Jan 21, 2013

My Backyard: A Sight to See

When one hears Somalia he/she would expect to read about the negative light that had buried the country’s diverse rich history and existence. Use any search engine and the first thing that pops up about Somalia is piracy, Famine, failed state, corruption, armed civilians e.t.c. Every article I read starts with something like ‘Somalia has been suffering of a failed state, war torn, plagued by war lords, famine ...’

In school, when governance is mentioned Somalia is always referred to as the ‘how not to’. There was nothing but negativity being reported, no one or few were reporting the rich cultural history of it, or how Somalia is a nation of poets, or how generosity and resiliency is embedded in the social fabric of Somalis. 

As part of the Somali Diaspora, I grew up thinking that I didn’t owe allegiance to my homeland because I truly believed what was shown to me in the media and social outlets. It felt like a brain wash, an attack on Somali Diasporas to believe that we can never claim Somalia as our own and that we should be grateful not to be there, almost forgetting what our backyard is like. 

While residing in the US I felt out of place in a sense because here I was in a country I couldn’t claim as my homeland (birth place) yet the place I call home I couldn’t go back to. Not that I am saying America didn’t welcome me or provide me with great opportunities, it’s just that home is where the heart is and I was longing for my first home. My parents and relatives were always over excited when they talked about Somalia but here I was feeling lost and thinking: are they crazy? that Somalia couldn’t have existed. I was forced to put on a mask of disguise, never express my longing to feel the warm deep red soil between the fingers of my feet and the eagerness to swim in the clear blue waters with an all year round warm weather, or enjoy the mangos and bananas we are so famous for, or wear my ‘bati’ (which I think is pretty liberating by the way cause you don’t have to worry about what you are going to wear that day and how you are going to style your hair) amongst many other things.

On November, 2012 I decided I wanted to take a leap of life and go to Somalia. What could I lose at this point? death is going to come wherever I am anyways. It could have been on the 395 highway in VA, the orange metro line in DC, or worse I could have been standing right outside my house in Fairfax and simply just drop dead. So why was I so afraid to go to my birth place if death is everywhere?  After twenty one years of living in the ‘qurbaha’ (abroad) which felt like an eternity, I got on a plane and I knew where my destination was, Somalia. 

Let me tell you my friends, the flight from Kenya to Somalia was pretty scary. It was a small 8-10 passenger plane, and it rocked like a baby’s crib in the air. For a minute I thought this is it, you came and found death. So I started reading ayatul Kursi (a verse from the Qur’an) over and over, and I just don’t know when and how I fell asleep in a rocking plane.

After four hours I landed in Bosaso, Somalia. You may know it as the ‘land of the pirates’ but I knew I was in a land where there were free coast guards, guarding what is their God given right. My God, the view of the ocean from the plane was breath taking, to die for. After the plane safely landed, the door opened and I was embraced with a fresh warm air which smelled like the ocean breeze. Almost missed a step while trying to chase that ocean smell with my nose, fortunately the young man with the warm welcoming smile standing by the steps caught my arm and said ‘ku soo dhawow Bosaso walaal’, welcome to Bosaso. I reached down for the earth, grabbed a handful of soil rubbed it between my hands and felt a sense of calmness and peace within. 

Home sweet home, I was in a euphoric state of mind.

I stayed in Bosaso for a few days, my first impression didn’t match up to the perception I had, it was better than expected. Although the planning of the city was pretty poor and old, it was distinctive; it spoke to you in a way. There was a mix of new and elaborate houses that represented hope of the future and old run down houses that sort of reminds you of the past. The market was lively; the chaotic traffic was like a jingle unique to this place. It is filled with everything and anything you can think of. I saw things that one would need to special order in the US, here you could easily walk into a store and grab it that same day. The port was right there, everything came in abundance. I used to hear people tell me Somalis are business minded by nature but to see them in action was priceless. I didn’t see an army of pirates like everyone thinks, I saw ordinary folks going about their business and living. 

These people are happier than you and I, they are content, life here is viewed as a gift not a right. There was something humbling about this that gave me butterflies in my stomach.

My next destination was Badhan in the Sanaag region, the road to Badhan was pretty rough, but the presence of the nature was loud and raw, pleasing to the eye. I just couldn’t get enough of it. There was something so beautiful and magnificent about an under developed and untouched land. Herds of camel and other livestock in hundreds grazing everywhere with young men ‘geel jire’ (nomad) chasing them around to keep them in the flock. Let me not forget about the striking hills that surrounded everywhere, great for hiking and family picnics. I was told here in some of these hills were salt, luban, and marble stones amongst many other natural resources. I’ll admit it was a pretty rocky and rough road that sometimes wouldn’t let you stay still in your seat; I was bouncing up and down, definitely nothing I was used to. I guess it’s true when they say to experience personal growth one needs to get out of their comfort zone, that I did indeed. The weather there was sort of nippy, people had their own personal gardens of fresh fruits and other vegetables in their houses. Kids in all ages playing soccer, chasing goats around and the elderly sitting outside with a cup of tea laughing from the top of their lungs was a sight to see. Badhan is the perfect location when you want to get away from the city life and enjoy nature at it’s true state.

So far I have visited the regions of Bari, Nugal, Sool, Sanaag, Mudug and hope to visit plenty more working my way down South. Mogadishu is definitely on my bucket list, hopefully visit the hospital I was born in and the streets I played in as a kid and try to imagine the Somalia my parents always told me about.

I tell you my friends Somalia is well alive, it’s not dead, claim it, own it, don’t hunch back your shoulders, put up your head up and be proud to be a Somali. The language is so rich, the traditions are rare, the land is prosperous and the people are resilient. Interesting journeys make interesting people and it all starts with a single step. It may not amount to glitz and glam some of us are used to but it’s glamorous in it’s own way.It is definitely a sight to see!


Anonymous said...

Very interesting read, it felt like i was there with you.

Anonymous said...


It was nice to read about Somalia, in the a positive way. News about our homeland is usually negative and that really takes all hope and without hope people don't invest to the future. Who can speak in the name of Somali people other than Somali people. It's about time we make our history open to public and invest all our hope for better Somalia.

- Somali living in Finland

Suban Mohamed said...

Greetings of peace! I'm glad you all like it, it's the duty of all Somalis to shift our tainted image and move forward with optimism :)