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Our First in a Series of Helpful Tips For Journalists, NGOs and the Adventurous
Ocean view? Freshly squeezed juices for breakfast? High-speed Internet connection? Check.
Armed security escorts, bulletproof vests, 24/7 perimeter watch? Check, check, check.
What kind of lodge would pride itself on being called "The Best Hotel in Hell" as Time Magazine once described this modest compound. Welcome to the Peace Hotel, a little oasis of calm in the middle of Mogadishu. Despite impressive gains on the part of TFG-allied troops, the city’s streets are deserted at night, and evening quiet is interrupted only by the occasional sound of an exploding mortar. The city may be a while away from welcoming planeloads of tourists, but that’s not to say that Mogadishu International Airport is barren; far from it, and these visitors need somewhere to stay!
At the white-washed, stone-walled compound just ten minutes drive from the airport, a man named Bashir Yusuf Osman runs the show. In 2005, this businessman saw a gap in the market and established his first hotel for those foreigners intent on hitting Mogadishu’s streets. This first base was located in the heart of the city, but in 2009, he deemed the area unsafe, and so relocated to a stone’s throw away from the airport and African Union Peacekeeping (AMISOM) base.
Precautions like these are fundamental to his business model, and the reason for Bashir’s impeccable track record. He is incredibly attuned to what’s going on in the city; his sources and friends dotted around Mogadishu make sure to let him know if any areas are a no go, and plans are adjusted accordingly. Journalists chasing stories may feel somewhat constrained in their scope, because if Bashir says no, there is no way you’re getting that front line shot.
Bashir employs 45 guys, the majority of whom have been with him since he started out. The importance of this cannot be underestimated - as a multitude of kidnap victims can confirm, the gun that is there to protect you can do a pretty fast 180 degree turn when money lands on the table.
When we stroll on past, Bashir languidly points to each of us in turn, “2 million, 3 million, 2 million”. Foreigners are clearly hot commodities out here.
So how much will this extreme package holiday set you back?
This might just be the most expensive hotel you’ll stay in - rooms are charged out at $1500 a night. The rate includes meals (you can count on some pretty good camel and rice), WiFi connection, and of course, your own personal gang of expertly trained security guys. The dazzling array of ‘Beautiful Mogadishu’ T-shirts, camel bells and postcards paraded around day and night by an enthusiastic saleswoman in the courtyard come at an exorbitant additional cost, but hey, you gotta pay to be a sucker.
The rust-ridden bathrooms and dormitory-style rooms might have some way to go, but Egyptian cotton sheets and scented candles are rather further down on the list of priorities in this town. In terms of security, you can count on 5 star service.
For the multitude of journalists, NGOs, diplomats and businesspeople arriving in Mogadishu, choosing a place to stay requires a lot more than a quick Google search. Very few of the hotels in the city are safe, and are oftentimes targets in themselves.
In terms of security, the bases dotted around the AMISOM compound are your best bet, or, failing that, there are a handful of adequate hotels located nearby. This small block is the safest area in the city; the more north you go, deeper into the city, the riskier it gets. The car bomb explosion just last week near the Presidential compound – right next to the Muna Hotel - was but the latest reminder of al-Shabaab’s presence in the city. The Muna was also attacked in August 24, 2010.
Other hotels like the famous "Sahafi" (which means journo) is more famous for the two French intel agents captured while posing as journos than it's long reputation as an expat hangout. It didn't help that BBC producer, Kate Peyton was gunned down outside the hotel in 2005 either.
Somalia Report has done a comprehensive recce of all of Mogadishu’s hottest hotels; see below for our guide of where to... and not to... stay in Somalia’s capital city.
Bancroft's Camp Somalia
Bancroft Global is the US-based security company tasked with close-training of AU troops. The companies investment arm generates a decent chunk of income from its compound being rented out to UN, NGO and journo types. Bancroft’s base is located within the AMISOM compound next to the airport. A letter of invitation is required to stay here, either from Bancroft or, for journalists, from the Press Information Officer. Their compound is one of three on the secure AMISOM base that offers accommodation to visitors. Mike Stock the owner of Bancroft calls it his "trailer park hotel in Mogadishu" but it offers basic but comfortable accommodations at big city rates. His 60 rooms are typically full so book ahead. made a brief foray into the harsh glare of media coverage and probably learned to be less enthusiastic about journos talking to his "colorful" employees.
Cost: $155 a night
Pros: Military grade security. AMISOM tours. Beach access (beware of rocks, sharks and incoming planes). Fully-stocked bar.
Cons: No security details for independent forays into the city.
United Nations International Support Team (UN-IST)
The UN-IST has only recently begun offering accommodation for guests at the AMISOM base. As with Bancroft, staying here requires an invitation from the Press Information Officer or a letter of invitation from the IST. The press officer arranges journo embed process is part of the $7.5M a year African Union information operations program run by Albany Associates in associations with Bell Pottinger.
Pros: Military-grade security. AMISOM tours.
Cons: No security provision for independent trips.
SKA (Air and Logistics Skylink Arabia)
SKA manages the Mogadishu International, and their base is located within the protected airfield in the AMISOM-controlled base. Accomodation is open to ‘those eligible for international travel’, and most visitors tend to be UN staff or their guests.
For $190 a night, you receive your own personal container, complete with an en suite bathroom and Internet access. Security is not included, but SKA can arrange this for an additional cost. SKA have used the same. They use trusted local security teams and travel in soft-skin SUVs. Prices are determined on a case-by-case basis, and the organisation liaises with AMISOM to determine safety.
Cost: $190 a night (it used to be $175 but guests can now enjoy the newly-installed cable TV, responsible for the $15 hike)
Contact: +252 699 771 036 or +252 699 771 041
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Camp Manager: Llulewelyn Craythorne)
Situated near the airport, the compound is secure and security teams are capable. They have worked with Bashir, the hotel manager, for years, and are yet to experience any breaches in their tried and tested model. The downside to Bashir and his three convoy escort service is that he seems obsessively concerned about his guest's safety and he may not agree with your planned itinerary. You will see more than with the AMISOM junket but you won't be wandering back alley's or doing any late night business either.
Cost: $1500 a night (negotiable), including your own security detail
Pros: You’ll probably make it out alive.
Cons: Security is somewhat rigid. For journalists chasing the big stories, they might feel somewhat constrained. Cost: this is one expensive hotel. Bathrooms are in need of a clean.
Aran offer coordination for live uplinks(email@example.com) with Globecast and coordination with the UN/IST (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Aran security escort is made up of two western security advisors (American and Croatian), 14 security guards (vetted and screened by the management), and three vehicles (two Toyota SUVs and a Hilux pick-up truck). They also count two TFG policemen on their staff.
The guesthouse is also home to the Frontline Café - the Starbucks of Mogadishu - they offer a fine selection of pastries and Dorman’s Coffee for those missing their home pleasures. If those Egyptian cotton sheets were anywhere in Mogadishu, you’d find them here.
Cost: $225 - $475 for the room, $475 per day for security.
Pros: iMacs. Good coffee. Capable security.
Cons: Costly. Track record still being established.
Or Not to Stay...
The Sahafi Hotel is located off the KM-4 Junction, an area frequently besieged by armed militants. If you’re looking for a real insight into kidnapping, or indeed, want to experience it for yourself, this could be a good first (and last) stop. Security incidents plague the hotel - in 2005, Kate Peyton, a BBC producer was shot dead right outside the hotel. In July 2009, two French security consultants were kidnapped from the hotel lobby, when gunmen, dressed in police uniforms, managed to enter the hotel and grab the pair. Security is clearly lacking, and it appears few efforts have been made to improve the situation.
This online review offers a little more insight:
‘I'm glad I'm not the only one that loves this five-star resort! The pool here is exceptional. The brown and green color of the water makes for a perfect swim. Security here is top-notch. Felt safe walking into lobby with guards waving their AKs in the air. Even though I was raped and molested several times, I couldn't believe how home-like this resort was. A must STAY!’
Cost: $120 a night, $250 a day for a security team.
Pros: Good spot for a prospective kidnapping
Cons: Take your pick.
Contact: +2526 1543 7080 or +2526 99968089
The Shamo is another hotel with a unreassuring track-record. 25 people were killed here when al-Shabaab set off a bomb at a Somalia University graduation ceremony in December 2009. In October 2011, a suicide attack on the nearby TFG compound also hit the Shamo hotel. In 2008, Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan were kidnapped while en route to Afgoye, and it is widely believed that their Shamo-provided security detail sold them out. Given the multitude of security incidents here, local journalists avoid the hotel, politicians have stopped holding press conferences there, and foreigners are warned to stay well clear.
Cost: $100 per night for the room. Security not provided.
Pros: Can take your pick from all the rooms.
Cons: Tight fisted thrill seekers only.
Contact: +252 1858499
The hotel is located at the KM-4 Junction, and while there haven’t been any major security incidents at Nasa Hablod (Translation: “Woman's Breasts”), journalists and foreigners do not tend to stay there as security is perceived as lax. That said, anecdotally, many have found their stay adequate. It is hard to say whether staying at a high profile hotel that caters to westerners versus slumming it in a low key locals hotel is going to be the best bet for journos on a budget.
Cost: $60 per night for locals, $150 a night for foreigners (which includes “security inside the hotel but not outside”)
Pros: Probably the most secure off the beaten path
Cons: We don't want to find out
Until February 8 this year, the hotel was popular with TFG officials and politicians, particularly given its proximity to the Presidential Palace. Spaces popular with TFG officials should be avoided, as these pose attractive targets to Mogadishu’s militants. The car bomb that exploded here just last week, however, was but the most recent reminder that the hotel is a major target. This was not the first incident at the Muna. In August 2010, two al-Shabaab militants in TFG uniforms entered the hotel and began firing indiscriminately, killing 31 people.
How much to stay in this delightful paradise? $10 a night. Protection for guests, non-existent, and visitors must look for meals elsewhere. If there were a prize for the world’s worst hotel, the Muna just might take the cake.
Cost: $10 a night
Pros: Right in the centre of the action
Cons: Right in the centre of the action
Contact: Abdullaahi Fanah: +2526 1558 4481