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9557News from Somalia and Somali Muslims: Dab Shi d – An ancient pre-Islamic culture that evo lved into religion and culture

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  • Zafar Khan
    Oct 25, 2014
      Dab Shid – An ancient pre-Islamic culture that evolved into religion and culture
      Oct 7, 2014 | By Abdulkadir Abiikar

      http://www.somalicurrent.com/2014/10/07/somalia-dab-shid-an-ancient-pre-islamic-culture-that-evolved-into-religion-and-culture/

      When I was a kid in Jammaame, in every early August, the farms were at their harvest time. Maize, sorghum, beans, peas, sesame, pumpkins, cotton and many types of fruits were ready for harvest: mango, grapefruit and lemon and water melon. This is the time of the plenty and it is time for celebration.

      The Dab Shid is a time for celebration of the bounties. But not only that, the culture of Dab Shid is a remnant belief of the past, probably when the Somalis believed in ” Waaq”. It indicates a time when Somalia was not a Muslim country – a pagan period of time. The Dab Shid is the beginning of the Solar Year in Somalia. Each family starts a fire and it is required that each member jumps over it in order to move, for example from 8 to 9 years old. I remember I used to jump every year one time in order to move to the next year. If I did not do that, it simply meant that I was not blessed for the next year. Such belief has faded away over the years and in its place Islam has taken deep roots.

      As time passed and the Somali people moved from the ancient times to the Islamic periods, and Somalis became Muslims, the tradition of Dab Shid did not die but it evolved slightly into a religious ceremony. The burning of the fire is still here, but it also signifies a new connotation: – a time for the southern clans to come together in a general assembly meeting, whereby the Sub-clans show their force and their number. The clans read Qura’an and slaughter mainly 114 sheep or goats (an animal for each surah of the Qura’n), hoping that the new year becomes a good year without any crisis, famine, draught or flooding or a locust year or a year free of spreading diseases. The people pray together to hope for the best year to come. Clans such as the Baadicadde, Abgaal, Shiidle, Sheeqaal, Biimaal, Gelledi, Wacdaan, Murusade, Ajuuraan, Gaaljecel and many others in the South, particularly along and between the Rivers Shabeelle and Juba celebrate the Dab
      Shid. In the Jubaland area, the practice of Dab Shid is well known to Mareexaan, the Reer Guri type. the Absame, Awrtable, and even Harti and Cawr Maleh, the Gaaljecel, Dagoodi, Garre and Ajuuraan and others.

      Apart from the belief, the people come together for folklore dances, endless competitions for 3 days. Exhibitions of clan dances and manueuvers. Dab Shid is a time when people enjoy.

      In Afgooye District, 30 km west of Mogadishu, the two main clans, Wacdan on the Eastern Bank of the Shabeelle River and the Geledi clan on the West bank of the river compete in Istunka, which means the “smacking”. The men from the clans line up in rows facing each other and a referee from a third minority clan blows the buun made from an Ankola cattle or a big shell. That marks the Istunka Celebrations for the Dab Shid.

      The case of Dab Shid in Marka, the Capital City of Lower Shabeelle Region is different. It is purely done with the fire celebrations and the folklore dances. The dances are so attractive that the people of Mogadishu flock to participate and enjoy the great festival of the Aw Cusmaan.

      In Jilib and Jammaame of Lower Juba, the celebrations are done through the show of force of the clans. The Biimaal and the Sheeqaal clan mix the celebrations with religious rites, mainly done on remote sites on the Indian Ocean, such as Kurta Sheikh. The men parade though the towns and villages, waving spears, with their “lashins” heading the poems – a sign of a successful year.

      In the Northeast in Puntland, the dab-shid is not well known. There is something called Nayruus in which some clans celebrate. But the Nayruus in Puntland is imported from Iran and across the Arabian Gulf. The song of Abdulkadir Ali Egaal, sang by Halima Khaliif Magool and Mohammed Sulaimaan describes the Nayruus as ” Nayruusku waa ciid waa nagi adduunyaduu”

      Abdulkadir Abiikar Hussein; qaadir.abiikar@...; Mogadishu, Somalia.
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      Denver Somalis fear fallout from trio's apparent bid to join militants
      By DAVID KELLY

      http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-denver-teens-20141023-story.html

      Abi Mohammed was dashing about his small kitchen early Wednesday preparing rice and goat for the lunchtime rush when he paused to get something off his chest.

      "I don't care if they are young, they should be prosecuted," said Mohammed, owner of Kin Restaurant in a south Denver strip mall jammed with East African businesses. "They need to charge them or we are all going to pay for it."

      Mohammed, like so many Muslims in Denver, was struggling to make sense of the news that three local teenage girls had been stopped in Germany apparently on their way to Syria to join the militant group Islamic State. Although he couldn't specify what sort of punishment, he felt some sanction was required to prevent further incidents.

      The news has caused widespread shock and anxiety among Denver's Somali community, whose members say they fear the case will cast suspicion on all of them. A handful of Somalis from Minneapolis and Columbus, Ohio, have joined Islamic militant groups such as the Shabab in Somalia, and major efforts are underway in those cities to preempt the further radicalization of Somali youths.

      Authorities say two sisters, ages 15 and 17, of Somali descent and a third girl, 16, from Sudan were reported missing Friday and were stopped by officials at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. They had apparently lied to their parents about their whereabouts and stole $2,000 to finance the trip.

      The girls even tweeted their plans to friends at school, who either warned them against going or wished them well, according to the Denver Post. The teens have returned to Denver and will not face local charges, according to a spokesman for the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office. The FBI is investigating but would not comment on the possibility of federal charges.

      "They were all underage, and fortunately we were able to assist in finding them," said a senior FBI official, speaking to the Los Angeles Times on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing. "We're not sure yet who was influencing whom, or why. But they are all safe."

      A sheriff's deputy who went to check on the Somali sisters at their home Monday found them asleep in their bedroom. Their mother woke them up to speak to the deputy, a sheriff's office report said.

      "I asked them why they went to Germany, and they said, 'Family,' and would not elaborate on any other details about their trip," the deputy wrote in the report.

      Few in their community believe the girls acted alone. Tustin Amole, a spokesman for the Cherry Creek School District, told the Associated Press that at least one of the girls was communicating with someone online encouraging them to go to Syria.

      "They were young and ignorant," Mohammed said. "How do teenagers get aboard international flights alone? This was a process.

      "Listen to me, Somalis love talking about politics," he said. "They never stop.

      "I worry that these kids hear their parents talking about ISIS and take it seriously," he said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

      The neat and tidy apartment complex where the girls live was quiet Wednesday. A few news crews milled around, but few people were talking. A family spokesman who had earlier reported that the girls were in good health could not be reached for comment.

      The apartments have a large contingent of Africans, many from Somalia. Women in colorful veils glided along the sidewalks while men gathered beside taxis Wednesday to talk and smoke, with some speculating about the girls.

      "This whole thing is too close for comfort," said Rafael Vorvor, 31, of Ghana, who lives in the complex. "I don't think the girls were doing it because they hate America; I think they did it for love. They were taken in by ISIS propaganda."

      Vorvor plays soccer with Somalis.

      "I ran into one Somali kid who was saying all of these radical things, but then he disappeared," he said. "I told him, 'You don't bite the hand that feeds you.'"

      Not far away at the Mile High Halal Market, Abdullah Gass, 40, from Somalia, said he knew the uncle of the two sisters.

      "They are very poor people," he said. "They have nothing."

      He suspects someone else was bankrolling the trip. But authorities said the girls took the money from their parents.

      "The problem with all of these people is that they don't understand Islam," Gass said. "They get so many messages from every direction."

      His friend Yusef Abbi, 37, a limo driver, chimed in.

      "They don't even know how to pray!" he exclaimed.

      Gass, standing behind the counter, grew serious.

      "There are maybe 4,000 or 6,000 Somalis around here and Denver is a very peaceful place for us," he said. "My fear is this will change all of that."

      That fear was echoed across town inside the teeming MandeeQ Restaurant where a dozen or so Somalis gathered to eat, play pool and watch soccer.

      "We are still suffering from Sept. 11, and whenever something like this happens, we have to return to the beginning," said the restaurant manager who identified himself only as Abdi. "These kids were probably brainwashed. It's shocking for us because we are not a radical population."

      nation@...

      Times staff writer Michael Muskal in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

      Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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      SOMALIS CELEBRATE EID AL-ADHA
      Oct 5, 2014 | By Somalicurrent

      http://www.somalicurrent.com/2014/10/05/somalis-celebrate-eid-al-adha/

      Muslim faithful all over Somalia have thronged to mosques in Mogadishu,Somalia today (October 3) to celebrate Eid al-Adha.

      The day’s celebrations are characterized by early morning prayers, theslaughtering of goats and sheep, visits to family and friends and a few hours spent enjoying the sun and sands of the capital’s famous Lido Beach.

      With the relative peace currently being enjoyed after extremist group al-Shabaab was forced out of most urban settlements, significant celebrations like this can now be held freely in the Horn of Africa country.

      “I’m very glad today to say Happy Eid to all Muslim countries, the world’s Muslims; we say it is a very big day today, we are happy, especially the Somali people are very happy today. We are here in Mogadishu as you see, it is a very peaceful place and we hope it will be better and better,” said Mohamud Mohammed, who recently relocated to Mogadishu.

      Eid al-Adha is known as the feast of the sacrifice and honors the willingness of prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his only son Ishmael. Many Somali Muslimssay they are also giving thanks for improved security in their country. Prayers today at Mogadishu’s landmark Isbahaysi Mosque were attended by the country’s leaders.“I’m here at the Isbahaysi Mosque to say my Eid prayers. We were led by theSpeaker of Parliament and Acting President of Somalia Osman Jawari. I’d like to say Eid Mubarak and send greetings to all Somalis,” said Fatuma Mohamed who lives in Mogadishu.

      “All Muslim people I say God bless us and give us rewards for today’s prayers. This is a day of happiness for all Muslims, especially the Somalis. AllSomalis are here at Isbahaysi Mosque. Allah has given us peace through out the year until now and I hope all Somalis can reconcile with each other,” added Abdullahi Ibrahim Salah, who is also a Mogadishu resident.

      A joint force of Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers and troops with AMISOM are closing in on al- Shabaab’s last major stronghold with the aim of giving Somalia another reason to celebrate very soon.
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      BOMB IN SOMALIA LEAVES THREE WORKERS DEAD, EIGHT INJURED
      AA Updated : 03.08.2014 12:36:27 Published : 03.08.2014 12:07:10

      http://www.dailysabah.com/africa/2014/08/03/bomb-in-somalia-leaves-10-workers-dead-eight-injured

      MOGADISHU, Somalia — A bombing on Sunday morning in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, killed at least three city cleaners and left others injured.
      Witnesses said that cleaning women who arrived at a city square to clean were killed when explosives inside a plastic bag detonated. Three workers were reportedly killed on the scene, others were injured. Some of those injured were described as in critical condition.

      A large number of ambulances and security forces are present at the site of the bombing.

      No claim of responsibility has been made for the bombing as yet.

      The al-Shabaab organization is suspected, given they are currently in conflict with the central government of Somalia.
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      Somali MP shot dead outside mosque by al-Shabab
      1 August 2014

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-28614601

      A Somali MP has been assassinated in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu - the fifth parliamentarian to be killed this year.

      Aden Madeer was shot when he left a mosque in the city after Friday prayers, witnesses said.

      The Islamist militant group al-Shabab told the BBC it carried out the assassination.

      The al-Qaeda aligned militants said they would continue to target MPs who supported the UN-backed government.

      Mr Madeer was the chairman of the parliamentary finance committee.

      Last month, popular musician and MP Saado Ali Warsame was shot dead by al-Shabab gunmen.

      "The murder of MPs is an attempt to intimidate and undermine those working to build a better Somalia. Their killers will not achieve that objective," UN envoy Nicholas Kay said in a statement.

      "I commend Somalia's MPs for their courage and dedication in the face of continued attacks against them," he said.

      Al-Shabab advocates the strict Saudi-inspired Wahhabi version of Islam and is battling the government to create an Islamic state.

      Some 22,000 African Union troops are helping the government try to win back territory from the group.

      They have taken back several key cities over the last three years, but al-Shabab still controls many smaller towns and rural areas of the country - and regularly launches attacks in Mogadishu.
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      Al-Shabab's 'halal' football a different game
      In Somalia’s rebel-ruled territories, a slightly different version to the beautiful game governed by FIFA is played.
      Last modified: 11 Jun 2014 02:22

      http://blogs.aljazeera.com/blog/africa/al-shababs-halal-football-different-game
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      Somalis yearn for a musical renaissance
      Known for its musicians before the 1991 civil war, Somali performers say insecurity still dampens cultural pursuit.
      Hamza Mohamed Last updated: 02 Apr 2014 13:43

      http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/04/somalis-yearn-musical-renaissance-mogadishu-20144212135737200.html

      Mogadishu, Somalia - Just before the weekend, a crowd of about 20 people gather around silver-haired Jiim Sheikh Muumin at a sandy white beach on the edge of the Somali capital.

      Jiim, as everyone refers to him, is a well-known Somali musician and actor and the crowd of mainly young men has gathered to hear him sing.

      Thirty years ago, Somalis would have paid a fortune to watch him perform at Mogadishu's national theatre - let alone rub shoulders with him at Liido beach.

      Before the civil war, he was a rock star with a big Afro and bell-bottom jeans.

      But times have changed and the civil war turned Jiim's world upside down.

      The 68-year-old father-of-eleven has been performing since he was 17, and is one of the few entertainers to have remained in Mogadishu through decades of bloodshed.

      "Most [musicians] have run away. Some have gone to Europe, others to Canada and America," he said of his former friends and colleagues."I don't blame them. They did what every human being will do when there is war; run away for safety."

      Under Siad Barre, the military strongman who ruled Somalia for 20 years, musicians and entertainers lived well. The most popular bands were state-employed and were financially well off. Lavish gifts such as cars, homes and all expenses paid holidays were common.

      All they had to do in return was entertain the public - in order to keep them busy and flocking towards the beachside dance floors and away from the political arena.

      "That life was a fantasy. This [pointing to the bullet battered crumbling buildings near the beach] is a bad dream turned into a reality," he said. "We had everything we could ever wish for. But above all we had dignity."

      War dampens the scene

      Jiim fared better than some musicians who also chose to remain in the city throughout the civil war.
      ...
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      Somalis fear 'death-sentence' deportations
      The UK has quietly been returning asylum seekers to Mogadishu, despite the threat of al-Shabab.
      Simon Hooper Last updated: 22 Mar 2014 10:17

      http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/03/somalis-fear-death-sentence-deportations-2014320105055706973.html

      London, United Kingdom - When Ismail finally touched down on British soil early last year, after being smuggled over land and through the air from Somalia, he believed he was finally on the verge of beginning a new life.

      "The Britain I had in mind was one in which they welcomed people of different colour, different religion and different backgrounds and where human rights were respected," Ismail, who preferred not to use his real name, told Al Jazeera.

      "I wanted to live in a safe place where I could just study and work and help my family and support myself, so what happened to me was a big shock."

      Less than a year after failing in his bid to claim asylum in the UK, Ismail found himself handcuffed, forcibly placed aboard an airplane bound for the Somali capital, Mogadishu - a journey Ismail holds would have effectively been a death sentence.

      Ismail is one of a handful of known cases of Somali refugees recently detained and told they are to be returned to their conflict-stricken country, despite the severe security concerns and legal obstacles that have made it virtually impossible until now for British immigration officials to send them home.

      Members of Somali communities in the UK, as well as campaign groups and solicitors working on behalf of asylum seekers, say they fear these cases point to a tougher approach and a new returns programme at the Home Office, the UK's interior ministry - one that could endanger the lives of many others whose asylum claims are rejected.

      "When I told people in the Somali community what the Home Office was doing to me they said, 'No, that's impossible, it's unheard of. Nobody is stupid enough to remove people to Mogadishu,'" said Ismail.

      'Be quiet'

      Yet at the end of January, after three weeks in a detention centre near a London airport, Ismail was bundled into a van, pushed aboard a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul and seated at the back of the plane between three guards tasked with removing him from the UK.
      ...
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      Somali farmers benefit from al-Shabab reforms
      In Somalia's breadbasket, many welcome al-Shabab's move to expel foreign aid groups and build canals.
      Hamza Mohamed Last updated: 11 Mar 2014 09:53

      http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/03/somali-farmers-benefit-from-al-shabab-reforms-201431053038814400.html

      Bulo Mareer, Somalia - It is just after 8am and Sheikh Abu Abdullahi is busy inspecting what he refers to as his latest "anti-NGO" project: workers digging new canals in Bulo Mareer, a town in Somalia's Lower Shabelle province.

      The diggers have been at work since 6am, as part of a province-wide canal-building project that was launched about two and a half years ago. Al-Shabab - the al-Qaeda-linked rebel group fighting against Somalia's internationally backed government - has so far spent about $2m on the project, along with others like it in south and central Somalia, according to the group.

      Three months have passed since the last drop of rain hit Bulo Mareer, but thanks to the numerous canals and waterways, the town is lush and green.

      In a seven-hectare maize farm on the outskirts of this riverside town, Hussein Mohamed Ali, 66, is still in an ecstatic mood after one of the canals reached his farm a month ago. "I don't have to wait for the rains any more," he said, holding tomatoes plucked from the plants on his farm. "Before, I will have been very lucky if I had one harvest a year. Now I'm expecting at least three harvests in the next 12 months."

      Kicking out the NGOs

      In November 2011, in a much-criticised move, al-Shabab banned foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from areas it controlled, accusing some of the organisations of "illicit activities and misconduct".

      "We want our people to be free of NGOs and foreign hands. We want them to depend on each other and to stand free of outsiders," Sheikh Abu Abdullah, the al-Shabab governor of Lower Shabelle province, told Al Jazeera.

      Lower Shabelle is Somalia's breadbasket. During the famine of 2011, which killed more than 250,000 people, the province was hit hard. Many people moved to camps for internally displaced persons in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

      On the other side of the town is the farm of Abdi Haji Qarawi, a 47-year-old who is the father of 18 children. On one side of his 17-hectare sesame farm stand triangular heaps of sesame drying in the scorching mid-afternoon sun.

      Before the banning of NGOs and the construction of the town's canals, Qarawi says he was a "beggar". "Every last week of the month we used to go to the NGOs' office to ask for food. Sometime they will tell us there was no food. It was a shameful life." Two years after deciding to return to farming, Qarawi is a happy man. "All my children go to school. I can afford to send them to study and I have surplus cash," he said with a smile.

      According to data from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the number of people in crisis in Somalia is at its lowest since famine was declared in Somalia in 2011. FAO credits average to above average rainfall, low food prices and sustained humanitarian response for the improvements.

      In a statement Luca Alinovi, the head of the FAO in Somalia, told Al Jazeera: "FAO operates in Lower Shabelle… [and] works through a range of local and international organisations to reach some of the most vulnerable communities in Somalia. Currently, FAO is working in areas of Afgoye, Awdegle and Wanla Weyne in Lower Shabelle through implementing partners."

      He added that the FAO has no information regarding whether al-Shabab was responsible for the improvements. FAO will not explicitly say whether they operate in al-Shabab areas.

      'They killed every incentive to farm'

      But farmers here see the turn of their fortunes differently. The area's newfound prosperity "is because of the NGO ban", said Mohamed Sheikh Abdi, the chairman of the Bulo Mareer farmers union. "They always brought food to the town weeks before the harvest... They bought their food from abroad and never bought from us local farmers. They killed every incentive to farm. We were hostage to the NGOs."

      Restaurant owners have also benefited from the NGOs' absence. Al-Shabab offers tax exemptions and free rent to restaurants that sell only locally produced food. In every town controlled by the rebel group in the Lower Shabelle, so-called qutul wadani ("national dish") restaurants have popped up and are proving popular.

      Abdirashid Xaji, 38, runs one such restaurant. It is dinnertime and the restaurateur, a father of 13, is busy giving orders to his staff. His restaurant was the first to open, but four others have since opened their doors in Bulo Mareer, a town of about 30,000 inhabitants.

      "On a very quiet day, we serve 150 people. On a busy day like Fridays, we serve three times that number," he said. "We are popular because people now know the health and economic benefits of eating locally produced food. Doctors have also told them to eat local food."

      Abdullahi Boru, a Horn of Africa security analyst, said al-Shabab is "attempting to kill two birds with one stone: Make people food-secure, and increase their long-term revenue base."

      'Honey trap' fears

      By not taxing farmers for their land but for what they produce, Boru said al-Shabab is encouraging more people to farm - which means more tax income from the increased produce. And by providing rent-free premises for restaurateurs who serve only locally sourced food, the group is maintaining the demand for local food and safeguarding their coffers, he added.

      Al-Shabab's decision to ban aid organisations could also help minimise risks to the armed group's security. "Making the residents self-sufficient reduces the opportunity for relief aid - a 'honey trap' for intelligence gathering by the Western aid agencies."

      Regardless of al-Shabab's motives for banning NGOs and building canals, many locals have welcomed the developments. "Before, I was a beggar. Now what I produce with my two hands in my farm is sold in the markets of Mogadishu. God sent us al-Shabab to chase [out] the NGOs," said Qarawi, the sesame farmer.

      Follow Hamza Mohamed on Twitter: @Hamza_Africa
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      UN warns of ‘grave humanitarian crisis’ in Somalia as more than 850,000 face starvation
      While international aid comes under threat, agency says ‘we need to keep our attention on Somalia’
      ADAM WITHNALL Author Biography Wednesday 19 February 2014

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/un-warns-of-grave-humanitarian-crisis-in-somalia-as-more-than-850000-face-starvation-9138630.html
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      Sisters of Somalia
      Asha Hagi Elmi and her sister Amina spearhead efforts to bring dignity to the women of Mogadishu's refugee camps.
      Witness Last Modified: 02 Jul 2013 22:54

      http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/2013/07/20137112549633235.html

      [VIDEO]
      Asha Hagi Elmi is a humanitarian activist, internationally recognised for her work helping to build peace and defend the rights of women in Somalia. Witness journeys with Asha to the refugee camps of Mogadishu, swelled to bursting point in 2011 by tens of thousands of Somalis fleeing drought and the threat of famine.

      Asha, her sister Amina and other women from the NGO she founded, Saving Somali Women and Children (SSWC), distribute food, clothing, medical and practical aid, lend an ear to the refugees' stories and, most of all, attempt to restore dignity to the lives of the often traumatised and extremely vulnerable women and children they meet in the camps.

      Filmmaker's view
      By Mags Gavan & Joost van der Valk

      We met Asha Elmi Hagi in August 2012. We had tried to film in Somalia with Asha and the NGO, Save Somali Women and Children (SSWC), for almost half a year before we were actually able to go safely.

      We had no idea what to expect in Somalia, but prepared for the worst. Mogadishu was a very dangerous city, meaning we had to get in and get out as quickly as possible. But we wanted to be able to show the very real situation on the ground in Mogadishu and especially from the viewpoint of the women and children living in displaced peoples' camps across the city. Practically, this was going to be a difficult film to make; we would have to shoot the complete film in no less than three days, with only a few hours per day in which to do it.

      On arrival at Mogadishu Airport we were first struck by the beauty of the coastal area. But the reality of being in conflict-ridden Somalia soon hit home. We were informed about a shooting that had happened at the airport just before we had arrived and we were told to be on guard. We had booked ourselves into a hotel and the owner, Bashir, came to collect us at the airport. He arranged our security and ensured that we were taken care of from the moment we stepped off the plane.

      The reality of a country that has been at war for 20 years was apparent from the moment we left the airport. On exit our vehicle was joined by a pick-up truck filled with no less than 12 heavily armed security guards who were to be our escort during our stay. In the high-octane ride to the hotel, we soared past burnt-out cars and buildings riddled with bullet holes.

      The hotel was a pleasant surprise in every sense. In the lobby, an old lady sold Somali football shirts and old postcards of Mogadishu, featuring Italianate buildings. We bought a few postcards, but had no idea if those buildings still existed or not.

      We had arrived early and were to meet Asha from SSWC and her sister at lunch time. She would also be staying at the hotel with us as it was one of the safest places in town. We had already read so much about Asha and SSWC's work and had spoken many times to her on the phone, but we had not expected such dynamic, fearless and beautiful women. They were all fasting for Ramadan but still adamant that it would not affect our schedule.

      The first trip was to ‘Zone K', an area that was still very dangerous and tense. We were told that we should try to go in and film as quickly as possible so that no "enemies of life and peace" would be alerted to our presence. It was our first time travelling through the city and Asha was also travelling back to areas she had not been able to visit for a long time. On her face we saw the pain of someone returning to a place they had once loved. Asha was experiencing the absolute devastation that had taken place. It was really emotional hearing stories of what the city was like, and how people thrived before the war. We still had the postcards of old Mogadishu in our pockets; now, all we could see from the windows were destroyed buildings, people with guns on the streets and intense poverty everywhere you looked.

      Asha took us around the camp and explained the terrible conditions the refugees were living in. She was especially concerned about the security issues and the number of rapes against women. At one point it became very tense and we were suddenly ushered out by security.

      Even though we had filmed some seemingly hopeless situations, the team at SSWC believed that peace was on the horizon and told us they were determined to help their people and their country, even if it meant they would have to die for this cause. They took us to the huge camps where thousands of people were surviving. It was overwhelming to see such tragic conditions, people living in little more than makeshift tents, hungry and desperate.

      We heard so many tragic stories, but it was really the children's faces that affected us the most. The depression and trauma of losing family and friends was written all over their faces. When Asha's sister Amina handed out a very basic dignity kit with soap, underwear, a headscarf and some sanitary products to the women and girls in the camp, it was clear just how such a small thing could mean so much. It was even more touching to see the women in the camp smile, not just because of the dignity kit but because Asha, Amina and the SSWC team took time to talk to them and to let them know they cared. And we were also struck by how funny and friendly people were, despite the tragic stories we heard.

      On our last night, the dinner menu in the hotel offered a daring combination of lobster and camel meat bolognaise. We left the next day, hoping to be able to return one day to a city of peace, where we could feast on lobster and camel meat and be able to surf the rolling waves we saw as the plane took off.

      And now, in 2013, the future seems brighter. The first formal parliament in 20 years has been installed and, after the withdrawal of extremist groups, men and women are again together on Mogadishu's beach, enjoy the sea and the sand.