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Mogadishu ( Somali: Muqdisho, Italian: Mogadiscio), a city in East Africa on the Indian Ocean, serves as the nominal capital of anarchic Somalia. Somalis also popularly call the city Hamar (Xamar, in the new spelling). Although Mogadishu is undeniably the largest city in Somalia, estimates of its population vary wildly.

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Culture and economy

Geography - Contents

Mogadishu, 1993
Mogadishu, 1993
Mogadishu is located at 2°4' North, 45°22' East (2.06667, 45.36667). [1]hThe Webe Shebele or Webi Shibeli river rises in central Ethiopia and comes within 30 km of the Indian Ocean near Mogadishu before turning southwestward. Usually dry during February and March, the river provides water essential for the cultivation of sugarcane, cotton, and bananas.Features of the city include the Hammawein Old Town, the Bakara Market (the location of the battle which inspired Black Hawk Down), and the former resort of Gezira Beach.

History - Contents

Medieval East African city-state
Trade connected Somalis in the Mogadishu area to other communities along the Indian coast as early as 800. Muslims from the Arabian Peninsula colonized Mogadishu circa 900. The relative affluence of these settlers made them powerful in Somalia. Inter-marriage with the locals produced economically beneficial relationships. Mogadishu was well suited to become a regional centre. While the majority of the Somali coast is arid, the area around Mogadishu is more suitable to agriculture and could support a larger population. It is also the northernmost site in East Africa with a good natural harbour.The northernmost East African City state, Mogadishu prospered with trade with the interior, which spread Islam throughout Somalia. Beginning about 1000, trade increased among the Swahili cities of coastal East Africa. This trade drove the Mogadishu economy by the early 1100s. The origin of the name "Mogadishu" is unclear; one version claims it as the Somali version of the Arabic language name "maqad shah" (imperial seat of the shah). The historic Mosque of Fakr ad-Din, built 1269, still stands.Archaeological excavations have recovered many coins from China, Sri Lanka, and Annam. The majority of the Chinese coins date to the Song Dynasty, although the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty "are also represented,"2 according to Richard R.K. Pankhurst. The trading Zenj city-states of the Swahili civilization imported Arabic pottery, Chinese porcelain, and Indian cloth. They exported wood, ivory, shells, slaves, and iron. Kilwa, which dominated the gold trade from the Great Zimbabwe, ultimately eclipsed Mogadishu, Lamu, Zanzibar, and other northern cities after the 1200s.Trading across the Arabian Sea enabled major ports like Mogadishu to prosper during the later Middle Ages. Ross E. Dunn describes Mogadishu and other East African Muslim settlements as "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."1The abundance of food in Mogadishu around 1330 impressed visitor Ibn Battuta. He remarked 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."3

European domination
Portugal controlled Mogadishu during the 1500s.The sultan of Zanzibar occupied the city in 1871. Garesa Palace, built in the late 1800s for the local administrator of the sultan, now houses a museum and library.In 1892, the sultan of Zanzibar leased the city to Italy. Italy purchased the city in 1905 and made Mogadiscio (Italian for Mogadishu) the capital of Italian Somaliland. The surrounding territory came under Italian control in 1936.British forces operating from Kenya during World War II captured and occupied Mogadishu. The capital of Italian Somaliland fell to the imperial forces on February 26, 1941. The British continued to rule until Italy returned in 1952 to administer their former Somali protectorate. Education advanced with the 1954 establishment of Somalia National University. Somalia achieved independence in 1960 with Mogadishu as its capital.

Anarchy and the Americans
Rebel forces entered and took the city in 1990, forcing Barre to abdicate and flee in January 1991 to Lagos, Nigeria. One faction proclaimed Mohammed Ali Mahdi president, another Mohammed Farah Aidid. The Somalia National University, which enrolled 4600 students before the war, closed as the educational system collapsed in 1991.Intense battling between these rivals and other clan-based rebel factions damaged many parts of Mogadishu in 1991- 1992 and led to tens of thousands of casualties as an intense drought-induced famine ravaged rural Somalia.A contingent of United States Marines landed near Mogadishu on December 9, 1992 to spearhead United Nations peacekeeping forces. The United Nations sought to capture warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid in 1993 to enable the establishment of a transitional government. Somalis loyal to him ambushed the peacekeepers and killed 23 Pakistanis.On October 3, 1993, the United States Army retaliated and successfully captured Aidid's lieutenants but missed the chief warlord. In this Battle of Mogadishu, the Somalis killed 18 American and 1 Malaysian soldier and injured several dozen. Estimates put the number of Somali casualties at 500-1000 militia and civilians dead and 3000-4000 injured. The later novel Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War and film Black Hawk Down dramatize the events of this battle.With these casualties, US President Bill Clinton withdrew American forces in 1994. Two factions in Mogadishu nevertheless reached a peace accord on January 16, 1994. Heavy fighting, however, intensified between numerous warlords and factions for control over the city after the March 3, 1995 withdrawal of the last international peacekeepers. Mohamed Farrah Aidid declared himself president in June 1995 and by 1996 captured strategic neighborhoods in Mogadishu and some outlying territory. Rival militias renewed fighting in Mogadishu and Hoddur, Somalia in 1996. Aidid ultimately died in July 1996 from gunshot wounds suffered in a street battle.

Mogadishu today
Violence continued to rule Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia through the late 1990s and early 2000s, including the deaths of British Aid workers Dick and Enid Eyeington in 2003. Now clans have established territory for themselves and claim independence from the Republic of Somalia. All attempts to restore state order, by forming transitional governments while in exile, have failed.On October 10, 2004, Somali MPs elected Abdullahi Yusuf, president of Puntland, to be the next president. Because of the chaotic situation in Mogadishu, the election was held in a sports centre in Nairobi, Kenya. Yusuf was elected transitional President by Somalia's transitional parliament. He won 189 of the 275 votes from Parliament. The session of Parliament was also held in Nairobi. His government is recognized by most western nations as the country's legitimate rulers, though his actual authority is extremely questionable. Right now the government refuses to enter Mogadishu due to security concerns and continuous fighting in the capital.The worst clan warfare continues on the north side of the city; the southern neighborhoods, by contrast, experience significantly less violence and more prosperity. Some southern neighborhoods are rather safe and affluent enough to contain Somali-style mansions.

Culture and economy - Contents

Mogadishu serves as a commercial and financial center. The economy recovered somewhat from the worst civil unrest although the civil war still presents problems. The effective absence of government yields free trade without taxes or regulatory expenditures, making business relatively inexpensive. Businesses have hired armed militias to provide security against gunmen, leading to a gradual reduction in street violence.Principal industries include food and beverage processing and textiles, especially cotton ginning. The main market offers a variety of goods from food to electronic gadgets.Roads link the city with many Somali locales and with Kenya and Ethiopia. Private airlines service Mogadishu at various airports within and around the city; the intense fighting largely destroyed the old international airport. Mogadishu leads Somalia in port traffic and still serves as a major seaport. International traders actively benefit from its de facto duty-free status. However, piracy is widespread around Somalia's coastal areas, making it risky.Mogadishu, along with some other parts of the former Somalia, is cited as an example of anarcho-capitalism, as there is no coercive state. Despite (or perhaps because of) the anarchy, Mogadishu leads East Africa in access to telecommunications and the Internet. A modern communications network has developed in the city, including local cellular telephone systems with international connections via satellite. The lack of taxes has led to modern communications prices that rank among the lowest in Africa. Numerous Internet cafes have produced an online population that rivals all of Ethiopia, Djibouti, or Eritrea. The city also has several radio stations, two television broadcasters, and an internet service provider.
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