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Rashid Ali is a Somali-British architect and urbanist. Ali is a Lecturer in Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Liverpool School of Architecture Andrew Cross is an artist known for his photographic and film based explorations of structure and place. Cross is Associate Lecturer in Photography at Southampton Solent University. Mohamed Abdulkadir Ahmed is an architect and urban designer. Ahmed is the director of the Mogadishu based Urban Development, Heritage and Resilience Research Centre. Cristina Ali Farah is a Somali-Italian novelist and poet. She has published stories and poems in several anthologies. Her first novel, Madre piccola was awarded the 2008 Vittorini Literary Award. Omar Al-Qattan is chairman of the A.M. Qattan Foundation.

Rashid Ali and Andrew Cross

Rashid Ali and Andrew Cross


Commissioned by The Mosaic Rooms Head Curator: Rachael Jarvis Gallerist: Angelina Radakovic Marketing & Press: Rosa Attwood Copy Editors: Rashid Ali and Megan O’Shea Art Direction & Design: Avni Patel Photography: Andrew Cross, 2013 Archival photographs courtesy of: Laboratorio di Ricerca Documentazione Storica Iconografica, Roma Tre University, Italian Geographic Society Original print run of 500 This book is published on the occasion of the exhibition Mogadishu – Lost Moderns at The Mosaic Rooms, London  7 March–26 April 2014



The Making of a Modern Africa City Rashid Ali


The Past for the Future — the Protection and Conservation of Somalia’s Historical Coastal Towns: The Case of Mogadishu Mohamed Abdulkadir Ahmed


Timacade in Mog Andrew Cross


Mogadishu, Pearl of the Indian Ocean Cristina Ali Farah


Early Transformations Present Conditions

Supported by the A.M. Qattan Foundation The A.M. Qattan Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit organisation founded in 1993 and registered in the UK as a charity (no. 1029450). Its principle remit is the support of culture and education in and about Palestine and the Arab World. All texts copyright the authors © 2014 A.M. Qattan Foundation All rights reserved ISBN 978-9950-313-49-1 £18.00 Rashid Ali and Andrew Cross would like to acknowledge the support of the following individuals and organisations: Fahad Yasin Abdisamad Ali Zahra Ahmed Mustaf Cristina Ali Farah Xalimo Cabdillahi Axmed Cumar Maxamed Cali Hanan Bihi Jacqueline Jeffries Ellen Cross Southampton Solent University Rome Tre University Italian Geographic Society

Disappearing Cities Omar Al-Qattan


Disappearing Cities

Remains of the old Arab style city. Mogadishu, 2013

Omar Al-Qattan

‘Beware of saying to them that sometimes different cities follow one another on the same site and under the same name, born and dying without knowing one another, without communication among themselves. At times even the names of the inhabitants remain the same, and their voices’ accent, and also the features of their faces; but the gods who live beneath names and above places have gone off without a word and outsiders have settled in their place.’1

The Mosaic Rooms are delighted to present Mogadishu – Lost Moderns, as part of Disappearing Cities of the Arab World, an ambitious cultural programme of exhibitions, talks and screenings, focused on the destruction of Arab urban life in the post-colonial age. The city is the space where civic life becomes possible; where the tribal, ethnic or confessional divisions of the peoples who settle in it can potentially dissolve and mutate into unfamiliar forms of social order governed by new rules and customs. The city is also a centre of resistance to the invader and of rebellion against injustice. In it also lovers will meet anonymously, discovering new spaces in the imagination that would have been unthinkable in the countryside or desert, and developing new kinds of relationships. The city transforms our perceptions of childhood; our experiences of light and sound, of space and perspective, and of the past, present and future. But cities are also great betrayers of their own inhabitants, repositories of vermin and dirt and pollution, as well as theatres of chaos, civil war and massacre. In the contemporary Arab world, cities have often been profoundly deceitful—promising lawfulness, peace, equality and freedom only to turn into prisons and traps for the unsuspecting citizen, who is often chased out

from them or persecuted for the language he speaks or the God she worships (or indeed the one repudiates). Jaffa, Beirut, Lydd, Baghdad, Cairo, Aleppo, Homs, Tripoli (Libya and Lebanon), Kuwait City, Jerusalem, Mogadishu—these cities have, to varying degrees of course, undergone terrible destruction and violence in the postcolonial age, bearing witness to what can only be described as a failure of the civic project. Other cities are tragically promised similar fates… Our programme explores the histories and consequences of this failure through art, architecture, literature, music and cinema. Far from a merely academic or nostalgic reflection on the processes that have led to this failure, we examine how the inhabitants of modern-day Arab cities have continued to resist the breakdown or destruction of their environments through civic projects or artistic expression—or simply through an improbable love affair! The Programme opened in Spring 2013 with Dor Guez’s show 40 DAYS, focussed on the remaining Palestinian minority in the previously Palestinian city of Lydd, almost completely depopulated in the 1948 war by the invading Israeli forces. Earlier in 2014, we featured two exhibitions on Baghdad, including a homage to its cultural hub at Al-Mutanabbi Street, which was devastated by a bomb in 2007. Other talks, lectures and readings within this programme attempt to throw light on the continuing tragedies tearing apart the region’s societies where they are most intensely gathered: in the urban space. A note on the term ‘Arab world’: we use it here in its most generous, open and inclusive sense, and not to delimit or exclude groups or cultures which may consider themselves as non-Arab but which have present or past bonds to the region. We recognise that borders, like languages and the human mind and heart, are porous, fluid and ever changing and thus a term


like ‘Arab world’ designates for us a space open unto itself as much as it is outward looking. Mogadishu may thus be only partially Arab but it is of the Arab world because of its neighbours, history, culture, trade and religious heritage. If that is true of geographies, our approach may also apply to the region’s histories. So if we look at the process by which the past has been destroyed and decimated, it is also to help us answer the painful question of how we ever got here in the first place and how we might go somewhere radically different to the present experience of horror and decimation in the future. Rashid Ali and Andrew Cross’s exhibition helps us understand the process by which Mogadishu was built, reconfigured and nearly wiped out. Yet Cross’s photographs of destroyed or abandoned buildings, mostly taken under great pressure of time because of the unpredictable nature of the city, are strangely affirmative of other, better future possibilities. The hollow shells, rarely crossed by the human figure in this series, and even then most discretely, nonetheless invite us to imagine how the buildings may have looked in the past and thus how they could look again in the future. There is a force lurking in these images – the force of an ageless, timeless light perhaps – that draws us to desire that these shells come to life again, that the silent figures tucked away behind a column or shyly standing back on a balcony or walking away in Hopper-like melancholy, shed their hesitation and populate the space once more with their presence. One striking image that illustrates this dynamic is the photograph of empty plastic chairs in the hallway of the old parliament building, where these days the business of government is partly conducted (see page 70). A strange sense of liberty exudes from images such as this one in which old bureaucracies seem stripped bare of their trappings, emptied of their

old, impatient and perhaps corrupt employees. Anyone who has experienced modern dysfunctional bureaucracies in the region and indeed anywhere else will no doubt recognise the relief of seeing the machinery of inefficient government ‘disappeared’ in this way. But of course, symbolically this disappearance also means the loss of the power to govern altogether and thus also the undermining of all possibility of a collective, civic project! Still, the plastic chairs, even if empty, evoke a contradictory will to continue, and at least offer the potential for conversation and negotiation, the two elements that are essential for the success of any civic or political process. It is difficult nonetheless to forget the powerful, eerie sense of absence in these images, and the persistent sense that Mogadishu and its inhabitants might yet be victim to more violence and destruction. Nature, light, colour can provide only limited reassurance in such quiet landscapes and these images leave us in the end with a longing for people and normality, both victims of years of civil war. 1 Calvino, I. (1972), Invisible Cities, pp30–31


The Making of a Modern African City

Rashid Ali

To the popular imagination, the Somali capital Mogadishu has in recent years became synonymous with violence, destruction and displacement caused by infighting among groups who have sought to impose their control over what remains of its population and built environment. However, only two decades or so ago Mogadishu was spatially, politically, socially and culturally a very different city altogether. It is a city whose architecture tells the story of Somalia’s journey from traditional African nation, via colonisation and post colonialism to emergent independent state. The tale may be common on this continent but this urban manifestation of it is not: the rolling reinvention of Mogadishu created a modern African capital. As the largest urban centre in Somalia, Mogadishu had been a major trading port since the 13th century and played a significant role in both the movement of goods to and from the Arabian Peninsula and India, and in the spread of Islamic cultural influences along the East African coast. Crossed by Arab, Persian and Indian merchants, and, later, by European settlers, the city – as an urban enclave with diverse inhabitants – has historically remained outside the nomadic traditional clan structure of the interior, to which most Somalis belong. Changing rule From the 14th to 17th century Mogadishu was ruled by the Muzaffaridi dynasty before coming under the control of Zanzibar, which ruled lasted until the second half of the 19th century. Over the subsequent course of its history it has been influenced by the various cultures of its diverse inhabitants, merchants and rulers, all of which strongly informed its pre-civil war social, cultural and physical characteristics.

Mogadishu’s pre-civil war architecture and urban environment owe their morphology and characteristics to its former colonial power, Italy, the last of the European powers to join the ‘scramble for Africa’. The city’s modern history began when the Italians arrived in 1889, taking control of the city and other coastal urban settlements after purchasing the port of Benadir (Mogadishu region) and signing treaties with local sultanates. It was then entrusted to royal commissioners of Italian trading companies, who set up residence and ran the new colony on behalf of Rome, but were in fact more interested in agricultural experiments on the fertile lands along the country’s two major rivers than in developing the city as a viable urban centre that could become a seat of government. After Rome took direct control of the administration of the country in 1908, Mogadishu was officially made the capital of the new colony of Southern Somalia. The built form predating this period is of a compact walled city with two separate neighbourhoods. Behind the heavy walls, through which caravans brought goods from the country, was an Arab-style old centre generally made up of terraced onestorey houses with battlemented cornices in the most noble examples, and thatched adobe homes. Town plan The transformation of the old city began under its first governor Giovanni De Martino, who immediately started to undertake projects that radically altered the character of the old city and were to form an enduring and somewhat radical influence on its future development. De Martino and his small group of military and civil officials were entrusted with the task of giving the city administrative organisation, and the construction of infrastructure and the first public buildings under colonial rule. The 1912 1:500 plan of Mogadishu


1927 plan

Southern Cross Hotel, 1935

Entrance, Southern Cross Hotel, 1935

One of the entrance gates to the city, 1909

Construction of the new Triumphal Arch, 1927 Aerial view of Shingani with new administrative buildings, 1923

New European style housing, 1920s


can be considered the first town plan of the city (and one of the earliest in the continent) in terms of the projected developments that accompanied it. Under the plan, the walls of the old city were knocked down and two new native suburbs constructed to the east and to the west, together with the barracks of the Eritrean Askari and the radio and telegraph station. In contrast to other colonial planning models, for instance in Asmara and the Libyan medinas, where the colonial city developed next to the existing native city, in Mogadishu the buildings of the occupying power were inserted in its centre, surrounded by Arab neighbourhoods inhabited by Indians and Eritreans, outside which a modest native city gradually grew. In the centre a new administrative area, connecting the two old neighbourhoods and defined by a wide north-south avenue, was created. Government buildings, a distiller and houses for civil servants began to be installed closer to the sea, on either side of the avenue, while the rest of the area further north was designated as a native market. Further investment allowed additional public works programmes to be implemented, including the construction of the railway, reorganisation of the road network and the creation of the port. Although the 1910 plan radically altered the morphology of the old city by breaking it up and carving out more open, European type city spaces, it was only after 1928 that Mogadishu could begin to be compared with the town planning conventions of its better known colony, Eritrea. Within a short space of a time there were 50, 000 inhabitants, 20,000 of whom were Italian, and the city became the subject of a new town plan. Its footprint was based on the coastal outline connected by a series of roads, often adapted caravan routes heading towards further inland and nearby regions. Starting with modifications, which followed the 1912 plan, it envisaged the creation

of a new European quarter in the appropriated Shingani district (one of the two neighbourhoods in the old city). A new major thoroughfare, the Regina Elena Avenue, heads east and divides the Shingani district in two, and on either side of a major new axis it forms with Corso Vittorio Emanuele are five parallel roads that divide the area into 60 equal rectangular lots. These new thoroughfares were devised to transform the urban environment into spaces for celebrating the triumph of the fascist state. Corso Vittorio Emanuele, in particular, was used for ceremonial processions, marches and parades. The definition of the old inhabited area, which included the construction of a cenotaph at the sea front, excluded the ancient mosques and noble houses of the native aristocracy. Instead, the plan intended to create an imperial Mogadishu and only tolerated the remains of the old city by concealing it behind the reconstructed seafront and the cenotaph. On the whole, the architecture of this period, implemented under the two plans, imitated colonial stereotypes. However, some significant structures were built, which would for a long time to come define Mogadishu’s cityscape. The catholic cathedral, which began to be constructed in 1925 and was inaugurated for the visit of the Prince of Piedmont in 1927, was one such building. The architect Antonio Vandone, and his Franciscan client, showed complete indifference to its local environment, allowing the church’s 37m bell towers to dwarf the old compact Arab style city. The Roman triumphal arch built during the same period also reflects the alienation of the compact fabric into which the old Mosques of Fachr-el-Din and Grama fitted harmoniously. The architectural mishmash of these interventions was due in part to the dominance of its then governor, who approached the style of each project in the form he saw fit. One of the few exceptions, considered the earliest explicitly modernist style


Newly created public spaces in Shingani, 1927 New Cenotaph, 1930–35

A man weaving the ‘futa Benadir’, 1920–1925

building in the country, is the Croce del Sud Hotel (Southern Cross Hotel) built in 1933 by the architect Carlo Enrico Rava.

New Europeanstyle commercial buildings, 1950s


A new cityscape On the whole the process cancelled the original settlement and proposed a city that was destined to grow in place of the old Arab-style centre and remove traces of its history. However, the implementation of the two town plans, in particular the later one, gave Mogadishu a new urban character: of an open city with an attractive cityscape that formed the basis for the future expansion and division of city spaces into a functional layout with commanding new public buildings and public spaces. Before it came to an end with the outbreak of war, the buildings that emerged during this period of intensive urban development tended to be a mixture of colonial, Islamic, Norman gothic, indigenous vernacular and modernist aesthetic. However, it was modernism that was to have an enduring influence on post independence architecture and the built form, since this was largely seen as a way for the country to assert its identity through new architectural forms. Significant public buildings that expressed the stripped-down modernist aesthetic of earlier schemes such as the Croce del Sud Hotel, as well as influences of broader 60s tropical modernism from the continent and beyond, included the National Theatre and the National Assembly, both of which were completed between 1969 and 1972 and Banadir Hospital, built in 1977. Italian colonial planning strategies imposed radical alterations to the precolonial city, profoundly impacting the native forms of spatial organisation and experience. The city plans and resulting structures have come to define the city’s appearance and transformed it from a small port into a modern city. Moreover, this influence was not confined to the built form, as for

a long time the legacy of Italian traditions could be experienced through local cultural practices until the onset of the civil war in the early 1990s. The long, wide thoroughfares previously used for ceremonial marches became appropriated for new local forms of social, economic and cultural practices. The café culture, cuisine (pasta became a staple Somali diet) and the unhurried Mediterranean tradition of evening strolling to shop, see and be seen are some of the traditions that were adopted. Sadly, most of what remained of this legacy; articulated and experienced through built form, was uprooted during the civil conflict of the last 20 years. More recently, the city has begun to experience a relative degree of normality and with it has come a mini construction boom. Whether this rebuilding process is informed by knowledge on the city’s distinctive historical spatial character and cultural memory remains to be seen.


The Past for the Future — the Protection and Conservation of Somalia’s Historical Coastal Towns: The Case of Mogadishu Mohamed Abdulkadir Ahmed

Context The civil war in Somalia has affected all layers of Somali society. The war has also been associated with the substantial displacement of people. Massive destruction, damage to historical sites and old town centers, looting of private sector assets and public infrastructure have been other prominent features of the war. While the war has its root in political factors, it has gradually shifted character into a war of economy. It is now centered on the control of economic assets, which are the source for both financing the war and private enrichment. Indeed, the gain to be made from the control of these assets has become the main obstacle in the efforts to bring an end to this ethnic conflict. Over the past 21 years, the civil war in Somalia has removed even further all remaining traces of the past. Henceforth, an approach is needed that focuses on rediscovering present potentialities and for future cultural development. The link between Somalia’s Cultural Heritage and East African Coastal Towns The cultural heritage of every people is a memory of human creativity that combines past and present in continuity. A civilization’s memory consists of various historical developments beginning with its inception and including its diversity of identities, cultural achievements, and land cultivation. The conservation and improvement of civilization are an essential component of every cultural policy. Without a sufficient awareness of culture it would be difficult to know what to establish and for whom, how to plan and build. The medieval archaeology of East Africa is still, in great part, an unexplored field. The principal reasons for this are that while linguistic

and social problems have gained scholarly attention, and hence historical documents are abundant, yet, scholars have not considered that it is only through archaeological analysis that it might become possible to reconstruct the events of past centuries. Documents regarding historical sites along the East African Coast are fragmentally supported by travelers, explorers, geographers and conquerors up to the 18th century and in the 19th century documentation is available. To this documentation should be added oral testimony and other literary documents. Only at the beginning of the 20th century do the descriptions of the ruined sites become accurate, especially with regard to those sites in Kenya and Tanzania. Part of Somalia’s culture has been formed through its historical roots in East Africa. It is well known that along the East African coast, cities developed a culture that is reflected in a common architecture with local variation; significant traces of, and archaeological findings from, these cultures have resulted in many historical studies of Somalia. Following on from these studies there have been further archaeological excavations and land surveys. Somalia’s architectural and environmental heritage was neglected in the past. It was subject to degradation and deterioration, and to violent transformation and destruction during previous regimes. The dramatic events of recent years have inflicted further alterations and devastation that is, even so, hardly noticeable in the actual situation of long-protracted tension between the warring parties. We can state, without compromise, that Somalia’s past has been systematically destroyed in both periods of peace and war; for example, the deep wounds inflicted on Shingaani, the old Mogadishu center, which was razed almost to the ground, are a vivid testimony of human madness.


A brief history of Somalia’s main historical towns Somalia, and, specifically, its major centers located on the coast of the Indian Ocean, such as Mogadishu, is considered to be an integral part of East African history. Mogadishu is the most important town on the Banadir coast. It was one of the city-states founded more than ten centuries ago along the East African coast, which, together with other commercial towns and cities such as Barawa, Mombasa, and Malindi, flourished through commerce with the Arabic Gulf countries of Persia, India and China. It is recognized as one of the most interesting historical centers on the whole coast of Somalia. From the 13th century on, Mogadishu knew a period of magnificence as a maritime trade center. This period was Mogadishu’s heyday. It was at this time that the Mosque of Fakhruddin and the Minaret of Jamia were built in Hamarweyne. Sultans ruled Mogadishu. Copper coins were found with the names of these sultans, and, of a later dynasty known as the Mudhaffars, that are comparable with the coins of Kilwa and Tanzania. The Mudhaffars lasted until the middle of the 17th century (Freeman-Grenville: 1963). Mogadishu never submitted to Portuguese rule. Alpers1 points out, that Mogadishu in the 19th century was a shadow of its former splendid self and this is a generally accepted fact. One has only to compare Ibn Battuta’s famous description of the town in 1331 to those of its visitors five centuries later to realize that its heyday was long since past. But, the Portuguese attempt to gain exclusive control along the route of the Indian Ocean aggravated the decline of Mogadishu and the other Banadir coastal cities

in the 15th century. In the 18th century Mogadishu was under the control of Zanzibar, the capital of the Oman Sultanate during that period. After then, Mogadishu became involved in the politics of European colonialism. At the end of the Oman Sultanate, Mogadishu came under Italian rule in 1889 (Cerulli:1957; Corni: 1937).2 Whatever the pattern of urban development in Mogadishu in earlier times may have been, it follows the wider coastal development of East Africa during the nineteenth century. The influence of Indian merchant capital under the protection of British India and the Sultan of Muscat in Zanzibar fed the process of transformation that would lead ultimately to the Italian administration. Many features of Mogadishu, particularly its urban morphology, illustrate the influences of the different periods. The old, original urban centers, Hamarweyne and Shingaani, still stand on Mogadishu’s initial site, however, they were extensively damaged during the recent years of civil war. Shingaani suffered the most damage in the city. There is widespread Arab influence in Mogadishu’s architecture, but, the Italians were the first to formulate and effect urban planning in their area of residence. Before its collapse in 1990, Mogadishu was the dominant national urban center for government activity and military installations. Similar to the old towns of Marka and Barawa, Mogadishu retained memories of an evolved urban culture, in which waves of migration and centuries of inter-oceanic trade and intermingling can be traced. These towns were subject of interest to new waves of research undertaken by various institutions and scholars of different disciplines seeking to

1 Alpers, Edward, Mogadishu in the 19th Century: A regional perspective, Journal

2 Cerulli, E. 1957 Somalia: Scritti Vari Editi e Inediti. Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato, Roma

of African History, 24; pp. 441–459


Fakhruddin Mosque, 1882

Remains of Fakhruddin Mosque, 2013

Mogadishu, 1856

Barawe, 1924

Sheik Moeddin Mosque, 1925



Abdul-aziz Mosque, 1889–1891

overcome a lack of knowledge in East Africa’s historical development and urban structure. They evolved as city-states, each with a unique civilization, not least in respect of their architecture (Molon and Vianello: 1990).3 The important role of heritage preservation The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) works for the conservation and protection of humanity’s common cultural heritage, and its values are universal. The Convention of 1972, regarding the protection of World Cultural and Environmental Heritage, was based on the fundamental concept that this protection does not only cover the State where an ‘object’ to be protected/saved is located, but, expands to cover the whole world, as we are all implicated in humankind’s greatest creations. Today the world heritage activities are no longer designed merely to restore old buildings, but are very often geared to strengthening or even creating a common identity among groups with different affiliations. The same concept applies to environmental initiatives, which no longer seek merely to preserve natural resources and biodiversity for future generations, but also aim at sparing present generations’ from conflict. The change in UNESCO’s constitutional mandate to accommodate emerging issues in pre- conflict and post-conflict societies with the MediumTerm Strategy for 1996–2001, highlighted the difficulties the organization

3 Molon, M. 1994 Ricerca sull’Architettura dell’Africa Orientale. Progetto MURST. Politecnico di Milano, Facolta’ di Architettura, Dipartimento di Progettazione dell’ Architettura, 1992–94. Milan, forthcoming.

faced in succeeding in Somalia. In the case of Somalia, UNESCO was unable to go beyond emergency educational assistance. The transdisciplinary and intersectoral approaches adopted have changed the conception of human security, cultural identity and integration, conflict prevention and postconflict peace building, and have helped the development of national plans for education and for a culture of peace. But, what are the procedures to use in order to have a real and sustainable impact in countries where legitimate governments are not in place and cultural heritage sites are left abandoned or in a state of constant deterioration? UNESCO’s efforts led to the protection of sites where civilization has left important and highly visible traces throughout Kenya and Tanzania. This has contributed decisively to the preservation of the history of these area. The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) divides cultural heritage along thematic lines. Namely: archeology, historic towns, religious properties, architectural monuments, technological ensembles and cultural landscapes. In addition, cultural heritage includes testimonies, products or works of science, art, and the culture of past civilizations of a country. Knowledge and protection of cultural heritage contributes to an awareness of the past. This could perform an important role in the constitution of a present cultural identity. It is a fundamental support for progress. It gives meaning, sense and reason to the work of a whole society. In order to establish a culture for peace initiatives, there must be a guideline for in-depth and specialized activities such as systematic surveying campaign strategies, technological studies and recovery programs. These guidelines should consist of diverse support for cultural activities and future institutions that might facilitate perspectives of culture and peace. The international organizations, together with the Somali people, who,


on the whole are indifferent to the preservation of their culture, should be involved in defending Somalia’s cultural heritage, with UNESCO promoting peace and reconciliation among warring factions in the country. The main difficulties confronting such endeavors are that the bibliographical sources, cartographic bases for research work, and consistency of data control, are not available in Somalia, however, a lot could be done if a research project were established with UNESCO to survey Somalia’s cultural heritage. More than a century has passed since the colonial period and the collapse of its dictatorship and subsequent intervention consisting of preservation and protection of cultural heritage, unfortunately, the export of cultural property is inexistent. In the handbook of national regulations concerning the export of cultural property prepared for UNESCO, Somalia was reported as a nation without legislation on the matter. It was not party to any international legislation concerning unlawfully exported cultural property. Even though UNESCO has acted with laudable intentions, the list compiled by its ‘experts’ for the World Cultural Heritage Sites in Danger doesn’t include Somalia. Somalia, with its present political situation, should be included and its historical coastal towns and archaeological sites should be considered as part of the list of World Cultural Heritage Sites in Danger. The international community must act to save the past of this country. As a result of the civil war, Somalia’s cultural heritage is in need of urgent attention and emergency conservation action by UNESCO. Methodological approaches for future action International conventions exist for the purpose of the cultural promotion of less developed countries that are not favoured economically and that are

undermined by the elimination of cultural heritage — a toxic mixture of policy, religion and tribalism, in the case of Somalia. Without the foundation of the past, countries fail to develop. Moreover, in post-conflict and peace building situations, a project to reestablish the past is the best indication of serious attention to the future. Many factors and circumstances have contributed to threaten the architectural and environmental heritage in this dramatic historic period in Somalia. Cultural heritage represents an integral part of cultural and economic development. Architectural and environmental goods are part of cultural heritage. Each of these aspects is critical for the development of any country — an inevitable resolve for each country’s development. They are an important conjunction that unites past and present. They represent the foundation for any cultural change, strong social interaction, as well as the exchange of ideas and plans for future development. Henceforth, such protection will further the cultural awareness of future generations in Somalia. A second problem concerns the selection of ‘objects’ of interest from a historical point of view and their period of belonging. These ‘archaeological objects’ belong to ancient periods, however, recent architectural production and the preservation of ‘archaeological objects’ is also significant in the context of urban process and spatial organization. For this reason, the interesting features of the architecture of the colonial period in Mogadishu’s old town center Shingaani (2nd Lido) should be considered alongside the buildings of the 19th century that are already known and reported by scholars, such as the residences of Barawa linked to the Zanzibar culture. A number of public buildings that are integral to Mogadishu’s urban landscape include the Old Post Office in Hamarweyne, and the Old


Carved wooden doorway, 1979

Parliament building. These are examples of an architecture that has given form to the urban center of Mogadishu. The Royal Palace of Barqash was, for more than a century, the residence of various Sultans and Princes of Mogadishu. Regrettably, it was changed into the Municipality of Mogadishu during the Italian colonization in the 1950s and, later, this national monument of significant and historic value was demolished by the dictatorship and replaced with Hotel Uruba, which is itself completely unrecognizable today. There are examples of other architectural forms, and landscapes that belong to the native culture, and wield significant cultural value. There has been a heavy transformation of the lifestyle as well as the economic roots of that lifestyle in the primary sector. The entire territorial balance has been endangered by these transformations: 1) a drastic reduction of wild life; 2) a reduction and impoverishment of the flora; 3) the concept of space in the nomadic society; and 4) the sedentary communities currently living in the inter-riverine banks and in the coastal areas. Most of these areas of natural interest along the Juba and Shebelle rivers are endangered. The uncontrolled use of land has compromised some stretches of incomparable beauty, an example of which is the old town of Jasira along the coast. Such land abuse has also resulted in the mismanagement of Lido, the best beach in Mogadishu. Due to ecological disasters, it has become necessary to question the definition of the ‘object’ to be protected, and a need has arisen to delimit the field – an essential consideration should be to enlarge the survey’s foundation. The methodological approach would be to classify not only monuments such as the famous mosques of Mogadishu (Hamarweyne Jamia, Fakhruddin, Arba’rukun, Abdulaziz), but, also, other religious symbols and architecture in other towns in the country. The tombs that ought to be considered are those in Southern Somalia in

the Bajuni islands such as the pillar-tombs, or those enclosed in a field such as the cemetery/mosque of Sheikh Sufi. Historical old urban centers include Hamarweyne and Shingaani in Mogadishu, Marka and Barawa, and what remains of other, almost lost, towns of the Old Warshiikh, Gendershe, Munghia, and El-Torre. In addition, the pastoral systems are dangerously fragile; graffiti overwhelms Bur Heybe and the ruins of Baydhabo require immediate preservation and protection. Beautiful areas are abundant along the coastal dunes of Somalia, as well as along the rivers where ravines have formed with ageing trees of particular beauty waiting to be classified and protected. Thus, many places contain significant traces of material culture; for example, the wells, the cemeteries along the coast are inevitably likely to disappear along with actual economic life. While scholars do not wield sufficient power to facilitate and protect initiatives, the policy makers must designate what must be valued, protected and restored – a concern that is tied up with Somalia’s collective consciousness. However, the recovery, rehabilitation and requalification of historical cities is an aim of great complexity that will require a long-term strategy. Any proposals formulated to address these issues will need to be considered for their methodological work and criteria that shape them, rather than the specific project results. In conclusion, the classification and filing of the architectural and environmental heritage is the essential prelude to its protection and conservation: doing this now, even as a preliminary procedure, does not seem an insurmountable task and could avoid errors of judgment or oversights. This preliminary project-study would prevent further degradation of archaeological sites and historic urban cores, thus ensuring their sustainability for future generations. It would help lay the foundation for coherent cultural heritage management.


Coral stone houses, 1979


Timacade in Mog

Andrew Cross

All new journeys are journeys of discovery. They are also speculative; to experience something of the unknown often being much of the intention. Yet, journeys are not only about exploring new territories and witnessing new sights, they can also be about gaining new perspectives on what is already familiar, they offer an opportunity to reflect upon the place you have left as much as the place to where you are going. As the sociologist John Urry has suggested ‘In order to theorise, one leaves home and travels’1. As much as I might possess a curiosity for travelling, or the desire to encounter something unfamiliar, or to comment on global issues, my journey to Mogadishu was born out of a simple bond of friendship. Rashid Ali and I came together through teaching architecture; Rashid a practicing architect and myself a visual artist with an interest in architecture. Students treated us like a double act, each one of us offering our own distinctive yet complementary views on particular subjects, and it seemed inevitable that we would at some point collaborate creatively. While the dynamic of our relationship reflects familiar interests and sensibilities, more significant is how the understanding of our individual experiences is framed by cultural histories that are in part shared and in part divergent. Rashid and I experienced upbringings in late 20th century Britain with all the social and cultural considerations that might imply. Our experiences, though, came from very different perspectives; Rashid being Somali in origin and urban in his sensibilities; my own background being very English and rural. Inevitably, as much as our time together in Mogadishu was shared, for both of us, and for different reasons, it was an intensely individual journey 1 Urry, John, 2000, in Neil Campbell Route-work: Andrew Cross Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, 2005

of discovery. I was experiencing a place that seemed to be about as far from my origins as I could get, while Rashid was re-engaging with the place of his origins after a period of over twenty years. Of course, the world is far more complex than we sometimes think or are led to believe. Our visit to Mogadishu offered another clear reminder that it is the complexity found in both similarities and differences that continues to surprise and fascinate us, making journeys such as ours so reaffirming. While in Mogadishu I was entirely dependent on Rashid for my orientation within an otherwise beguilingly complex and deeply layered culture of custom and protocol. It was Rashid and his generous friends who facilitated my entry into the city – negotiating its somewhat chaotic airport – provided hospitality, got me around the city safely and made me not only feel welcome but ultimately feel there was a sense of purpose in my being there. Not only was Rashid my guide, but he was also a form of ‘optic’; a means by which I could view the city with a measure of understanding. Correspondingly, through my photographs Rashid was able to examine the city of his origins in part without the full weight of recent history and personal emotion that he was clearly confronting, and in part somewhat free from the ‘professional’ eye of the architect he has become while living in the UK. A number of writers in the modern European tradition speak of walking the city with a desire of getting lost within its ‘labyrinth’. No matter how unfamiliar, chaotic and labyrinthine a place might be, upon arrival I can’t help but immediately start plotting my position and grasping at where I am. I wasn’t going to wander through the streets of Mogadishu, even if I wanted to. A slightly precarious itinerary was drawn up of significant buildings and locations to visit. It was enough to be negotiating the logistics of moving


Andrew Cross, Untitled (Mogadishu), 2013, Digital Video Stills


from the hotel to various destinations throughout the city, as access would often be a matter of ‘touch and go’, but despite these challenges and the uncertainty of the situation it didn’t take long before a familiarity of place began to emerge. In my work I try to situate architecture within an experience of passing by, passing through and of glancing upon, as well as to consider how we might place ourselves within architecture and contemplate it. I feel my pictures are a reflection on the way we look at architecture as much as on the object of architecture itself. Of course, as I move through the city with a camera I am making choices about what to include and what to leave out, giving a particular narrative to my camera’s gaze. Yet, I come with no particular agenda other than to respond to the built environment in only the way that I know how. And, in any given situation it is very hard to predict how I might respond. Not only was this my first ever visit to Mogadishu, it was my first visit to Africa, and for that matter, anywhere near what might be referred to as a ‘zone of conflict’. I point this out not for any dramatic effect, rather, it is simply a statement of fact. In terms of my own history there is no particular reason for this situation: I had simply spent my time travelling elsewhere. Without knowing Rashid it may never have occurred that Mogadishu could one day be a place I would visit, a situation that perhaps makes the circumstance of finding myself there all the more unique and meaningful. Places come with reputations and with reputations come expectations of what one will find there and an anticipation of how one might respond. When you image search for Mogadishu you generally find evidence of bombed out buildings, bloodied bodies, Black Hawk helicopters, soldiers or masked men with guns; the typical visual diet fed to the outside world

via a global media hungry for human strife. The documentary tendency of photography, the ongoing witnessing of events or ‘significant moments’, and photography’s use as an essential tool in the gathering and dissemination of information, has led to a particular emphasis upon what is being witnessed. With the preponderance of conflict, political struggle and social upheaval, photographic journalism has not only pictured recent history – journalistic images have come to define history; the visual dynamics of such images creating an expectation of how important events should appear. The technical properties of the photograph – its ability to evidence in full detail exactly what is before the camera, and subsequently to be mechanically reproduced, infinitely has transformed its value as a form of ‘proof’. Of course, with the advent of digital technologies, the nature and status of photography has changed significantly in recent years. Not only has there been an explosion in the production and circulation of images, the nature of the event is also shifting from individual moments towards an infinite continuity. However, the emphasis on the photographic image as bearing witness to an event in front of the camera can lead to an overlooking of an equally fundamental quality, the fact that a photograph confirms the event of it being taken by someone who, for whatever reason, was there to release the shutter. Looking now at my photographs taken in Mogadishu not only am I seeing fascinating architecture, in a remarkable city, I am reminded of my presence there. I am also struck by how calm they appear to be. While taking these photographs, in front of me was an environment that had a quality of familiarity to it and I felt it was something I knew although clearly it was not the media inflected reality of otherness. Instead, it was the reality of my here and now, and although a different place and circumstance, therefore to me


the same continuous here and now as of before, as of the time since. At the time, it was a reality that was utterly fascinating and also perfectly normal, a reality that assaulted my senses and provided reassurance, it was a reality that appeared to be in a state of chaos and yet so overwhelmingly full of purpose. British historian Christopher Woodward suggests that ‘when we contemplate ruins, we contemplate our future’2. As a backdrop to media images of conflict, architecture works particularly well. The extent of damage is a good measure of the degree of violence. Showing the ruined shell of a formerly prestigious building is a useful way of signalling the apparent collapse of organised society. However, there is another way of looking at such buildings and that is to consider the ability of an architecture, and the societies that built that architecture (and the ideals and intentions that informed the building), to endure despite the violence inflicted upon it. Across the image search of Mogadishu, certain buildings seem to reoccur within the frame of view. Interestingly, some of these buildings, like the National Assembly Building and Somali National Theatre, also make an occasional appearance, easy to overlook, in the form of old postcards. The insistence of these buildings to be present through time suggests that the current urban fabric of Mogadishu still retains the potential to provide a visual identity for the city that need not indicate decline, but, in the spirit of these earlier images, might allude to a much more positive future. Being there, being in Mogadishu, being amongst these buildings with the people who built them, I felt a palpable sense of architecture’s ability to endure not only physically but also in the spirit of its original intent.

Stripped back to the bare essentials, elements of floors and walls, these buildings, not as ruins but as monuments, spoke clearly of the civic purpose for which they were built, and the possibility of continuing for the same purpose in the future. Translation: Timacade white hair

2 Woodward, Christopher, In Ruins, London, 2001


Mogadishu, Pearl of the Indian Ocean

Cristina Ali Farah

‘Dear guest, on behalf of the population of the city, it is my pleasure to extend the warmest welcome and to wish you a pleasant stay in Mogadishu, Pearl of the Indian Ocean, Capital of the Democratic Republic of Somalia’ 1 These are the opening words to a bilingual guide of Mogadishu, penned by Jalle Maggiore Osman Mohamed Gelle, member of the Supreme Council of the Somali Democratic Republic and Special Commissioner of the Mogadishu local government. 40 years on, such titles ring hollow and sound redundant, yet the welcoming greeting that sounds out a few pages in – ‘this guide is for you, appreciated guest of our city’ bathes us in openness and hospitality. The guide is a small booklet that has lost its cover, with traces of the binding to be seen down the left side, the pages held together by thread and glue. On the frontispiece a mysterious sequence of numbers has been jotted down, running all round the edge, bizarrely framing the national crest of two rampant leopards, bearing a crowned blue shield with a central white star, a symbol of independence. These are the years when Somalia embraced the cause of real Socialism, ‘… for which many Somalis perished’, as Kaha Aden observes in her documentary La quarta via, Mogadiscio – Italia2, ‘in order to move on from colonialism and tribalism. They sought to eliminate these blasts from the past in a brief arc of time.’ And it was in this period, pregnant with hope, that my mother and I set foot in the country.

1 2

Mogadiscio Perla dell’Oceano Indiano – Pearl of the Indian Ocean, Edito a cura di Mohamed Sheikh Alì Giumale per conto del Governo locale di Mogadiscio, Publi shed by Mohamed Sheikh Alì Giumale on behalf of the local Government of Mogadishu, Stampa ‘P. MARZARI’ Industrie grafiche s.r.l. 36015 Schio Italy Simone Brioni, ed. Somalitalia: Quattro Vie per Mogadiscio. Somalitalia: Four Roads to Mogadishu. Con allegato il documentario La quarta via: Mogadiscio, Italia (Rome: Kimerafilm, 2012)

The first time that I saw Mogadishu I was only three years old – it was the summer of 1976. To be honest, I cannot remember anything about my mother’s feelings on that occasion, but she must have been very moved, since it was also her first time in Mogadishu. In the years to come, my mother often spoke about that arrival, she spoke about the language, perhaps in the hope that her recollections could in part match mine. My father, on the other hand, never spoke about anything, perhaps because he knew that his recollections couldn’t possibly match mine. I said that I do not remember anything about my arrival, but in fact there is something that happened afterwards which is like a tiny ripple in my memory, something about the moment in which my first language mixed with the next language. They mixed so well that, if it were not for this vague recollection, I would think that the two languages had been born together inside me, like a single bush springing from two roots; iskadhal, this is what they call people like me in Somali language. In this recollection, there is a small hedge, a hibiscus hedge, and behind the hedge one evening I hide, and I am alone in the house of my uncle Cali and my aunt Khadija. Alone – without my mother, I mean, and without my father, the ones who can understand me. My aunts and uncles are there, along with their six children and my grandmother Barni Xassan and a host of others. My cousins laugh; they don’t laugh out of scorn, but I don’t feel like laughing, I don’t want to laugh, so I run and hide behind the hedge. ‘Come here’, they say and I reply (in my mother’s language, which is not that of my father): ‘I don’t understand a word!’ So my grandmother, who was with us that night, calls out to me, using a new name to soothe me, Ubax, flower, like the hibiscus blooms on the bush.


A street scene, 1930s


Waterfront by Shingani district, 1980s

Old parliament, 1960s

Mogadishu cityscape, 1980s


Janaral Daud Avenue, 1980s

It’s no coincidence, then, that this is the only recollection where the two languages are distinct – I understand one, I make no sense of the other: I shout out in one, but I’m a mute in the other – a single memory of me hiding behind a little hibiscus bush. A few months went by and then we moved to a place behind the Somali National Theatre: me, my mother, my father, his friend Osman and my aunt Xamsa. The house behind the National Theatre stays with me today, with its small garden and its large wrought iron gate. One evening, my mother and I were coming back home in the dark and there can’t have been a show on at the National Theatre that day, but I didn’t know that as I was only three and still had many things to learn. As we got to the entrance, my mother realised that the gate was ajar, but she didn’t have time to be frightened. She was frightened afterwards, when two rangy, dark men rushed out, wearing shirts and an osgunti. They must have been two peasants, my father said later, otherwise they wouldn’t have dared to scare a young Italian woman so close to the National Theatre, a dumashi with her daughter hiding away behind her legs. The two men had run off with only the living-room curtains, as there was nothing valuable in that first house where we had gone to live. Hiding behind my mother’s legs, I had understood the language the two men spoke in, and that of my mother, who was concealing me, this time hoping that I had a different memory of things to hers. Those two men were not ilbax – men of the world, holders of traditional principles, like the basics of hospitality and welcome. Recently, a Somali refugee living in Rome said, during an interview, that in Italy he had hoped to be treated like a foreigner in Somalia. He explained: ‘When we had a government, if you were in a shop and a Westerner came in, everybody

busied themselves to let them be served first, because, being a foreigner, they were not at home. Their needs took priority.’ To my child’s eye, my mother was always safe out on the streets of Mogadishu, both when in a shared taxi and when she drove her old, red Vespa, some time later. One day she even asked a passerby if she could take a photo of me beside him in front of the ancient Sheikh Abdulaziz mosque. The mosque stood not far from the Catholic Cathedral, where my mother would go every Sunday. In the years running up to the civil war, such a request would have been out of the question. Talking of taxis, easily distinguished by their yellow and red livery, the guide is quite clear, ‘On no account should the fare exceed Som. Sh 20 within the city of Mogadishu. No tips are to be paid to taxi drivers, nor is anybody else entitled to a tip in the Democratic Republic of Somalia.’ (p. 12). In the decade before our arrival, the city had undergone major expansion and the Somali theatre was at the height of its splendor. As a new art form, it met perfectly the demands of the newly urbanised population. It was the period when the best works were written, the most famous songs were to be heard and the most famous artists emerged. This explosion peaked in 1967 with the inauguration of the Somali National Theatre, constructed under a Chinese cooperation programme. The new literary genre reached out to a vast public and supplanted the role formerly played by poetry in providing entertainment and cultural models, stimulating debate on contemporary issues such as colonialism, development, relations with the West and women’s rights. In the words of the great Abwaan Cabdi Muxumud, ‘Suugaanta ama fannaaniintu, waqti kasta oo la joogo, sida jaraa’idka oo kale hadda wixii dalkooda ka dhaca ayay wax ka tinyaan’ (Literature or artists, regardless


K4 junction, 1980s

of period or location, are chroniclers of what is happening in their nation). Women, in particular, although not formally credited with the writing of songs or for the parts they played, were in fact active in the creation of female characters, drawing on their personal experience to flesh them out and word their gags. Clearly this exposed them to public opinion and censorship, which, in the years to come was to bear down ever more heavily on the cultural output of the nation. To give an idea of the social significance of these actresses, take the example of Maryan Mursal, the renowned Somali singer and actress with two albums in Peter Gabriel’s Real World catalogue, ‘New Dawn’ and ‘The Journey’. Outstanding in her famed portrayal of the protagonist in the two best works she feels she has acted in, Shabeelnagood e Hablaayahow had maad guursan doontaan, in an interview in the West London suburb of Southall, where she has opened the Botaan Business Centre shop, Maryan declared: ‘I was the first woman taxi driver in Mogadishu. Everyone insulted me. I couldn’t have cared less actually. I wanted to work for the sake of my children, so that they lacked nothing. Nowadays, when I see women bus drivers, it reminds me of that battle of mine that started 40 years ago. And it makes me so happy.’ A famous Somali song, written by Cabdullahi Kharshe, is dedicated to the ex-president of Ghana, while another song on the album ‘The Freedom Songs of Somali Republic’, sings in praise of another important African head of state, Patrice Lumumba. The sacrifices made in the name of independence were still heartfelt for Somalis, and the Pan African dream, female emancipation and modernity filled the air. The situation was still a long way from that described years later in ‘War ninkow ninkow’, a song in which Cabdi Muxumed Amiin and Saado Cali Warsame sing a duet of a feigned dialogue with the, by then crumbling and abandoned, Hotel Jubba,

Lido Beach, 1980s

formerly described as ‘An outstanding hotel in a quiet position in the centre of the city’. In this hotel there used to be a swimming pool, that I remember going to with my cousins. We would sit on the side, bemused, with only our legs in the water, as we didn’t know how to swim. Mogadishu was a seaside town, ‘stretched out along the coast’ in the words of Kaha Mohamed Aden, and when I look at the map, it’s easier for me to recognize the names of buildings than those of roads. ‘Apart from the restoration of historic buildings and the renaming of roads and squares after patriots, the national rebirth manifested itself in the construction of monuments to the perpetual memory of those who fell for the glory of the Fatherland.’3 The three monuments referred to above are the Dhagaxtuaur, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and of Xawa Tako, the heroine who died on 11 January 1948, and after whom my primary school was named. We all wore white and blue uniforms and sang hymns to the Revolution and when we came out of school, lots of us crowded round the wandering streetvendors, who, for a few kumi, dispensed sesame snaps and milk gums. If the city was quite different from our expectations – ‘it’s a normal city’ as my mother said in a recording on a cassette sent back to her family in Italy, ‘and it’s hot, it’s like being on holiday’ – this is no doubt because Mogadishu was to some extent similar to an Italian city. In his essay ‘Fan-masraxeedka Soomaalida’, Maxamed Daahir Afrax states that the wholly Italian custom of spending the evenings in the centre, with its more busy cinemas, cafes 3 Mogadiscio Perla dell’Oceano Indiano – Pearl of the Indian Ocean, Edito a cura


di Mohamed Sheikh Alì Giumale per conto del Governo locale di Mogadiscio, Published by Mohamed Sheikh Alì Giumale on behalf of the local Government of Mogadishu, Stampa ‘P. MARZARI’ Industrie grafiche s.r.l. 36015 Schio Italy

and bars, not only influenced the local lifestyle, but, must also partly have influenced the development of the performances and songs of the Benaadir. Bread was purchased at the bar-patisserie-restaurant-roofgardentakeaway-cheesemakers-bakery, Azan, the only establishment that would make fresh pasta to order. If you wanted to see a film, the choice was more than ample, from the Cinema Centrale, the Equatore and Il Missione, as well as many others, all showing films directly in Italian. I, on the other hand, preferred to go to the cinema with my cousins: on Thursday evenings my uncle would take us all to see an Indian film. Obviously he left us at the entrance and came back to pick us up when the film ended. Sentimental Bollywood love stories were not his thing. Our heroines were actresses with long, raven black hair and finest filigree jewellery, like the handmade jewellery of the artisans in the gold market. Occasionally, in the late afternoon, we’d go and watch my big cousin play tennis and we used to frown at her opponents in the vain belief that our eyes alone were enough to make them lose. In those years I hadn’t even heard of the Casa d’Italia, a club reserved for Italians, as was clear from the name. Just because he’d married a young Italian woman, it didn’t mean that my father stopped being allergic to certain places linked to the colonial past. I can’t tell how my mother lived in Mogadishu, because, as I mentioned, my recollections are undoubtedly different from hers, and then the final few years there greatly blurred the initial sensations. Perhaps the sea that she described is still the same, ‘without any beach parasols’ and beautiful, despite the risk from sharks. ‘Unlike the overcrowded beaches in Europe and other countries with affluent societies here there is ample space for long walks without having to climb over other human bodies and without the threat of pollution.’ (p.

50). There is no doubt that the sea was the major element of my childhood: hours spent on the beach observing what the sea washed up, the futile begging to my aunt Xamsa, who was dead against sunbathing. In the early years, we used a beach cabin reserved for employees of the Somali Central Bank, where my uncle worked. This was the same bank where letters for my mother arrived, given that P.O. boxes were in short supply in Mogadishu. The cabins had terraces overlooking the sea and there was a bar and changing rooms. There were always hordes of people at home, friends and relatives, some of whom stayed a short while, others for longer periods. In the recorded letters found in my grandmother’s drawers back in Verona, my father’s brother can be heard briefly greeting the family and describing my mother as follows: ‘The subject in question is a really kind young woman. We really like her.’ She had become part of the family. ‘The Central Post Office, in Corso Somalia, is normally open from 7am to 12.30 and from 4pm to 6pm every day except Friday, providing the following services: Air mail, Surface mail, Parcel post, Registered mail, sale of stamps (…) Satellite telephone connection is available at the following time: Mogadishu – Rome (direct) from 11am to 3pm.’4 As you might imagine, the Mogadishu central post office played a key role in my mother’s existence. I remember it as an imposing, saffron-coloured building with oleander bushes and yellow bellflowers outside the front. Climbing a short staircase, you entered the main hall and this is where my 4 Mogadiscio Perla dell’Oceano Indiano – Pearl of the Indian Ocean, Edito a cura


di Mohamed Sheikh Alì Giumale per conto del Governo locale di Mogadiscio, Published by Mohamed Sheikh Alì Giumale on behalf of the local Government of Mogadishu, Stampa ‘P. MARZARI’ Industrie grafiche s.r.l. 36015 Schio Italy

Public gardens and Triumphal Arch, 1980s

National Theatre, 2013


mother used to sit with her long brown hair, waiting her turn after paying for her call in advance. (The choice was limited, either three, five, or at most, ten minutes). The operators would call out people’s names when their turn came and then you would slide into the assigned cabin for the duration of the call. During this lengthy wait one day, I remember going outside to explore the garden. My father was there outside, chatting with a friend, who was wearing a long tunic, the baggy sleeves of which seemed empty. ‘Where are your arms?’ I asked him in horror. ‘The shark ate them.’ he answered, ‘If you want, I’ll show you the stumps.’ They both burst out laughing at the look of terror on my face. If, on the other hand, you wanted to send a letter or a card, or to view the latest issue of stamps, you had to go to the counters on the left: the young ladies were very polite and showed you splendid images of the flora and fauna of Somalia, as well as many other things too. In the building’s lateral wings there were long rows of P.O. boxes, each one numbered. These were not individual and as I mentioned above, our mail went to the P.O. box of the Central Bank, where my uncle worked. My grandmother used to send us all presents on special occasions. The opening of these parcels was a cause for great excitement at home. At the very moment the cardboard box was cut or torn open, a mysterious aroma emerged, a mix of strawberry and talcum powder, the smell of Italy. Once, my grandmother sent a musical box as a present. It was a little purple box covered in sateen. A ballerina in a pale pink tutu, wearing a diadem in the middle of her forehead, danced whilst looking at herself in a small, goldframed mirror. The moment you opened the box, she began to revolve, dancing to the notes of Doctor Zhivago. It was monsoon season and her presence in my room seemed exotic and out of place. I loved her all the same.

Catholic Cathedral, 1980s

Translation: Dumashi sister-in-law Iskadhal mixed race Osgunti traditional longhi worn by Somali men


Early Transformations

Aerial view of Mogadishu, 1930s


The ‘Garesa command’, Mogadishu, 1909

Aerial view, Hamarweine (old city), 1923

A husband and wife, 1889–1891

Mogadishu panorama as seen from further inland, 1920–24



Viale Vittorio Emanuele III (Jidka janaral Daud ), 1927

Warehouses and jetty at the new port, 1940s

View towards the shore over the old Town Hall, 1930s



The Governor’s Palace and the old restored houses, 1924–25

Old coral stone city, 1930s

First Truimphal Arch at ‘Giama Square’, 1920–1925

Banadir Regional Administration, 1930s


A new administrative building, Shingani, 1930s

Mosque of Sheik Mohieddin, 1920



Old stone houses, Hamarweine (0ld City), 1930s

Old stone houses, Shingani/ Hamarweine (0ld City), 1930s



New Governor’s Residence (Villa Somalia), 1930s


Ceremony by the Governor’s Palace, King Vittorio Emanuele III Boulevard (Jidka janaral Daud), 1924

New modernist style buildings, 1930–40


Fiat Garage, 1930s

New Radio Mogadishu building, 1950s

A camel caravan entering old city through one of the gates, 1920

The market for ‘Tongi’, 1920

Marketplace, 1920s New Radio Mogadishu building, 1950s


Two men fishing by the shore, 1924

King Vittorio Emanuele III Boulevard (Jidka janaral Daud), 1950s



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Mogadishu lost moderns catalogue