Bakara Market is the densely packed commercial heart of Mogadishu, Somalia, and the hub of one of the biggest transit trade networks in East Africa. In the mid-1980s, before Somalia’s civil war broke out, I was a student living in Mogadishu and used to walk to Bakara market several times a week to buy meat and vegetables. It’s where I learned to bargain, though rarely successfully.
After the civil war broke out and the Somali state collapsed in 1991, Somalia became “the world’s largest duty free shop” and Bakara Market grew into the role of a major retail and warehousing district for goods of all sorts. The merchandise transited from Somali beach ports through Bakara Market and was then trucked across Somalia and into East African markets, even as far as Eastern Congo.
Bakara Market’s mystique grew in later years, as an impenetrable and dangerous emporium of illicit business, a weapons bazaar, a site of secret business deals, and a stronghold of the jihadi group Al-Shabaab. It was badly damaged in the destructive urban war between Ethiopian forces and Al-Shabaab in 2007-08, but today is again a vibrant, chaotic, densely packed commercial district and the site of some of Somalia’s most valuable real estate investments.
I named this blog Bakara Market in hopes that it too will serve as a busy transshipment site of ideas and analysis on the Horn of Africa, where I have intermittently worked and conducted research for nearly thirty years. More soon!