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Muqdisho  ( Somali)
مقديشو (Arabic)
—  Capital  —
Nickname(s): Xamar (English: Hamar) The Mog, Mog
Mogadishu is located in Somalia
Location in Somalia.
Coordinates: 2°02′N 45°21′E Coordinates: 2°02′N 45°21′E
Country  Somalia
Region Banaadir
 •  Mayor Mohamed Nur
 • Total 1,657 km2 (640 sq mi)
Population (2009)
 • Total 1,353,000
 • Density 817/km2 (2,120/sq mi)
Time zone EAT ( UTC+3)

Mogadishu (pron.: / ˌ m ɒ ɡ ə ˈ d ɪ ʃ /; Somali: Muqdisho; Arabic: مقديشوMaqadīshū; literally "The Seat of the Shah"), known locally as Xamar (English: Hamar) is the largest city in Somalia and the nation's capital. Located in the coastal Banaadir region on the Indian Ocean, the city has served as an important port for centuries.

Tradition and old records assert that southern Somalia, including the Mogadishu area, was historically inhabited by hunter-gatherers of Bushman physical stock. These were later joined by Cushitic agro-pastoralists, who would go on to establish local aristocracies. Starting in the late 9th or 10th centuries, Arab and Persian traders also began to settle in the region.

During its medieval Golden Age, Mogadishu was ruled by the Somali-Arab Muzaffar dynasty, a vassal of the Ajuuraan State. It subsequently fell under the control of an assortment of local Sultanates and polities, most notably the Gobroon Dynasty. The city later became the capital of Italian Somaliland in the colonial period.

After the ousting of the Siad Barre regime and the ensuing civil war, various militias fought for control of the city, later to be replaced by the Islamic Courts Union. The ICU subsequently splintered into more radical groups, notably Al Shabaab, which have since been fighting the Transitional Federal Government and its AMISOM allies. With a change in administration in late 2010, federal control of Mogadishu steadily expanded. The pace of territorial gains also greatly accelerated, as more trained government and AMISOM troops entered the city. In early August 2011, government troops and their AMISOM partners had reportedly succeeded in forcing out Al-Shabaab from the parts of the city that the group had previously controlled. Mogadishu has subsequently experienced a period of intense reconstruction.


The name Mogadishu is held to be derived from the Persian مقعد شاه Maq'ad-i-Shah ("The seat of the Shah"), a reflection of the city's early Persian influence.


Early history

Engraving of the 13th century Fakr ad-Din Mosque built by Fakr ad-Din, the first Sultan of the Sultanate of Mogadishu.

Tradition and old records assert that southern Somalia, including the Mogadishu area, was inhabited in early historic times by hunter-gatherers of Bushman stock. Although most of these early inhabitants are believed to have been either overwhelmed, driven away or, in some cases, assimilated by later migrants to the area, physical traces of their occupation survive in certain ethnic minority groups inhabiting modern-day Jubaland and other parts of the south. The latter descendants include relict populations such as the Eile, the Wa-Ribi, and especially the Wa-Boni. By the time of the arrival of peoples from the Cushitic Rahanweyn or Digil and Mirifle clan confederacy, who would go on to establish a local aristocracy, other Cushitic groups affiliated with the Oromo (Wardai) and Ajuuraan (Ma'adanle) had already formed settlements of their own in the sub-region.

According to the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a Greek travel document dating from the turn of the Common Era, maritime trade already connected peoples in the Mogadishu area with other communities along the Indian Ocean coast.

Flag of the Ajuuraan State, a Somali empire of which medieval Mogadishu was an important vassal.

The Sultanate of Mogadishu later developed with the immigration of Emozeidi Arabs, a community whose earliest presence dates back to the 9th or 10th century. This evolved into the Muzaffar dynasty, a joint Somali-Arab federation of rulers, and Mogadishu became closely linked with the powerful Somali Ajuuraan State.

Following his visit to the city, the 12th century Syrian historian Yaqut al-Hamawi wrote that it was inhabited by dark-skinned Berbers, the ancestors of the modern Somalis.

For many years, Mogadishu stood as the pre-eminent city in the بلاد البربر Bilad-ul-Barbar ("Land of the Berbers"), which was the medieval Arabic term for the Horn of Africa.

By the time of the Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta's appearance on the Somali coast in 1331, the city was at the zenith of its prosperity. He described Mogadishu as "an exceedingly large city" with many rich merchants, which was famous for its high quality fabric that it exported to Egypt, among other places. He added that the city was ruled by a Somali Sultan originally from Berbera in northern Somalia who spoke both Somali (referred to by Battuta as Mogadishan, the Benadir dialect of Somali) and Arabic with equal fluency. The Sultan also had a retinue of wazirs (ministers), legal experts, commanders, royal eunuchs, and other officials at his beck and call.

The Portuguese would later attempt to occupy the city, but never managed to take it. The Hawiye Somali, however, were successful in defeating the Ajuuraan State and bringing about the end of Muzaffar rule.


Downtown Mogadishu in 1936. Arba Rucun mosque to the centre right.

By 1892, Mogadishu was under the joint control of the Somali Geledi Sultanate (which, also holding sway over the Shebelle region in the interior, was at the height of its power) and the Arab Sultan of Zanzibar.

In 1892, Ali bin Said leased the city to Italy. Italy purchased the city in 1905 and made Mogadishu the capital of the newly established Italian Somaliland. After World War I, the surrounding territory came under Italian control with some resistance.

Thousands of Italian colonists moved to live in Mogadishu and founded small manufacturing companies. They also developed some agricultural areas around the capital such as the Villaggio duca degli Abruzzi and the Genale.

In the 1930s, new buildings and avenues were built. A 114 km narrow-gauge railway was laid from Mogadishu to Jowhar, then called "Villaggio Duca degli Abruzzi". An asphalted road, the Strada Imperiale, was also constructed, intended to link Mogadishu to Addis Ababa.

Mogadishu would remain the capital of Italian Somaliland throughout its existence.


An avenue in Mogadishu in 1963.

British Somaliland became independent on 26 June 1960 as the State of Somaliland, and the Trust Territory of Somalia (the former Italian Somaliland) followed suit five days later. On July 1, 1960, the two territories united to form the Somali Republic, with Mogadishu serving as the nation's capital. A government was formed by Abdullahi Issa and other members of the trusteeship and protectorate governments, with Haji Bashir Ismail Yusuf as President of the Somali National Assembly, Aden Abdullah Osman Daar as President of the Somali Republic and Abdirashid Ali Shermarke as Prime Minister (later to become President from 1967 to 1969). On 20 July 1961 and through a popular referendum, the people of Somalia ratified a new constitution, which was first drafted in 1960. In 1967, Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal became Prime Minister, a position to which he was appointed by Shermarke.

On 15 October 1969, while paying a visit to the northern town of Las Anod, Somalia's then President Abdirashid Ali Shermarke was shot dead by one of his own bodyguards. His assassination was quickly followed by a military coup d'état on 21 October 1969 (the day after his funeral), in which the Somali Army seized power without encountering armed opposition — essentially a bloodless takeover. The putsch was spearheaded by Major General Mohamed Siad Barre, who at the time commanded the army.

Metropolitan Mogadishu in the 1980s.

Alongside Barre, the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) that assumed power after President Sharmarke's assassination was led by Lieutenant Colonel Salaad Gabeyre Kediye and Chief of Police Jama Korshel. Kediye officially held the title of "Father of the Revolution," and Barre shortly afterwards became the head of the SRC. The SRC subsequently renamed the country the Somali Democratic Republic, arrested members of the former civilian government, banned political parties, dissolved the parliament and the Supreme Court, and suspended the constitution.

The revolutionary army established various large-scale public works programs, including the Mogadishu Stadium. In addition to a nationalization program of industry and land, the Mogadishu-based new regime's foreign policy placed an emphasis on Somalia's traditional and religious links with the Arab world, eventually joining the Arab League (AL) in 1974.

After fallout from the unsuccessful Ogaden campaign of the late 1970s, the Barre administration began arresting government and military officials under suspicion of participation in the abortive 1978 coup d'état. Most of the people who had allegedly helped plot the putsch were summarily executed. However, several officials managed to escape abroad and started to form the first of various dissident groups dedicated to ousting Barre's regime by force.

Civil war

By the late 1980s, the moral authority of Barre's regime had collapsed. The authorities became increasingly totalitarian, and resistance movements, encouraged by Ethiopia's communist Derg administration, sprang up across the country. This eventually led in 1991 to the outbreak of the civil war, the toppling of Barre's government, and the disbandment of the Somali National Army (SNA). Many of the opposition groups subsequently began competing for influence in the power vacuum that followed the ouster of Barre's regime. Armed factions led by USC commanders General Mohamed Farah Aidid and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, in particular, clashed as each sought to exert authority over the capital.

A residential area of Mogadishu, with a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter in the foreground (1992).

UN Security Council Resolution 733 and UN Security Council Resolution 746 led to the creation of UNOSOM I, the first stabilization mission in Somalia after the dissolution of the central government. United Nations Security Council Resolution 794 was unanimously passed on December 3, 1992, which approved a coalition of United Nations peacekeepers led by the United States. Forming the Unified Task Force (UNITAF), the alliance was tasked with assuring security until humanitarian efforts were transferred to the UN. Landing in 1993, the UN peacekeeping coalition started the two-year United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II) primarily in the south.

Some of the militias that were then competing for power interpreted the UN troops' presence as a threat to their hegemony. Consequently, several gun battles took place in Mogadishu between local gunmen and peacekeepers. Among these was the Battle of Mogadishu of 1993, an unsuccessful attempt by US troops to apprehend faction leader Aidid. The UN soldiers eventually withdrew altogether from the country on March 3, 1995, having incurred more significant casualties.

In 2006, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), an Islamist organization, assumed control of much of the southern part of the country and promptly imposed Shari'a law. The new Transitional Federal Government (TFG), established two years earlier, sought to re-establish its authority. With the assistance of Ethiopian troops, AMISOM peacekeepers and air support by the United States, it managed to drive out the rival ICU and solidify its rule. On 8 January 2007, as the Battle of Ras Kamboni raged, TFG President and founder Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, a former colonel in the Somali Army, entered Mogadishu for the first time since being elected to office. The government then relocated to Villa Somalia in Mogadishu from its interim location in Baidoa, marking the first time since the fall of the Barre regime in 1991 that the federal government controlled most of the country.

Former Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmajo)'s technocratic administration is credited with having started the city's pacification, a process completed by his successor Abdiweli Mohamed Ali.

Following this defeat, the Islamic Courts Union splintered into several different factions. Some of the more radical elements, including Al-Shabaab, regrouped to continue their insurgency against the TFG and oppose the Ethiopian military's presence in Somalia. Throughout 2007 and 2008, Al-Shabaab scored military victories, seizing control of key towns and ports in both central and southern Somalia. At the end of 2008, the group had captured Baidoa but not Mogadishu. By January 2009, Al-Shabaab and other militias had managed to force the Ethiopian troops to retreat, leaving behind an under-equipped African Union peacekeeping force to assist the Transitional Federal Government's troops.

Between May 31 and June 9, 2008, representatives of Somalia's federal government and the moderate Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) group of Islamist rebels participated in peace talks in Djibouti brokered by the UN. The conference ended with a signed agreement calling for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops in exchange for the cessation of armed confrontation. Parliament was subsequently expanded to 550 seats to accommodate ARS members, which then elected a new president. With the help of a small team of African Union troops, the coalition government also began a counteroffensive in February 2009 to retake control of the southern half of the country. To solidify its control of southern Somalia, the TFG formed an alliance with the Islamic Courts Union, other members of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia, and Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a, a moderate Sufi militia.

In November 2010, a new technocratic government was elected to office, which enacted numerous reforms, especially in the security sector. By August 2011, the new administration and its AMISOM allies had managed to capture all of Mogadishu from the Al-Shabaab militants. Mogadishu has subsequently experienced a period of intense reconstruction spearheaded by the Somali diaspora, the municipal authorities and Turkey, an historic ally of Somalia.

Ethnic groups

Mogadishu is a multi-ethnic city. Its original core population consisted of Bushmen aboriginals, and later Cushitic, Arab and Persian migrants. During the Arab slave trade, many Bantu peoples were brought in for agricultural work from the market in Zanzibar. The mixture of these various groups produced the Benadiri or Reer Xamar (“People of Mogadishu”), a composite population unique to the larger Benadir region. In the colonial period, European expatriates, primarily Italians, would also contribute to the city's cosmopolitan populace.

The main area of inhabitation of Bantu ethnic minorities in Somalia has historically been in village enclaves in the south, particularly between the Jubba and Shebelle river valleys as well as the Bakool and Bay regions. Beginning in the 1970s, more Bantus began moving to urban centers such as Mogadishu and Kismayo. By the late 1980s, over 40 percent of Mogadishu's population consisted of individuals from ethnic minority groups. The displacement caused by the onset of the civil war in the 1990s further increased the number of rural minorities migrating to urban areas. As a consequence of these movements, Mogadishu's traditional demographic makeup has changed significantly over the years.


Mogadishu as seen from the International Space Station

Mogadishu is located at 2°4′N 45°22′E. The Shebelle River (Webiga Shabelle) rises in central Ethiopia and comes within 30 kilometers (19 mi) of the Indian Ocean near Mogadishu before turning southwestward. Usually dry during February and March, the river provides water essential for the cultivation of sugarcane, cotton, and bananas.

Features of the city include the Hamarwein old town, the Bakaara Market, and the former resort of Gezira Beach. The sandy beaches of Mogadishu are reported by the few Western travelers to be among the most beautiful in the world, offering easy access to vibrant coral reefs.

Administrative divisions

Location of the Banaadir administrative region (red).

Mogadishu is situated in Banaadir, an administrative region ( gobolka) in southeastern Somalia. The region itself is coextensive with the city and is much smaller than the historical province of Benadir.

Mogadishu is thus officially divided into the following administrative districts:

  • Abdiaziz District
  • Bondhere District
  • Daynile District
  • Dharkenley District
  • Hamar-Jajab District
  • Hamar-Weyne District
  • Heliwa District
  • Hodan District
  • Howl-Wadag District
  • Kaaraan District
  • Shangaani District
  • Shibis District
  • Waabari District
  • Wadajir District
  • Wardhigley renamed (Warta-nabada)District
  • Yaaqshiid District


For a city situated so near the equator, Mogadishu has a dry climate. It is classified as hot and semi-arid ( Köppen climate classification BSh). Much of the land the city lies upon is desert terrain. The city has a low annual rainfall of 427 millimetres (16.8 in), most which falls in the wet season. The rains are very variable from year to year, and drought is a constant problem for the people living in Somalia.

Sunshine is abundant in the city, averaging eight to ten hours a day year-round. It is lowest during the wet season, when there is some coastal fog and greater cloud coverage as warm air passes over the cool sea surface.

Climate data for Mogadishu
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 34
Average high °C (°F) 30.2
Average low °C (°F) 23.0
Record low °C (°F) 20
Rainfall mm (inches) 0
Avg. rainy days 0 0 0 5 6 10 9 7 3 2 4 1 47
 % humidity 78 78 77 77 80 80 81 81 81 80 79 79 79.3
Mean monthly sunshine hours 266.6 251.4 282.1 261.0 272.8 219.0 226.3 254.2 264.0 266.6 261.0 257.3 3,082.3
Source #1: Weltwetter Spiegel Online
Source #2: BBC Weather


A Coca-Cola bottling plant in Mogadishu.

Mogadishu traditionally served as a commercial and financial centre. Before the introduction of mass-produced cloth from Europe and America, the textiles of Mogadishu were forwarded far and wide throughout the interior of the continent, as well as to Arabia and even as far as the Persian coast.

The economy has recovered somewhat from the civil unrest, faring relatively better than other Somali cities, although the Somali Civil War still presents many problems. Hotels and other businesses have hired private security militias to provide protection and ensure the normal course of business.

Principal industries include food and beverage processing and textiles, especially cotton ginning. The main market offers goods from food to electronic gadgets.

Hormuud Telecom, the largest telecommunications company in southern and central Somalia, has its headquarters in Mogadishu. Telcom is another telecommunications service provider based in the city.

Jubba Airways has its head office in Mogadishu.



Roads leading out of Mogadishu connect the city to other localities in Somalia and to Ethiopia and Kenya. The city itself is cut into a several grid layouts by an extensive road network. Due to neglect brought on by the protracted civil war, there are few paved roads, but numerous unpaved and back streets throughout the city. The roads support the flow of both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. With the ouster of the Al-Shabaab rebels from the city in mid 2011, large-scale rehabilitation of roads and general infrastructure has begun.


A Somali Airlines Boeing 707-338C in flight (1984). The Mogadishu-based national carrier is set to be relaunched.

During the post-independence period, Mogadishu International Airport offered flights to numerous global destinations. In the mid-1960s, the airport was enlarged to accommodate more international carriers, with the state-owned Somali Airlines providing regular trips to all major cities. By 1969, the airport's many landing grounds could also host small jets and DC 6B-type aircraft.

The facility grew considerably in size in the post-independence period after numerous successive renovation projects. With the outbreak of the civil war in the early 1990s, Mogadishu International Airport's flight services experienced routine disruptions and its grounds and equipment were largely destroyed. In the late 2000s, the K50 Airport, situated 50 kilometers south of the capital, served as the capital's main airport while Mogadishu International Airport, now renamed Aden Adde International Airport, briefly shut down. However, in the late 2010 period, the security situation in Mogadishu had significantly improved, with the federal government eventually managing to assume full control of the city by August of the following year.

In late 2010, SKA Air and Logistics, a Dubai-based aviation firm that specializes in conflict zones, was contracted by Somalia's Transitional Federal Government to manage operations over a period of ten years at the re-opened Aden Adde International Airport. With concurrent activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other complex areas, the company is expected to run security screening, passenger security and terminals. SKA staff has also begun re-training Somalian airport personnel for the purpose. Although flights and other airport operations are presently limited to daylight hours, the firm is working on expanding activities once runway lighting and other features have been restored.

The Port of Mogadishu serves as a major national seaport.

As of 2012, the largest services using Aden Adde International Airport include the Somali-owned private carriers Jubba Airways and Daallo Airlines, in addition to UN charter planes, African Express Airways, and Turkish Airlines. The airport also offers flights to other Somalian cities such as Galkacyo, Berbera and Hargeisa, as well as international destinations like Djibouti, Jeddah, and Istanbul. In December 2011, the Turkish government unveiled plans to modernize the airport as part of Turkey's broader engagement in the local post-conflict reconstruction process. Among the scheduled renovations are new systems and infrastructure, including a modern control tower to monitor the airspace. In July 2012, Mohammed Osman Ali (Dhagah-tur), the General Director of the Ministry of Aviation and Transport, also announced that the Somali government had begun preparations to revive the Mogadishu-based national carrier, Somali Airlines.


Mogadishu leads Somalia in port traffic and still serves as a major seaport. While daily shipments bring in vehicles, foodstuffs and electronic goods, among other items, the port's monthly tax revenue never exceeded $900,000 due to kickbacks. In 2010, a new government was appointed to office, which then re-shuffled the port authority's staff. Monthly revenue from the city's port subsequently rose to a record $2.5 million.


There were projects during the 1980s to reactivate the 114 km railway between Mogadishu and Jowhar, built by the Italians in 1926 but dismantled in World War II by British troops. The Mogadishu-Villabruzzi Railway was planned in 1939 to reach Addis Ababa.


The Federal Government of Somalia has its seat in Mogadishu, the nation's capital.


The Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was the internationally recognized central government of Somalia between 2004 and 2012. Based in Mogadishu, it constituted the executive branch of government.

The Federal Government of Somalia was established on August 20, 2012, concurrent with the end of the TFG's interim mandate. It represents the first permanent central government in the country since the start of the civil war. The Federal Parliament of Somalia serves as the government's legislative branch.


Mogadishu's municipal government is currently led by Mayor Mohamed Nur, a former Labour Party member and business advisor to Islington Council in London. Since taking office in 2010, Nur's administration has enacted a number of reforms in a bid to improve the city's security and service delivery, including starting a garbage collection program, erecting proper streetlights and providing around-the-clock electricity, sacking corrupt public officials, and offering formal police protection. The municipal government has also firmed up on traffic safety, fining motorists who drive without lights, in the wrong street lanes or carrying excessive loads.


The Hamar Jajab School in Mogadishu

Despite the civil unrest, Mogadishu counts several institutions of higher learning. Mogadishu University (MU) is a non-governmental university that is governed by a Board of Trustees and a University Council. It is the brainchild of a number of professors from the Somali National University as well as other Somali intellectuals who sought to find ways to provide post-secondary education in the wake of the civil war. Financed by the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, as well as other donor institutions, the university counts hundreds of young Somali graduates from its seven faculties, some of whom continue on to pursue Master's degrees abroad thanks to a scholarship program. Mogadishu University has established partnerships with several other academic institutions, including the University of Aalborg in Denmark, three universities in Egypt, seven universities in Sudan, the University of Djibouti, and two universities in Yemen. It has also been scored among the 100 best universities in Africa in spite of the harsh environment, which has been hailed as a triumph for grass-roots initiatives.

New Mogadishu University campus

The Somali National University, founded in 1954 during the "Italian Trust Administration of Somalia" (AFIS), has been closed indefinitely due to extensive damage.

Benadir University (BU) was established in 2002 with the intention of training doctors. It has since expanded into other fields.

Due to human capital shortage in the country's private sector management, the Somali Institute of Management and Administration Development (SIMAD) has given priority to the fields of business administration, information technology and accountancy.



The city is home to Mogadishu Stadium, which plays host to the Somalia Cup and to football teams from the Somalia League. The New Somali Youth League grassroots organization based in Mogadishu has also started the Swap Gun for Job and Sports Campaign aimed at discouraging youngsters in the city from engaging in vice by offering them employment opportunities and sporting activities.


Somali popular music enjoys a large audience in Mogadishu, and was widely sold prior to the civil war. With the government managing to secure the city in mid-2011, radios once again play music. On March 19, 2012, an open concert was also held in the city, which was broadcast live on local television.

Notable Mogadishans

Born in Mogadishu, supermodel Iman was the first Somali woman to appear on the cover of Vogue in 1979 and to sign a cosmetics contract.
  • Ali Mohammed Ghedi, former Prime Minister of Somalia
  • Ayub Daud, professional footballer
  • Cristina Ali Farah, author and intellectual
  • Fatima Siad, fashion model
  • Hassan Abshir Farah, former Prime Minister of Somalia and Mayor of Mogadishu
  • Iman, supermodel
  • K'naan, award-winning musician
  • Mo Farah, international track and field athlete
  • Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, former Prime Minister of Somalia
  • Mohamed Nur, Mayor of Mogadishu
  • Mustafa Mohamed, professional athlete
  • Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, former Prime Minister of Somalia
  • Rageh Omaar, award-winning journalist
  • Sa'id of Mogadishu, 14th century Islamic scholar and traveler
  • Saba Anglana, international singer and actress
  • Shaykh Sufi, 19th century scholar, poet, reformist and astrologist
  • Yasmin Warsame, supermodel
  • Zahra Bani, professional athlete

Sister city

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