Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tourism in Somalia

This piece is originally from The Economist, March 2004, and is one of the funniest pieces of journalism I have ever read:

Tourism in Somalia

Far from the madding crowd

Mar 4th 2004 | MOGADISHU
From The Economist print edition

Well, far from other tourists, anyway

HE HAS perhaps the world's hardest job, but very little to do. Abdi Jimale Osman is Somalia's minister of tourism. His inbox is always empty; unsurprisingly, given that his anarchic homeland has not had a single officially acknowledged tourist in 14 years.

Somalia is not without attractions. The sun shines, the beaches are sandy and you can dine on lobster on the roof of the Sharmo Hotel, which commands a splendid view of the capital, Mogadishu. It is not safe, however. The Sharmo advises guests to hire at least ten armed guards to escort them from the airport.

Since civil war broke out in 1990, Somalia has been divided into some two dozen warring fiefs. But Mr Jimale is undaunted. “Tourists can still go and see the former beautiful sights,” he says. “The only problem is they're all totally destroyed.” Your correspondent admired what was left of the cathedral. Graffiti outside warned “Beware of landmines”.

Mr Jimale wants donors to help rebuild Somalia's national parks, though they mainly lie in areas the government does not control. “Most of the animals have disappeared too,” he concedes, “Because we have eaten them.”

Brave tourists can find unusual bargains in Mogadishu. In the market, a hand grenade sells for $10, a Howitzer for $20,000. For those who remain unconvinced, Mr Jimale is reassuring. “I'm sure tourists would leave Somalia alive and I'm hopeful they wouldn't be kidnapped,” he says. “At least, we would try to make sure they were not kidnapped, although it can happen.”

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