MOGADISHU, Somalia — Streetlights now line this city’s main street, Mecca Avenue. Kids run around, weaving between food stalls, free-range chickens and mangy dogs. Record stores play loud music out of speakers, advertising their selections.
Residents stand in lines at local banks. Pharmacies, butchers, restaurants, grocery stores and mobile phone shops abound. Traders who have trekked into the city from the countryside carry baggage filled with goods to sell at street markets. At the end of the day, they fill their bags with goods to sell back home. Everywhere, new buildings are under construction.
“It’s hard to believe that Mogadishu is safe,” said Halima Haji, the owner of a little grocery shop. “Businesses are doing well here, and we make a lot of profit. People walk freely along the streets without fear of attack.”
Not very long ago, Mogadishu was different.
After Somalia’s central government collapsed in the early 1990s, civil war gripped the country. In 2006, the Al Qaeda-affiliated militant group Al Shabaab arrived on the scene, seizing cities throughout the country and occupying neighborhoods in the capital. In 2010, a famine struck that lasted for two years, adding more chaos to the mix.
But in 2011, Somali and African Union troops pushed Al Shabaab out of Mogadishu. Today, those security forces remain, keeping the peace.
Halima Haji owns a little grocery shop in Mogadishu, Somalia and says she feels safer these days. The city has changed in recent years, with basic city services now coming back online.
“Al Shabaab is a weakened organization that attacks where it sees opportunities,” said Neil Wigan, an ex-British ambassador to Somalia. “Somalia is fully under the control of government forces and African Union troops. It’s a safe place right now.”
The East African nation now has a stable government under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who claims to be setting up government institutions and reforming one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
While Mohamud has little sway in Somaliland, a northwest region of Somalia that has declared independence, and the autonomous region of Puntland in the northeast, the central government is consolidating its power in the capital with the peacekeeping forces’ help.
African Union forces have largely kept Al Shabaab out of the capital, erected fortifications to repel the Islamists’ assaults and killed or apprehended many of the group’s leaders, experts say. Troops are commonly stationed at hotels, banks and government offices.
“Al Shabaab has been driven out of the city and have lost a number of key operatives due to expanded military presence in Mogadishu,” said Nazlin Umar Fazaldin Rajput, national chairperson of the National Muslim Council of Kenya and a close observer of Islamic extremism in the Horn of Africa.
To be sure, an American or European strolling alone on the streets of the city would likely encounter unfriendly, potentially armed men. But locals and accompanied outsiders enjoy a sense of security.
“It’s now safe in Mogadishu for us who were born and partly raised here,” said Basra Mohammad, 29, a business consultant who moved back to the city from Nairobi in 2013. “It used to be a hell. I ran to seek refuge in Kenya. But now security has improved and Mogadishu is coming back to life.”
Basic city services have come back online. Schools are open. Children’s soccer academies are open. Trash collection, fire departments, electrical power and other municipal services are up and running.
“Enrollment for children attending schools has tripled since last year,” said Hassan Ahmed, 38, a teacher at Hamar Jajab Primary School. “We’ve so many people coming to the city to seek education and better their future. They feel secure while studying here.”
Al Shabaab remains a major problem in rural Somalia, and the militants still often stage attacks in Mogadishu. The terror group claimed responsibility for a July 26 attack at the Jazeera Palace Hotel in Mogadishu involving a bomb-filled vehicle that killed 15 people, for example.
But, compared to the worst years of the past decade, the July 26 attack was minor, said residents.
“Mogadishu has really changed when I compare it to how it used to be before I fled to London,” said Abdirahman Khalif, an assistant at a food wholesaler who emigrated to Britain around 2006 and returned to Mogadishu in 2012. “Life was not precious during that time. There was fighting everywhere. Guns rocked the air. People could be killed like cockroaches by Al Shabaab. But it’s now safe.”
Al Shabaab’s most recent attacks highlight the terror group’s desperation, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein of the Mogadishu police department. He noted that the July 26 explosion targeted foreign diplomatic missions in the hotel. The Islamists don’t want to see Somalia rejoining international community, he said.
“We’ve weakened them [Al Shabaab],” Hussein said. “They’ve no place in Somalia. What they are trying to do by attacking unarmed civilians is a sign of a weakened adversary seeking fame.”
Khalif returned to take part in his native country’s transformation. He hoped other Somalis from abroad would return.
“We need them to come and invest here,” he said. “Mogadishu is now becoming an economic hub. There are gas stations and supermarkets everywhere. There are more than 20 new radio stations operating in the country.”
Lifelong Mogadishu resident Basra Mohammad hopes her hometown can become one of the beautiful cities in Africa — as it was in the 1970s and early 1980s, before the central government imploded.
“The government is building and renovating houses and other structures across Mogadishu,” she said. “It’s going to be a developed city, because Mogadishu is now a peaceful place.”
By Tonny Onyulo, GlobalPost
Lonely paradise on a Maldive island.
This Indian Ocean paradise may be one of the first nations to vanish under the rising waters of climate change – but until that happens, you can still enjoy the Maldivian rufiyaa at a fixed rate of 12.8 to 1 USD.
A rising star in Central American travel, Belize has pegged its dollar at 2 to 1. Neighboring Venezuela is a little further from the travel mainstream, thanks to the antics of its leader, Hugo Chavez. Still, if you decide to head that way, you’ll find the Venezuelan bolivar fixed at 2.15 to 1.
As one of the wealthiest nations in the Caribbean, the Bahamas aren’t necessarily cheap. They are, however, stable and predictable: the Bahamian dollar is pegged to the USD at a rate of 1 to 1.
Tourists explore Petra, Jordan.
Jordan’s been drawing tourists for years thanks to its relative stability and fabulous archaeological sites. The Jordanian dinar is pegged to the USD at a rate of 0.709 to 1.
Several other Middle Eastern countries have also hitched their currencies to the USD. Bahrain’s dinar clocks in at 0.376 to 1, Lebanon‘s pound is pegged at 1507.5 to 1, and Oman‘s rial is set at 0.3845 to 1.
In Qatar, the rial is pegged at 3.64 to 1, and if you can get your hands on a tourist visa for Saudi Arabia, you’ll enjoy a riyal pegged at 3.75 to 1 there. Finally, Dubai and the rest of the United Arab Emirates have pegged the Emirati dirham at 3.67 to 1.
Ah, lovely Barbados. With progressive laws on public beach access and a government intent on defending local culture as best it can, it’s done a better job than most Caribbean islands of resisting total resortification. It’s also got a dollar that’s pegged to the USD at a rate of 2 to 1.
Elsewhere in the eastern Caribbean, the Trinidad and Tobago dollar is steady at 6.33 to 1. The eastern Caribbean dollar, the currency used by Antigua, Dominica, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada, is also fixed at a rate of 2.7 to 1.
Bahrainian dinars, also known as rubias.
In the eastern Caribbean, this island group is made up of Curacao, Bonaire, Saba, St. Eustatius and Sint Maarten. The national currency, the Netherlands Antillean guilder, is pegged to the USD at a rate of 1.79 to 1.
All the islands are tourist magnets; their infrastructure is better developed than many other island nations in the region, thanks in part to support from the Dutch government. Bonaire and Curacao have the added bonus of being below the hurricane belt.
Their close cousin, Aruba, another one-time Dutch colony, also pegs its Aruban florin to the USD at the same rate.
Residential high-rises in Hong Kong.
One of the great metropolises of the world, Hong Kong is a hectic, brightly-lit intersection of West and East. The HK dollar is pegged to the USD at a rate of 7.8 to 1.
For more information on travel to some of these countries, check out our Caribbean guides to Barbados, Dominica or Bequia, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Network’s also got a guide to Belize’s Caye Caulker, and a few essays about travel in the Middle East: try How Teaching in Oman Taught Me the Shades of Islam, or Hidden Kingdom: Understanding Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia.
Going for a surf is a chance to get back to nature, test yourself against the ocean, have fun and get some exercise. And these days learning to surf doesn’t have to be the fearful, difficult proposition it once was. Forgiving foam surfboards and qualified surf instructors mean standing up and riding a wave in your first session is very likely — and then you’re hooked.
What better place to learn to surf than the home of surfing itself? Hawaii’s ancient kings rode the surf on crude wooden boards before missionaries in the 19th century frowned on the sport for being a godless activity.
Thankfully, surfing is back bigger than ever. The gentle rolling waves of Waikiki are perfect for beginners, offering long rides and a (mostly) fun, easy going atmosphere. Canoe’s is the most popular, and consequently most crowded, break but you’ll be among beginners so catching waves is relatively easy.
Boards can be rented from the shacks on the beach by the hour or take a lesson from one of the many surf schools in the area.
Best time to go: There are waves year round although the Hawaiian summer from June to August sees consistent south swells.
Byron Bay, Australia
This one-time sleepy dairy town turned hippie-surfer-stockbroker enclave is quite possibly the best place in the country, maybe the world, to learn to surf. There’s a variety of waves to suit different levels, from gentle rollers off Watego Beach to the beach breaks of Tallows and The Wreck (in small swells).
Byron Bay Surf School offers both lessons and accommodation. Or stay at the Byron Bay YHA (formerly J’s Bay), complete with pool.
Best time to go: March to May for warm weather and consistent swell .
On an island famous for its grinding left-hand reef breaks, Bali still offers great options for learners. The long sandy stretch of beach in front of the famous Kuta and Legian tourist strip can turn on fun waves for beginners in small swells — but watch the currents when it’s bigger.
Various beach huts rent old surfboards for about 20,000 rupiah per hour. When the wind picks up in the afternoon there’s a bunch of options to keep you busy, from practising yoga in Ubud to partying late at Ku De Ta in Seminyak.
Best time to go: May to September for offshore winds and a party atmosphere.
While there are rarely waves in Lagos itself, this picturesque Algarve town is the base for many surf schools in the region, and it’s not hard to see why. A variety of great waves are within a 30-minute drive, including the protected break at Arrifana — a favourite for learners at low tide.
Among the surf schools based in Lagos, Surf Experience is the longest established and one of the best.
After a day spent learning to surf, refuel at one of Lagos’ cheap but delicious restaurants. After 10 PM, the clubs come alive, the clientèle spurred on by cheap cocktails and refreshing bottles of Sagres beer for just €2.
Best time to go: Northern hemisphere spring and autumn to avoid the summer crowds and higher prices.
Thanks to its long, righthand point breaks, Morocco has been a popular winter destination for European surfers since the 1970s, with convoys of VW campervans parked beside the various breaks.
These days, you don’t need to be a hardcore surfer to enjoy the waves, with a variety of surf schools to choose from.
In the south, Taghazoute almost has more surf camps than surf spots, so you’re bound to find one that suits your budget. Hash Point and the beaches around Agadir can throw up an easy wave for learners. If it’s flat, the chilled port town of Essaouira is just three hours north by bus and makes a great day trip.
Best time to go: The big swells roll in from November to February, but early autumn has smaller waves and warmer weather.
Surfer’s Point, Barbados
Located on Barbados’s more protected southern coast, Surfer’s Point in Inch Marlowe is the perfect location to learn to surf in an idyllic, tropical setting. Former competitive surfer and Barbadian local Zed Layson runs the popular Zed’s Surfing Adventures. Zed offers two-hour lessons on easy-to-ride foam surfboards, plus a range of accommodation options near the point.
Best time to go: Anytime, although the rainy season from June to October may limit your tanning time.
Ireland is the new surfing hot spot in Europe; its world class, uncrowded waves now lure surfers from around the world.
Bundoran in County Donegal on Ireland’s west coast is a great place to learn the basics, with a variety of beach breaks on offer. If the swell is small, try Tullan Beach in town. If it’s too big, head 10 km north to the more mellow Rossnowlagh Beach. The respected Bundoran Surf Co. offers lessons as well surf-and-stay packages.
For a country known for its crap weather, the British sure love their surfing. Newquay’s Fistral Beach is surfing ground zero in Britain, with a variety of backpacker hostels, surf cafes, and surf schools in and around the town.
Newquay’s headlands mean there are surfable waves in most conditions, from the swell-exposed Fistral to the protected Watergate Bay just around the corner. If you have access to a car, the crystal clear peaks at Sennen Cove an hour south are worth the drive in clean swells.
Best time to go: September to October are the most consistent months. You’ll need a 4/3 or even a thick 5/4 wetsuit to brave the chilly water in winter and spring.
Whether you are a fashionista or just looking for a great memento from your travels, purchasing a wearable souvenir from places you have visited is a great idea! Not only will you be reminded of your travels every time you wear your souvenir, but your wardrobe will be taken to a whole new level of fashion! Here’s a list of the best fashion souvenirs from around the globe:
1. STOP going to Lucerna Music Bar.
Most of the Czechs I know try to avoid Lucerna’s overpriced bar and tourist-infested dance floor. Expats.cz said it was convenient to Wenceslas Square, but it took me almost four months to find the front door.
Instead, go to Futurum.
“We’re going to go dancing at Futurum tonight!” my friend Lenka told me one day after class. Based on her enthusiasm, I concluded that Futurum is where locals go for a crazy night out.
While singing along to Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” (“I’m impressed you know all the words!” said Lenka), I witnessed some dude groping a woman under her shirt. She didn’t seem to mind the PDA. They just kept dancing. Because that’s the kind of place Futurum is.
1. Mexico City, Mexico
In Mexico, because of its closeness to the United States, it has become popular. Three out of ten people go out with their children to ask for candy with the phrase Cooperate for my skull or The skull is hungry, do you have a piece of bread? Young people celebrate dressing up and visiting friends houses or going to private parties. But mainly on October 31, November 1 and 2 people go to the pantheons decorating the tombs with an orange flower called "cempazúchitl", in the houses they put altars and offerings in honor of the deads, in which typical foods are placed , drinks, photos and flowers.
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