Day in Mogadishu, Somalia, Mogadishu

That said, I was taken by the rawness of the city. I admire the courage and vibrancy of the nice people that I met and saw along the beaches. I hope to return some day and see my friend Bashir; a man I really admire. Hopefully, over time, the massive Somali diaspora will return to their native land along with international investment that can spur change, growth and help Mogadishu return to its former glory.

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing, this is just awesome to see this place. I’ve always wondered about it and never really seen first hand photos. Also love the IG stories. Thanks Lee.

  2. Wow this is an incredible trip report with great photos and info. I’m always fascinated by cities like this or Baghdad or Kabul, etc.

  3. Somalian girl says

    Thank u bro ????

  4. Good for you man. Interesting that you went, and 24hrs does seem like a good enough amount of time to see what there is and have a memory forever — obviously lingering isn’t wise, so 2 days would have been more of the same with twice the risk. The other guy in your pic looks like a blogger I have seen, Drew-something? Anyways, fun report to read. I remember years ago you had to fly in and out on the Russian beater Daallo or something like that.

  5. I’m curious about the “work” they would allow you to do or to claim in order to get the visa?
    And what about cost of hotel, flights – was it expensive?

  6. Thanks for your honesty feedback

  7. Dear lee i am sure what you see on the news is not what you get, Somali is Different now and i hope will be better coming years

  8. akram ismacil says

    thank you again welcome to somalia we are happy for your visit insha Allah

  9. This a great report. I’ve been to Peace Hotel before & believe it’s the best when it comes to security. Mr. Bashir gives you presidential security like which is worth for every penny. Mr.Bashir Is the most resilient & optimistic entrepreneur i’ve ever met, i can’t wait to read his success & Peace Hotel in future.

  10. Khadar Hassan says

    Thank you so much

  11. My brother bashar dhere and your freind Lee thanks for visiting somali and showing the beauty of our country to the rest of the world,

  12. Thanks Lee! Interesting report to read. This covers a lot for one day stay. I couldn’t see you said much about food though. Have you tried camel milk,Cangeero or banana with every lunch?

  13. Mohamed abdikadir says

    First thanks for showing the good side of muqdisho but you guys are so coward not you alone but every white man that comes to the city, other than the uncertain bomings that mostly occurs nearby government places there is nothing to worry you should have walk in the street, gone to malls, gardens or daraslam street the safest street in somalia and other nice places

  14. Hi Lee
    As Somalilander, the unflattering comparison with Hargeisa stung a little, but thanks for honesty. Great photos. Glad you did not visit Jezira beach though. on 21st July, 1989, 47 people had their throats cut there; slowly and then machine gunned, after one of throats cutters vomited. It is as beautiful as Auschwitz

  15. None taken! It IS sleepy. The place used to rock before it was bombed to the stone age in 1988/89 and then an alien bunch of Islamist fanatics moved in and squeezed the life out of its ruins. The locals still know couple groovy places but they are secret. Next time perhaps

  16. FromMogadishu says

    Editing:
    Thank you for visiting Mogadishu.
    As Somali iam very aware of the security challenges in the city and would advise every foreign tourist to have guards with him/her. I visited Mogadishu in 2018. Even i had to be careful and avoid the “green zone” where all attacks seems to take place. The country is slowly progressing but the civilwar is far from over and the terrorists still pose real daily threat which no one can deny.
    Lets hope all these problems ends some day and tourists wouldnt need security around them.

  17. Thnk you for visiting in mogadisho somalia

  18. I was born in that city and my family left when i was two years old. I am planing to go back there with my son January 5th with him. First time for him and adventure with no planing for me. We did not even call or arrange anything yet. But we are going in and let our our motherland take care the rest.

  19. Good afternoon/ morning where ever you are;
    Lee, I met one of your friend this morning. Amy, she told me that you are visiting my hometown muqdisho,Soomaaliya. Thank you so much to say good things about my city and welcome to Somalia. I lived and went to school in Mogadishu and I used to play soccer on those beautiful beaches.

  20. Drew my Fav journalist, he is so special and my be am the first person who look his videos but am wondering where is last video of Mogadishu waiting…?

  21. I love this! I have been following you for so long sometimes I forget that you weren’t a this huge travel blogger to begin with!

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