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Mogadishu (Somali: Muqdisho) is a city in eastern Africa, on the Indian Ocean. It is the largest city in Somalia and the nominal seat of a provisional national authority, but no effective government has existed in the country for over a decade. As of 2004, the population is estimated to be around 2,450,000.
Mogadishu is the country's largest city, a major seaport, and a commercial and financial center. Its principal industries are food and beverages and textiles. The city is linked by road with other cities in the country as with Kenya and Ethiopia. Limited air service is available.
Mogadishu was founded by Arab Muslim settlers in the 10th century, according to Ross E. Dunn (The Adventures of Ibn Battuta [Berkeley, 1986]). As Dunn explains, Mogadishu and other East African Muslim settlements were "a kind of medieval America, a fertile, well-watered land of economic opportunity and a place of salvation from drought, famine, overpopulation, and war at home." Many came from the Arabian Peninsula and their relative affluence in their new homes made them powerful, and inter-marriage with the locals produced economically beneficial relationships. Mogadishu was the most northern of the East African City states . It prospered with trade from the interior and Islam came to spread over Somalia.
When he visited Mogadishu around 1330, Ibn Battuta was impressed at the abundance of food he saw, remarking that a single person "eats as much as a whole company of us would eat, as a matter of habit, and they are corpulent and fat in the extreme."
The origin of the name is unclear; one version claims it as the Somali version of the Arabic name "maqad shah" (imperial seat of the shah), another version claims that it is a Somali version of the Swahili "mwyu ma" (last northern city). Among the city's historic buildings are the Mosque of Fakr ad-Din (1269) and Garesa Palace , built in the late 19th century for the local administrator of the sultan of Zanzibar and now housing a museum and library. Mogadishu is the seat of the Somalia National University.
In 1871 the city was occupied by the sultan of Zanzibar, who leased it to the Italians in 1892. In 1905 Italy purchased the city and made it the capital of its colony of Italian Somaliland, under the name Mogadiscio. Mogadishu was captured and occupied during World War II by British forces operating from Kenya. During Somalia's long civil war from the 1970s, rebel forces took the city in 1990. Intense battling between clan-based rebel factions damaged many parts of Mogadishu in 1991 and 1992. UN peacekeeping forces were stationed in the city between 1992 and 1995.
On October 3, 1993, an attempt by the United States Army to capture lieutenants of the warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid while successful, ended in a battle with heavy casualties. In the Battle of Mogadishu, 19 American soldiers were killed and several dozen were injured, but estimates put the number of Somali casualties at between 500-1000 militia and civilians killed and 3000-4000 injured. The events were later dramatised in the novel and film Black Hawk Down.
Mogadishu after UN withdrawal
Today Mogadishu continues to be one of the world's most dangerous cities (see Attacks on humanitarian workers), as clan and faction fighting rages unabated. The city is also the seat of the internationally-recognized Transitional National Government, ostensibly an interim government for the entire nation of Somalia whose practical influence does not extend beyond a few blocks from its headquarters. The situation is such that the body's parliament sits in Nairobi, Kenya, rather than remain in the city.
The southern part of the city is more peaceful and also more modern, containing mansions and safe streets. The north side of the city is where the major clan warfare is.
Although there are problems, Mogadishu has somewhat recovered economically. The free trade in the absence of a government means there are no taxes and doing business is relatively cheap. Businessmen hire security to deal with gunmen and violence is becomming less common.
Mogadishu is becoming a leader in Eastern Africa for telecommunications and the Internet as the city has a modern phone network. The city has numerous Internet cafes in a country that has almost as many users as all of Ethiopia, Djibouti or Eritrea.
- GlobalSecurity.org page on the city's history
- BBC News Mogadishu photo gallery
- Mogadishu: Images from the Past
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