Sitting on the plane, I hear the captain say, “cabin crew, prepare for landing.” I was excited; this was my first time in Somalia. I looked out of my window to see miles of white sand fringing the sea, a mix of bright blue and green from the air. This place looked beautiful. As we followed the coast, I could see the capital, Mogadishu, for the first time. Miles of white buildings stretched into the distance.
The plane banked right, then left, as we made our approach to the airport. Below, rows upon rows of compounds and HESCO bastions littered the green zone. As we touched down on the runway, to my left there was a UN camp with planes and helicopters parked on the tarmac and UN vehicles buzzing around. Getting off the plane, I was greeted by the African heat, and rushed into the airport. My contact was waiting for me to help get me through immigration. In order to enter Somalia, you must have a security company with you and a secure place to stay. The terminal was buzzing with local people wanting to help carry our bags.
My contact told me this was normal, and that we should use one of them. We then proceeded to leave the airport. I will mention at this point that I had not seen a white face since we landed. As we got outside and made our way to the car, I noticed soldiers wearing different uniforms walking around with AKs strapped to them. Some were Somalia police, some Somalia Army African Union troops, and some were local security guys. Looking around, it became obvious that years of fighting had put the green zone’s inhabitants on edge. The roads leading to and from the green zone? Well, there was not much left of them.
My contact drove me around the green zone and showed me all the different camps, each with HESCO bastions and guards standing by. There was work going on in the background—a lot of construction projects in process. This city needs it. Over 20 groups are in conflict in the region, and at this time they are facing an insurgency from the terror group Al-Shabaab.