Mama Africa was calling me home - Khadija Mahamud

Those first moments as the plane prepared to land, overlooking beautiful scenery, the anticipation behind months of planning was building up, and threatening to spill over. I was barely able to contain my excitement at seeing my motherland after all these years of absence. This was the place I'd heard so much about, and only ever seen through a TV screen, so to finally see it with my own eyes was incomparable to anything I'd ever experienced. I couldn't stop staring, wishing my eyes were bigger so I could see more of it at once. It felt like I had an unquenchable thirst for it all, wishing I had a photographic memory so I could store it away and just play it over and over again. Even now I still find myself in total awe of it all. Despite wearing the traditional baati and garbasaar, I'm fully aware that I still stand out like a sore thumb to the locals, but I remind myself that they've had all their lives to wonder at such beauty.



Being in Somalia has been somewhat of a whirlwind so far. From the scorching heat, to what I once considered farm animals, casually walking besides people in the streets. The insane Mogadishu traffic where law and order has disintegrated somewhere between the motorcyclists tactfully juggling four people, and the 'pedestrians' who always seem to forget that they can't share the road with cars. From witnessing the aftermath of an explosion by Al-Shabab, to actually witnessing a nation rebuild itself. You'd have to be blind to walk outside in Somalia and not notice the remarkable efforts being made.

In spite of having planned this trip for a year, in all honesty I don't think I could have ever fully been prepared for it. I wouldn't go as far as saying I've had a “culture shock”, but more of a “culture adjustment”. Although I knew what to expect, I still found myself having difficulty adjusting, and if I'm being honest I still am. At first, whenever people asked me how I was finding Somalia, I would be embarrassed to admit this, but now I realise that I have no reason to be. As much as Somalia is and will always be my home, for a very long time it wasn't. I grew up in London practically all my life, and everything I know is there and there's a sense of comfort in that. I never got to experience my homeland the same way my mother did, and there's no shame in that, because it wasn't out of choice. I still trip up on my baati and although I've yet to master the art of casually flinging on my garbasaar without it falling off; I'm getting there. I still can't cook cambuulo to save my life, but I'm confident I'll one day be able check that off my list. My tongue still feels heavy when I speak my mother tongue, but not in the way it once did. I'm not naive in thinking that rediscovering my homeland will be an overnight process and I'm okay with that, because I know that one day soon, I'll know her like the back of my hand.


I wanted to be able to say that I connected with Somalia from the moment I landed, but that's not entirely true. I connected with the beauty of my motherland straight away, but it took longer with the social norms, the Somali banter and heck, even the food! I'm realising what I failed to realise during the planning process to be here; it was never about falling in love with Somalia based on what other people told me. It's about discovering my motherland for myself so that I'll be left head over heels in love with her, and it's that, that will make my journey remarkably memorable to me.


By Khadija Mahamud 

Copy Editor: Haleema Abdullahi

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