Somalia Gets a Tourist, Mogadishu Officials Are Baffled

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REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

It’s no wonder Somali immigration officials in Mogadishu thought a 41-year-old man who described himself as a tourist was insane; they hadn’t seen a tourist in the Somali capital since, well, ever.

Canadian citizen Mike Spencer Bown is a seasoned traveler having visited more than 150 countries. But when he arrived in Mogadishu as a tourist, he was met with disbelief.

“We have never seen people like this man,” Omar Mohamed, one of the officials, told the AFP. “He said he was a tourist, we couldn’t believe him. But later on we found he was serious. That makes him the first person to come to Mogadishu only for tourism.”

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Somalia has been one of the world’s most dangerous regions since 1991 when political strife erupted and the country has been plagued by civil conflict since. Many government tourism departments, including those of the U.S. and Canada, heavily discourage travel to Somalia. According to the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs, “kidnapping, murder, illegal roadblocks, banditry, and other violent incidents and threats to U.S. citizens and other foreigners can occur in many regions.”

All of that may seem pretty daunting to any traveler but Bown was intent on visiting Somalia’s beaches. “I knew that Somalia plunged into civil strife nearly the day I started travelling but it was still on my list of places on the globe I should tour,” he said.

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Bown managed to spend time in the dangerous capital (only within the gates of his heavily guarded hotel), though he said that it took a bit of finagling to actually get past the dubious officials at the airport.

“They tried four times to put me back on the plane to get rid of me but I shouted and played tricks until the plane left without me,” he said.

And you thought TSA pat downs were an ordeal. (via AFP)