Search This Blog

Monday, November 02, 2015

No... Still Not Safe To Travel To Mogadishu Or Anywhere Else In Somalia... Nor Afghanistan

I was surprised by this New York Times headline Sunday night: Popular Hotel In Somalia Is Bombed By Militants. How is it possible that Mogadishu has a popular hotel? I mean who goes to Somalia and stays in a hotel? Sunday terrorists blew up the front gate of the Sahafi Hotel and then started shooting guests and workers, at least 14 of them.
If there is one hotel everyone knows in Mogadishu, it is the Sahafi. Warlords and militants alike used to hang out and plot schemes in the lounge and courtyard while sipping grapefruit juice and pulling apart camel meat steaks.

Sahafi means journalist in Arabic, and for years the hotel has served as the gateway to one of the world’s most dangerous countries for foreign journalists, aid workers and the rare brave businessman. Even in the hardest times, the staff managed to provide clean rooms and good food. Lobster was one of the house specialties, served alongside mountains of French fries. Recently, the hotel was a popular rendezvous spot for officials from Somalia’s fledgling government.

Mogadishu may be safer than it used to be, but it is still not safe. The Shabab once controlled much of the city, bullwhipping women and terrorizing the population by enforcing a harsh version of Islamic law. But even after being pushed out by African Union troops, Shabab fighters have shown they can strike anywhere at any time.

Somalia’s government tried to play down some of the concerns stirred up by the attack. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia said on Sunday, “We want to confirm that such terrorist acts does not mean Shabab’s revival, but in the contrary shows clear signs that they are in desperate situation.”
This is the warning posted on the top of the Wikitravel site for Mogadishu: "There is a high threat from terrorism, including kidnapping, throughout Somalia, excluding Somaliland. Terrorist groups have made threats against Westerners and those working for Western organizations. It is known that there is a constant threat of terrorist attacks in Mogadishu. The city also remains in great danger of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks carried out by extremists who manage to get past security checkpoints around the city. Walking the streets of Mogadishu remains very dangerous, even with armed guards. Tourists are emphatically discouraged from visiting Mogadishu for the time being, while business travelers should take extreme caution and make thorough plans for any trips. Travel outside Mogadishu remains extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. Those working for aid agencies should consult the security plans or advice of your organization."

5 airlines fly into Aden Adde International Airport a few miles from Mogadishu: Somalia's own Jubba Airways, African Express Airways, which flies to Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Nairobi, Daallo Airlines, which flies to Hargeisa (with a stop in Djibouti), East African, which lies to Nairobi on Sundays and Turkish Air, which flies twice a week to Istanbul via Khartoum or Djibouti. What's to see? "Sightseeing is obviously extremely dangerous in Mogadishu, and is strongly discouraged. However, some interesting sites include the historic Mogadishu old town and the Mogadishu mosque." OK, what's to do? "Visitors are encouraged to stay inside for the duration of their stay. The chances of theft and/or assault are extremely high while walking around the city." And to buy? "The Bakaara Market (Suuqa Bakaaraha) is an open market and the largest of its kind in Somalia. Created in late 1972 during the reign of Siad Barre, its original purpose was to allow proprietors to sell daily essentials, but the civil war subsequently created demand for arms and ammunition. Everything from pistols to anti-aircraft weapons are being sold here. Falsified documents are also readily available, such as forged Somali, Ethiopian and Kenyan passports. This illicit submarket is known as Cabdalle Shideeye after one of its first proprietors. Most markets and are a focus of ongoing arms control efforts for the disarmament of Somalia. Marketplaces should be considered hazardous not only because of their content and the presence of unsavory characters, but also due to the fact that they have caught fire several times in the last few years." The food is rumored to be safe to eat at the Sahafi Hotel, the one that just got blown up.

Trip Advisor has no reviews but gives it a nice 4.5 stars and ranks it #2 in Mogadishu.

I remember when I first got to Afghanistan in 1969, 2 of my passengers, Canadians Nate and... I want to say Nate and Al, but that's a deli in Beverly Hills... maybe it was Nate and Kevin. 45 years a long time. Anyway, I slept in my VW van but they settled into the posh-- for Afghanistan-- Intercontinental Hotel just outside town. They went to local pharmacy near the royal palace, bough a huge bag of pharmaceutical cocaine and settled into the Intercontinental, which had just opened a month before we got there-- the first luxury hotel in the country-- and was pretty empty. 200 rooms but I never ran into anyone in the living quarter floors but Kevin and... let's say Kevin.

Eventually it was taken over by Russian military officers when they invaded. Then it was used for target practice by the Taliban, leaving only 85 habitable rooms. Once the U.S. invaded the country, Western Journalists started staying there. In 2011 there was a suicide bombing and a few dozen people were killed. Today there are 13 Trip Advisor reviews giving it an average rating of 3.5 stars (although just 2.5 stars for value).

No comments: