Wednesday, 24 April 2013

20 minutes inside a Caasi (Bus)

An Caasi (Bus)

“Xamar weyne Xamar Weyne” screams one guy, clutching onto anything he can grab, whether the top of the bus or at the back standing on the bottom of the boot where the license plates are present. “Shaqaalaha Shaqaalaha” the other screams, trying to block the sound of his rival. Xamar weyne and Shaqaalaha are just 2 of many different areas in Mogadishu. 

 As my car was presumably “borrowed for a few days” by a friend of mine, which in fact turned into a week and a half, I’m currently standing in Maka Al Mukarama road, the main road that connects the city.

 I’m planning to head out to Xamar weyne to buy a shirt to relax in Mogadishu’s heat. I listened quietly and headed towards the first guy screaming my destination and gave him a signal, a nod or an arm swing or even a sound that is common here, “ssst ssst”! In Mogadishu, Caasi (Bus) drivers will not spare anyone. They would hussle you and scream in your face the part of town they headed just to get you on board. The most extreme case I had witnessed one time when I was driving was seeing 2 rivals arguing over a passenger were one conductor took the Keffiyeh (scarf) of a gentleman, ran back to his caasi knowing the fact the he would be chased back in order to get the passenger seated. They spare no-one. Its business and in the Caasi industry, the one with the loudest voice tends to win, pure and simple. 

Trying to bungle in, a 6ft3 guy, inside a caasi with a small head length, it’s a tough job but an experience I will never forget. Remember, there are no doors with these caasi’s. This is done to maximize the capacity and people hang on from the outside to where sometimes would even sit on the roof!

But this time, I got a grandma with a hen inside a cage sitting on my left and one young soldier with his Ak-47 facing down and thank god for that, sitting on my right. I’m stuck between the 2 and another guy squeezed on the left side of the soldier. I thought “This is brilliant, what a start”.

As we headed down Maka Al mukarama road doing 40mph amid arguments, loud phone conversations and some teasing being dished out at the front seat were 3 people had somehow adjusted, a lady at the back with her shopping bags signals to the driver she had arrived at her stop and a sharp touch of the brakes, the caasi suddenly comes to a halt. Inside are 3 rows of seats and I thought “how will she get out with all these people in front”? But I underestimated the power of the caasi. The inductor, a guy with khat in one hand and money on the other, opens up the bonnet of the car were, to my amazement, I literally saw the mother climb off from the back. 

I looked around to see if anyone else was surprised as me to were my astonishment, 2 other’s had climbed on from the back and bundled in with an already roughed up back row, all eager just for the driver to move in order for the breeze to swerve their faces briefly, momentary defeating the heat of the sun. 

Caasi drivers are known as "King of the roads"
The driver, who has reasonably been quite so far only to see him shout occasionally at rivals, revved off without any hesitation. Within 10 yards, the soldier taps the roof to signal he had intended to get off. Me, already struggling, now had to make room for another tall bloke with an Ak47. The only thing I had to make sure, in my mind, was to avoid the eye of the weapon. I don’t remember how I made room but trust me, I somehow did!

As we were arriving to my destination with a jam packed vehicle, I was glad in one sense and a bit gutted that my journey was coming to a brief end. The 3 at the front, who took full charge, had been teasing one other passenger at the back which had made even the driver, with a no nonsense face, chuckle. From the look of it, the teasing was only going to get worse.

Approaching, I had followed the route of the soldier and tapped with my fist the roof of the Caasi to make my signal with again, a harsh brake halts us, making us all lean forward from the pressure. 

I tried to bundle out, with “Excuse me, excuse me, sorry, thank you” tone which I had been doing 20 years in London but to no avail. A lady with a hen is sitting at the only path out. We are inside a Caasi and I realized the only thing that works is a loud voice. “Haye, ka leexo!” (Ok, move) was all I said with a tough tone and it thankfully did the magic. 

Getting off, I paid my 8,000 shillings (Less than a dollar), looked at the caasi, off to continue its adventure without me. 

Oh how I love this city.

Mohamed Hassan (Dj)

Monday, 15 April 2013

1 terrible day in Mogadishu

Where do we start? Send out deep condolences’ to all the victims of yesterdays painful events.  A moment of madness, confusion and state of fear. The city of Mogadishu was paralyzed on the 14th of April 2013 with a Taliban style type of attack at the Supreme Court in Xamar Weyne. It showed the vulnerability of the city and it must be a lesson to our armed forces to be more aware and vigilant regarding the activities of terrorist and their sympathizers. 

In what started as a normal working day, the city was buzzing and life was being carried on by citizens, trying to forget and forgive one another in order to move forward as a people. I was busy making plans to head out to the beach with a cousin of mine and before we know it, phone call after another informing me of the tragedy that was unfolding inside the court. My Father, who works inside Gobolka Banadir, was the first person to contact me. He told me pretty simple, “Son, we are all right inside our building but there is some fighting within the court and a lot of innocent people died”, a stab in the heart to our peace process and confidence with Mogadishu. We all thought the corner has been turned. 

As my work branch is located in the heart of the city, we hear whenever an explosion takes place within our radius. A thick boom which is instantly recognizable and a look at colleagues at their eyes suggest something terrible has just taken place. A feeling I wouldn’t want anybody to witness.

I got up, cleared my desk and headed straight out trying to keep the phone online with my father. I knew almost everybody would try to contact him to see if he was safe but I didn’t want to hang up just to be confident. I thought about driving towards the area or even close by but realized that in Mogadishu, trust is rare and anything is possible so I did the rather other smart decision and went over to our house.

Patiently waiting, news was spreading over the attacks and I looked around, fear was what had taken over people’s faces. To me, a good sign as I am sure citizens of Mogadishu had witnessed worse attacks but it outlined to me that the city had gotten used to the period of peace we currently are witnessing and that nobody wanted to let it go.

As my father walked in, I realized that once you leave the front door, anything is feasible as I am sure that it is in any other city across the world. Life is unpredictable and one can never know what is around the corner. 

Trying to clear our minds and updating my audience in social media sites, we heard another explosion, this time; it was close, just after the KM4 junction heading out to the airport with gunfire following. We thought, ok we are now under attack so what is our administration doing? But then you realize that our government is not to blame for these cowardly attacks, after all, we only are just reviving from 21 years of no authority. We are at war and the enemy is amongst us. Peace will take time and we must have faith and support our authorities to defeat this common enemy we all have. 

Evening news had cleared more on the events which have taken place on this painful day. As it is in nations across the world, when a national tragedy occurs, it unites the people more. But would this terrible event of 14th April 2013 unite us to boost our war with these Terrorist organizations? Only time will tell.

Cowardly attacks like this should only make us more determine to reclaim our beautiful nation.

Mohamed Hassan (Dj)