Mogadishu is a huge city with a population of over 3 million people.
A devastating civil war that began in 1991 has ruined this once beautiful city, leaving little but ruins. Since 1991, various Islamist and/or clan or warlord-affiliated militias have had control over different parts of the city. A few months of relief were given in 2006 when the Union of Islamic Courts took full control. Ethiopia invaded Somalia six months later and re-instated the western-backed Transitional Federal Government. The hard-line Islamist group Al-Shabab gradually took control over Mogadishu until the government only controlled a few square blocks. A counter-offensive, supported by a lot of African Union troops, including Ethiopia, cleared the city of militants in August 2011. Bombings and shootings are still commonplace but open warfare appears to have ceased for now. There is reason for optimism, however, as foreign direct investment has increased, and at least twenty embassies have re-opened.
The book Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden gives a detailed and a very accurate description of the lawlessness in Mogadishu during the early years of civil war.
Flights arrive at Mogadishu International Airport, also known as 1 Aden Adde International Airport (MGQ IATA) (a few kilometers southwest of the city center in the Dagmada Waaberi neighborhood/district and across the road from the Dagmada Wada Jir neighborhood/district.). Facilities are basic, but the Turkish government has put up funds to renovate the airport and its security, control tower, and navigational systems. As of 2016, approximately 100 flights operate to/from the airport daily. The following airlines serve Mogadishu:
- Jubba Airways. The only Somali-based carrier with a hub at Mogadishu. They offer services from Dubai Airport, Jeddah, Nairobi, Djibouti, as well as domestically from Hargeisa and several other cities.
- African Express Airways has services between Mogadishu and Abu Dhabi, Aden, Berbera, Bosaso, Dubai, Galkayo, Nairobi-Jomo Kenyatta, Sharjah, & Wajir.
- Air Djibouti only from Djibouti
- BlueSky Air services that link domestic cities in Somalia with its hub at Mogadishu International Airport and the rest of the world via Nairobi Wilson Airport in Kenya.
- Daallo Airlines has services from Djibouti stopping en route at Hargeisa.
- Fly-SAX offers service from Nairobi.
- Ocean Airlines is the other Somali-based carrier. It flies to Mogadishu from Nairobi in Kenya and from Bosaso, Garowe, Hargeisa, Kismayu and Galkayo in Somalia.
- Turkish Airlines have a twice-weekly service from Istanbul Airport via Djibouti
- Ethiopian offers daily flights between Addis Ababa and Mogadishu
- Qatar Airways has flights to Mogadishu, from Doha, via Djibouti
It is possible to drive into the city by truck, but this is considered a risky activity, unless you employ a group of local militia which are available for hire. Roads link the city with many Somali locales and with Kenya and Ethiopia. Armed guards, hired security forces, and experienced guides are all mandatory for a safe entry, and even then the risk of your being injured, killed or captured is extremely high.
Small cargo ships regularly leave from the Old Harbour of Mombasa for Mogadishu and sometimes Kismayo. Speak with the security officers at the gate of this tiny port and they will negotiate a fare with the captain. The journey will take 2-5 days, depending on conditions. The sea is rough in July–August, requiring lengthier travel.
Roads are a muddy mess during rain, traffic lights do not always work and there are no enforced traffic laws or public transport. The road network in Mogadishu is slowly being repaired and paved. A vehicle with driver and armed guards is a must. Break-ins at intersections are possible, so avoid openly displaying anything that could be considered valuable by a Somali. Better still, hire an armoured vehicle with driver and guards.
Visitors should have a security guard accompany them.
- 1 Arba-Rucun Mosque (Mosque of the Four Pillars). Owing to the city's Islamic heritage, one of few things the city's various warlords can agree on, this 1269 mosque has been luckier than the neighbouring cathedral, and is one of very few buildings in the historic center which is not a ruin. It's said to have been built by a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed.
- 2 Arch of Triumph (Arco di Trionfo Popolare). Triumphal arch built by the Italians in 1936.
- 3 National Museum of Somalia (Matxafka Qarankais).
- Banadir Governor Office (ufficio Govorno). The government building where the governor stays. Nice for taking pictures or a talk with the friendly staff.
- 4 Black Hawk Down Crash Site. A security guard is absolutely required. Located inside the Bakara Market. There are plans to collect the ruins in a safe area so that people can easily see it without protection.
- 5 Ruins of Mogadishu Cathedral. Built during the colonial years of Italian Somaliland, the cathedral has barely survived the decades of civil war. It was badly damaged during fighting in the 1990s, then severely bombed by Islamists in 2008. Some stone walls and arches remain as testament to the old building. The new Somali Government has mentioned the possibility of rebuilding the cathedral as a sign of religious harmony.
- 6 Mogadishu Lighthouse. Italian colonial lighthouse that has been in ruins since the war, yet still retains its charm.
- Old Shanghai City.
- Telecommunication Headquarter. Located near the airport, this place is secure, customer friendly and business oriented. You can visit them and enjoy the view of the beach from the top of the roof where you can see planes taking off and the Indian Ocean. Make sure you contact them in advance.
- Mogadishu Peace Park (Beerta Nabadda), VIA Marocco, NA Mogadishu, Banadir, Somalia, ☏ . Built in 2016, the Peace Park is the most popular park in the city with over 700 people coming to visit, take pictures and just enjoy the green every day.
- Almnara Tower. Medieval relics in Mogadishu that witness the rise and fall of powers in the region
- Mogadishu Fish Market. Built with thanks to UK-Somalia, the fish market is thriving. For visitors who have seen the famous "Mogadishu Fish Picture" and want to try it for themselves, good luck.
- Jaziira Livestock market. Is a booming camel market, cows, sheep, and goats. Animals are fed before exporting them to Middle East markets. You will find different breeds from the Somali Cattle breed to the Ethiopian Borana Cattle breed. In the camel market you can enjoy the fresh camel milk.
- Jaziira Beach (south of the city). Lovely and quiet place with resorts, hotels and restaurants with a white, sandy, sunny beach that is popular with everyone. Attractions include a small island where you can take pictures and go for a boat ride.
- Liido Beach. Built for the Italian colonialists, also known as Mogadishu Miami Beach. It is popular with foreign tourists and overseas Somalis. The area offers cheap seafood, nice resorts, swimming and sandy Indian Ocean beaches. The famous Anglo-American Club is here.
- Mogadishu University. A non-governmental university that is governed by the Board of Trustees and the University Council. Admission requirements for the university are listed on their website.
- Benadir University. Started in 2002 with the intention to train doctors but has expanded into other fields.
- 1 Bakaara Market (Suuqa Bakaaraha). An open market and the largest in Somalia. It was created in late 1972 during the reign of Siad Barre to allow proprietors to sell daily essentials. The civil war subsequently created demand for arms and ammunition. Everything from pistols to anti-aircraft weapons are being sold. Falsified documents are also readily available. Forged Somali, Ethiopian and Kenyan passports can be processed within minutes. This illicit sub-market is known as Cabdalle Shideeye after one of its first proprietors.
Most markets and especially the Bakaara Market 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 some unsavory characters, but also because they have caught fire several times in the last few years.
International cuisine can be found at Nasa Hablod Restaurant inside Hotel Nasa Hablod and at the Sahafi Hotel. These are probably the safest options for travelers.
- 1 The Village, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Has several outlets, including at the airport. Main restaurant is next to the bus terminal.
- 2 Liido Seafood Restaurant. Offers local and international delicacies, especially seafood related. Popular with foreign tourists.
- Istanbul Restaurant. Serves local and Turkish food.
Mogadishu is overwhelmingly Muslim, and has a social taboo against alcohol, as does the whole country.
- Abdille Nuradin's Bar (Infront of the STN Tele Comp). 08:00-18:00. So.Sh.1000 per drink.
- Aaran Guest House. Affordable, very foreign-friendly, with excellent food. They take the safety of their customers to another level. Favored by UK travelers.
- Al-furat Hotel. Located in the center of the city, opposite the parliament building and along Number 4. The security is excellent and anyone entering the building is thoroughly searched, even laptops are inspected and switched on. Its restaurant is not the best and its pricey (this whole area of Mogadishu is up-town and more expensive than other parts of Mogadishu). It offers good, fast internet connection, your room will have satellite TV, with 24-hr room service, and rooms are comfortable, with good shower room.
- Central Hotel. Cheap hotel, excellent food. It is where government elites come do business apart from their particular ministries.
- City Plaza Hotel. This hotel is in a very secure place, with excellent food, and is popular with UN workers, foreign workers, foreign tourists, and business people from abroad.
- 1 Hotel Nasa Hablod, Km 4 square (2 km from International Airport), ☏ , fax: . Restaurant, meeting rooms, safe box, TV, internet access, air-con.
- Hotel Shamo. Large rooms, with air-conditioning, wi-fi and electricity 24 hours a day. The restaurant is extremely decent, and serves lobster when it's available at the fish market. The hotel is relatively safe. From US$100.
- 2 Jazeera Palace Hotel. It is frequented by business travelers and high-profile visitors. Security is a priority, with armed guards and walls that enclose the hotel. It was attacked in July 2015 by armed militants, resulting in several causalities. The hotel has two restaurants.
- Oriental Hotel. Offers excellent food and security. Just for business travelers.
- Peace Hotel. This luxury hotel is close to the airport with views of the Indian Ocean in a nice upper class neighborhood. It is popular with UN aid workers and foreigners, and has a focus on customer safety.
- 3 Sahafi Hotel. OA rooftop panoramic view of Mogadishu City Center. It is fortified with 3-meter concrete blast wall, watch posts and with at least 20 armed guards in the hotel at anytime of the day. The manager is very helpful, the staff are attentive and the food is good.
- Syl Hotel. A five-star hotel where government dignitaries stay. Located near beach resorts, offering cozy rooms and conference rooms.
The city remains very dangerous for independent travel. Petty theft and violent crime remains a significant threat in a city which has effectively been in a state of war for nearly two decades and full of unemployed people with few possessions. Any white person and most other foreigners are thus regarded as wealthy and a target for crime. Do not wander the streets alone for any reason. If you must venture around the city, you should be accompanied by hired guards and ride in, preferably, an armoured car. Smash & grab break-ins are possible in non-armoured vehicles. With the security situation improved, there are likely to be new hotels opening. Make sure yours has armed guards 24/7 and do not trust your valuables to be left in your room.
Basic services, such as water and electricity, are not reliable and you should not drink the water. Food and bottled drinks sold in the city may or may not be safe to consume. Try to get the advice of another foreigner who has been in the city a while. Health services are limited.
The availability of consular services in Somalia is limited. You may need to contact your country's embassy in Nairobi instead.