PHOTOS: SCENES FROM THE SOMALIA YOU DON’T SEE ON THE NEWS

BEYOND THE STORIES OF TERRORIST OUTRAGES LIES A COUNTRY THAT IS NOT GIVING UP HOPE FOR A PEACEFUL FUTURE

0
885

I’ve been fortunate to work as a photojournalist in Somalia a few times over the last twenty years. It’s a fascinating and complex place. It suffers from a strange inertia in the Western mind, conjuring up clichés of the worst of Africa. Famine, civil war, Kalashnikovs, despots… We hear the word Mogadishu and immediately images from Black Hawk Down start playing in our minds. That hasn’t been good for the country, and it hasn’t really been fair to Somalis. Security is certainly an issue, and there are still significant threats — as this week’s deadly truck bombings proved. But those threats are lessening and the capital is changing. Islamic extremist group Al Shabab has hindered this progress but the Somali army and African Union troops have pushed them back from the capital.

Boys sleep near the museum in Hierapolis antique site in Pamukkale.Before the massive truck bomb, Oct. 14, that killed and wounded hundreds, stability had begun to return to the capital, Aug 1, 2017. VERBATIM FOR TIME

 

Boys sleep near the museum in Hierapolis antique site in Pamukkale.Along a bombed out coastline, people are building new homes in areas where coffee shops and hotels once stood. VERBATIM FOR TIME

 

Boys sleep near the museum in Hierapolis antique site in Pamukkale.A young girl watches American cartoons in a room inside the ruins of the former US embassy in Mogadishu, Aug. 2, 2017. VERBATIM FOR TIME

 

Boys sleep near the museum in Hierapolis antique site in Pamukkale.A soldier’s bedroom inside one of the many ruined buildings close to the sea in Mogadishu, Aug. 1, 2017. VERBATIM FOR TIME

 

Boys sleep near the museum in Hierapolis antique site in Pamukkale.Since the election in February of Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi, efforts at rebuilding have been thwarted by ongoing security issues, Aug. 1, 2017. VERBATIM FOR TIME

 

I always meet remarkable and resilient people in Mogadishu. A Somali restaurateur who has survived multiple suicide bombers and ardently refuses to go back to London, a young fashion designer bringing color and flare to Somali women. Those same women are shopping for handbags and shoes in the newly built Mall of Somalia. Somalis are socializing on a beach that a few years ago was a joyless affair policed by Al-Shabab who separated men from women. Peace-Park is a place crowded with the youth, many of the women in full make-up, the young men preening in their best outfits. Selfies are as ubiquitous here as in any other youth gathering on earth.

Boys sleep near the museum in Hierapolis antique site in Pamukkale.A local fisherman delivers a shark to the fish market in Mogadishu. Fishing remains a vital resource for Somalia, though overfishing by illegal foreign fleets has been difficult to police without a navy, Aug. 1, 2017. VERBATIM FOR TIME

 

Boys sleep near the museum in Hierapolis antique site in Pamukkale.Yahya Jimale Kheyliye, 8, was one of nine children injured in an attack by an al-Shabab mortar that was fired at the presidential compound on the day the new president was elected, Aug. 5, 2017. VERBATIM FOR TIME

 

Boys sleep near the museum in Hierapolis antique site in Pamukkale.Nurses attend to premature babies inside the new neo-natal unit at the Turkish built and managed hospital in Mogadishu, Aug. 3, 2017. VERBATIM FOR TIME

 

Boys sleep near the museum in Hierapolis antique site in Pamukkale.Students at Simad University in Mogadishu learn lab skills in the modern laboratory, Aug. 1, 2017. VERBATIM FOR TIME

The President elected in February, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, is a U.S. citizen who spent most of his time in the U.S. advocating for the rights of minorities. Inside his office at Villa Somalia, he has a large portrait of Aden Abdulle Osman positioned directly in his line of sight. Osman was the first president of an independent Somalia, elected in 1960. President “Farmajo” — as he is nicknamed – says he likes to be able to look up and see that portrait. Osman lost his campaign for re-election by one vote and willing stepped down in one of the first true acts of African political democracy. The President sees this as an inspiration for leadership in Somalia, a country he hopes to lead to stability and increased prosperity. God willing, Somalia can finally get the break its people deserve and continue inching towards progress.

 

Boys sleep near the museum in Hierapolis antique site in Pamukkale.Lido Beach, where boats take people to a nearby sandbar, where they eat and drink and enjoy a time away from the city, Aug. 3, 2017. VERBATIM FOR TIME
Boys sleep near the museum in Hierapolis antique site in Pamukkale.A tattered flag remains after an al- Shabab suicide bomber detonated his vest on a crowded street three days before, Aug. 1, 2017. VERBATIM FOR TIME

 

Boys sleep near the museum in Hierapolis antique site in Pamukkale.The port in Mogadishu is largely managed by Turks and is an essential import export pipeline for Somalia, Aug. 5, 2017. VERBATIM FOR TIME

 

Boys sleep near the museum in Hierapolis antique site in Pamukkale.Mogadishu Mall, the first mall in Somalia, a result of diaspora investment in the country, Aug. 1, 2017. VERBATIM FOR TIME

 

Boys sleep near the museum in Hierapolis antique site in Pamukkale.Students at Simad University learn advanced English, Aug. 1, 2017. VERBATIM FOR TIME

 

Boys sleep near the museum in Hierapolis antique site in Pamukkale.Police cadets attend a crime scene investigation class, Aug. 6, 2017. VERBATIM FOR TIME

 

Boys sleep near the museum in Hierapolis antique site in Pamukkale.A parade at the Police academy in Mogadishu, Aug. 1, 2017. VERBATIM FOR TIME

 

Alice Gabriner, who edited this photo essay, is TIME’s International Photo Editor.