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Did you know ? (Ma ogtahay)

by Fathi A. Mohamed



The following are some of the questions people (Somalis and non Somalis) ask me about Somalia and I thought why not compile answers to some of these questions and share them with everyone by posting a piece that I’d like to call “Ma ogtahay” or “Did you know” on Hiiraan Online. The idea here to share as much information on Somalia as possible with the Diaspora community especially the young Somalis growing up outside of Somalia.  


Did you know that most restaurants in Somalia don’t have a written menu? Instead, they will tell you everything they have orally and in Italian. Talk about Somalis being oral society. 


Did you know that in most restaurants in Somalia, people use old newspapers as napkins?


Did you know that in Somalia, you can buy a decent lunch with less than a dollar?


Did you know that the Somali National Soccer team participates in regional tournaments in Africa? We even play World Cup qualifying games but as you can imagine we always lose, not with big margin though.. I mean, it’s not that bad when Somalia loses to Nigeria/Ghana 2-0 after all Nigeria/Ghana are  some of the best soccer nations in Africa….Go Somalia go…


Did you know that there are 10 fm radio stations in Mogadishu and almost every major town in Somalia has fm radio? Some cities like Mogadishu, Boosaaso and Hargeisa have local television stations.


Did you know that the road between Mogadishu and Jowhar is so rough that it takes about 5 hours to travel between the two cities even though it’s only 90km?


How do you buy a house in Somalia?


You have to know exactly who owns the house you want to buy otherwise you could be in a lot of trouble. Make sure that you are buying the house from its rightful owner, ask to see documents from the former Somali municipal authorities, talk to the neighbors, talk to someone who knows the area well and simply do as much research as possible. Also, there are real estate agents (dalaal) that can advise you on how and where to buy a house/property. Often times these agents know if the person selling the house is the actual owner or not.


What do you do if your house is being occupied by someone else or you simply want to find out the overall condition of the house?

Try to go there yourself (please do that only if it is safe to do so) and if you can’t do that ask someone who can (perhaps someone from the dominant clan in the area) to check on the house and to get some info for you. By having enough reliable information about your house, you can at least make an informed decision in terms of weather you want to sell it or keep it until things settle.


Since Mogadishu isn’t safe to live in, should I sell my house?

First of all there are over a million and half people living in Mogadishu and not every area in Mogadishu is unsafe. It’s best that you inquire about your house, find out about the area in general, how much the house is worth etc. It’s important that you talk to someone who would give you an accurate estimation on the price of your house and finally try not to sell your house/property because it’s difficult to get a fair price for it due to the current political situation there.


Did you ever think about what people do in Mogadishu (this goes for almost every town in Somalia as well) if two vehicles get into an accident?

How about traffic accidents?

One day in July of 2004, I was walking down the street near Number Afar (km 4) and I saw a car accident; it was a bus and a private car. I was curious to know how they solve such an issue since there is no police there. I realized that the two drivers that were involved in the accident were sitting at the side of the street patiently waiting for something. I inquired about what they were waiting for and I was told that they are waiting for traffico (traffic police) and I asked, do we still have traficco? It turns out that the traffico man came and questioned the two drivers, the witnesses and after a little while he asked them if they were ready to hear his decision or if they would like to gather representatives from their two families? The two men agreed to call for their respective representatives. The traffico man asked the two men to let him know when and where the meeting will take place and he left the scene without telling the two men what his decision was.  The traffico man was probably in his sixties and I found out later that he belonged to the former Somali traffico police. I also learned that he was paid a fee for his service. Interesting, isn’t it? 


What about entertainment?


Most men spend their free time chewing mira; children play football and watch Indian movies at someone’s house who charges them about a thousand shillings which is about 5-10c US.  I don’t know what women do but I am sure they don’t spend their time chewing qat.


How about watching important international sports events?


I am a big soccer fan and I don’t like to miss my weekend games. Normally, when in Somalia, I end up going to these places that show the games from the Premier League in England, the Spanish League, the Italian League and other important games such as the world cup, the Euro and the African Cup of Nations. For instance, in late August 2005, I was in Hergeisa and I was lucky enough to watch a live game, Arsenal vs. Chelsea. Boy oh boy it was such a fun scene. I paid 1000 Somaliland Shillings, everyone screaming and it felt like I was actually at Stamford Bridge or highbury in London.  


Or this other night in Beletwein, I was at an internet café at the late Sh. Ali Jim’ale building and I saw on ESPN website that Brazil is playing France (friendly game) that evening. The game was to start in a few minutes and I really wanted to see that game. As I walked out of the internet café towards my hotel thinking what I should do, I overhead these two teenage boys walking in front of me talking about the game and I asked them where can I watch it and they told me “just follow us” which I happily did. As usual, I paid a 1000 shillings and I will not be lying if I said that there were at least 200 people watching the game on three different screens all screaming and cheering for one of the two teams. The game ended about 1:00 (it was 0-0 draw) in the morning and I safely walked to my hotel with no problems. 


How about the NBA, NHL or other major North American Sports?


If you are NBA fan or any of the other major North American Sports, tough luck bro because not only baseball, hockey and American football aren’t that big in that part of the world but even if you subscribe to some cable network from South Africa or Dubai (which is what those who can afford do) the time difference will mess it up for you. I mean, can you wake up at 4:30AM for a game? 


Finally, I have put together some photos of different regions in Somali and I hope you’ll enjoy them; I certainly did enjoy visiting these places.


Fathi A. Mohamed

[email protected]


Fathi A. Mohamed is a Somali Canadian working in East Africa for a relief and development organization. Fathi is based in Nairobi, he extensively travels to different parts of Somalia and he is a regular contributor to HOL.


The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "Hiiraan Online"

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