Once Upon a Time in Mogadishu


A peek into the "pleasant" colonial past of the world's most dangerous city.

BY SOPHIA JONES | NOVEMBER 17, 2011

When the great Arab explorer Ibn Battuta landed on Mogadishu's shores in 1331, he was greeted with a feast fit for a king. Hundreds of camels were slaughtered daily to feed the flourishing port city, where a man could eat for ten. The sultan, clad in silk and fine Jerusalem cloth, was followed by a procession of trumpets and colorful canopies upon which golden birds perched.
How times have changed in Somalia. Today, centuries of European colonization and political strife, coupled with interludes of devastating drought and flooding, have created a failed state that's become a haven for lawlessness. For years, Somalia was passed between foreign powers: first the Portuguese, then the British, then the French and Italians. Upon its declaration of independence in 1960, the country's artificially drawn borders proved incapable of anything resembling stability. Now, Somalia remains in a constant state of conflict.
Once known as the "pearl of the Indian Ocean," tourists flocked by the plane-full until the country descended into civil unrest in the 1990s. Now the only visitors are aid workers and their heavily armed bodyguards. When a Canadian tourist landed in Mogadishu last year, immigration officials thought he was either a spy or insane. continued

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