Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Swim and play football in defiance to terrorists
The massacre of civilians by terrorists at Lido beach is a telling story. As a sign of the return of normalcy and hope to this troubled city, thousands of Mogadishu residents have been resuscitating a century’s old tradition of seeking pleasure from the city’s white sandy beaches. A tradition that was started by old generations who used to come together to play, swim, and enjoy a meal at Lido’s many seafront restaurants. Dishes on the menu would have included a grilled lobster and spaghetti Bolognese washed down with a glass of watermelon or mango juice. Those traditionally inclined pleasure-seekers would have enjoyed a meal of dhaylo, maraq and muufo, a traditional lamb stew and bread served with caano lo or geel, cow or camel milk. Furthermore, Europeans, led by Italians, whose Italian word “Lido” was the beach’s namesake, would have flocked to Lido as their best holiday resort.
Most Somalis who are over 40s would remember those pleasant memory lanes in Mogadishu’s happy days. Arguably, there is hardly any Somali who lived in Mogadishu and had never visited or swam in Lido’s beautiful beach with its clear blue sky and water. It is for this reason why Mogadishu and Lido beach command a special place in the hearts of many Somalis, which makes them want to return to their Lido. Indeed, hundreds of people from the diaspora have been leading a campaign to get people return to Mogadishu and its Lido, and some of them have bravely invested in the city, particularly in restaurants and cafes such as the Beach View Cafe at Lido where the massacre took place.
A classic example of this is Ahmed Jama, a Somali chef, whose restaurant, the Village, was bombed by terrorists. Despite the heartbreaking tragedy, Jama has not given up his dream of helping his people by daring to start up business in the face of anarchy led by murderous and nihilistic terrorist cults.
It is within the above historical background that Mogadishu’s young residents, as though they are following their ancestors’ footsteps, have been congregating at Lido in the last few years, swimming, playing football, and falling in love. Indeed, in the same date that terrorists executed their murderous plot, lovers were tying up the knot at the restaurant, probably having met and fallen in love at Lido. This must have been a tragic end to the young couple’s big day. The groom and pride are probably among the dead, certainly caused by another young man with a perverted mind. I feel sorry for them.
In any tragedy, there is always a story that stands out. For me, it was the 10-year-old boy that was saved by a man called Mohamed Abdullahi Dhaaley. When the shooting started, this man ran for his life. Then he heard a crying voice, begging him not to leave him. It was the boy who had a chest wound from a shrapnel. The brave man and his friend returned to the boy and rescued him. On their way to the hospital, the boy thanked his rescuers and said he would never forget them. The boy is in hospital, recovering from his wounds. The story went viral in Somali social media, prompting people to post defiant messages against terrorists, some vowing to return to Lido.
Then here is a twist in the story. Understandably, at one point the boy asked his rescuers to promise not to return to the Beach View Cafe. For me, the “promise not to return” is the heartbreaking statement, which I have been contemplating about its implications because this is what terrorists want us to believe. They want to instil fear in people’s mind and to put darkness in the place of light. Relaxing and bathing at Lido herald a new era of normalcy and hope for Mogadishu’s thousands of residents. Terrorists want to take this new lease of life away from them. And this is what we need to defy.
I cannot blame the boy for asking his rescuers to stay away from the beach as this shows his legitimate concern about his rescuers’ future wellbeing – a normal mutual expression of human feeling and behaviour.
Imagine what the three-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, the toddler whose washed up body at a Turkish coast shocked the world and epitomised the huge migrant crisis that Europe is facing, would have said to his parents had he survived the tragic journey: “Dady never try to swim across dangerous sea waters to go to Europe...”
Unfortunately, because of human spirit, resilience and desperation many people are still undertaking the same hazardous voyage every day, risking their lives. This is the heart of the two stories because as we all know just like their fellow human beings Somalis are a resilient lot who are masters of survival in a harsh and unforgiving environment. I am therefore confident that with their resilience and risk-taking attitude towards life, Mogadishu residents, spearheaded by fearless young and ambitious entrepreneurs will return to the city’s beautiful beach soon to answer Lido’s emotional call to return to her.
Metaphorically, it is not only Lido’s crying voice which is calling on Somalis to benefit from it, Somalia’s long coast is calling on people to exploit from its untapped rich natural resources that could feed millions of Somalis provided they come together united.