Shop the Bakaara Market: five gifts from Somalia

It’s always hard to figure out what to get your friends when you’re on vacation. I usually just give up, and they’ve learned to accept that my gift-giving ineptitude has led to laziness. There are some trips, however, that leave you with no excuses. If you decide to head into Mogadishu, for example, you’ll be expected to bring home plenty for your friends and family.

In a place like Somalia, it can be hard to figure out where to shop, let alone what to buy. Fortunately, you can start in the capital’s shopping district (the last three words used very loosely), the Bakaara Market. This spot was made famous a little over 17 years ago when a U.S. mission went awry, and it remains incredibly unsafe for outsiders everybody. When you can’t ignore your obligations to the folks back home, though, this is probably the best place to start.

Keep in mind that the Bakaara Market is a dangerous place. Only two weeks ago, fighting broke out between the Al-Shabab and Hizbul groups, leaving five dead and more injured. According to

The movement of the market was halted for a while shortly as the gunfire spread further into different sections of the market according to the businessmen adding that the clash was ceased as officials from both sides started mediating them.

It pays to be careful.

To help you make the whole process easier, here are five gifts to get at the Bakaara Market for the person who already seems to have everything:

1. Weapons: you can get all kinds of firearms in Somalia, including AK-47s, favorites of insurgents, terrorists and combatants around the world and since its introduction in 1947. For those truly special to you, splurge for a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher. You may get better deals outside the Bakaara Market, but you may be putting yourself in even more danger.

2. Counterfeit Currency: real cash isn’t good enough for you? You should be able to get some of the fake kind in this part of town. There was a big problem with counterfeiting in 2001, when U.S. dollars were the standard for trade, but this caused prices to skyrocket.

3. Memories:
there are many photo opportunities – especially since you aren’t likely to make a repeat trip. Take as many pictures as you can, but do be smart enough to remain unobtrusive. You don’t want to attract the sort of attention that could lead to a kidnapping. Wait until you get home to have the shots framed.

4. Influence: Somalia is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, so there’s a good chance you can use some cash to buy influence and favors. But, don’t expect to find any honor among thieves.

5. A Big Payout: make sure your life insurance policy is up to date before you leave – and that the company will write a check if you do something stupid that costs you your life in Mogadishu. You won’t be around to see the smiling faces of your beneficiaries, but you can meet your end knowing that a boatload of cash will be delivered to them.

[photo by ctsnow via Flickr]