Journey to Mogadishu: A 'special' place

Updated: 2015-07-29 11:55

By HOU LIQIANG in Mogadishu, Somali(

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Sometimes a journey becomes both nerve-wracking and exciting. A one-and-half-hour trip from Kenyan capital Nairobi to Somali capital Mogadishu turned out to be just that.

The first glimpse of things to come happened when I looked out of the plane's blurry window glass and saw what looked like an artwork created by a naughty child with random scratches on the window. That was not the only sign that revealed the age of the plane, the other tell-tale signals were the rusted paint and the continuous shaking of the cabin.

It was a DC-9, an aircraft that belongs to museum as almost none is now in service. I think flying on an aging plane ruins the journey to a special place.

As feared, the trip did have an adventurous end. When we were approaching Mogadishu, the plane developed an engine failure and flied forward nosily. It seems like dozens of old tractors were operating together. I looked around and saw the tension on my fellow passengers' faces. The air was so tense that you could cut it with butter knife.

When we landed in Mogadishu, there were at least five loud thuds when the plane's wheels touched the ground. As if that wasn't scary enough, the aircraft veered off course and came to a halt away from its designated area.

The buses that came to pick the passengers up had to use the runway just to reach us. Half an hour later when we were in the bus, we saw an ambulance arriving.

Our hotel was quite close to the airport, probably five minutes on foot. But it took us more than 15 minutes as we had to pass five checkpoints guarded by fully armed soldiers. After arriving at the gate of the hotel, we passed three more checkpoints guarded by armed men from a security company.

After a meeting with the hotel management and lunch, I and other six journalists from three Chinese media organizations were finally out on the streets of Mogadishu in two cars, which were guarded by five fully armed security personnel in a pickup.

Though not as blurry as the image I got from the plane, the sight through the glass of the tinted window was hardly better, especially as many of the roads we passed were badly laid and full of potholes, making the ride real bumpy.

But I did see many guns, some held by people in different uniforms and some in the hands of plainclothes men.

What shocked me most was the hospital which was treating about 50 people injured in a terrorist attack on a hotel that houses the Chinese embassy on July 26. The explosion killed 15 people, including one Chinese guard.

Some patients were lying on beds out in the passageway. Flies were all over them, even on their wounds. I didn't see any medical equipment in the so-called ICU wards, which were as crowded as other wards. I saw some of the patients lying there with their wounds covered in adhesive tapes instead of bandages.

Outside the wards, mattresses were lying on the ground. I even saw a mosquito net. I know family members of many of the patients will have to spend the night there. It is a special place.