Benidorm or Mogadishu? That is the Question.


BENIDORM is constantly promoting itself as a tourist destination. People knock the place, but keep coming. It’s not an easy promotion, but then in life everything is relative. So spare a thought  for Mohamed Ahmed Noor, the new Mayor of Mogadishu, capital of war torn Somalia, who has similar aspirations for his ravaged city.

Mr Noor last week told the BBC that he would like to see more visitors sampling the charms of his home town. Until now the only unwitting “foreign tourists” are the local pirates’ kidnap victims just passing through in the back of a lorry. But Mr Noor is optimistic. Though you feel it’s an uphill job when his first promotional thrust is based on favourable death-rate statistics.


“On a bad day in Mogadishu you have 10-30 deaths,” said Mr Noor, “ but in Baghdad we hear of 50-100 casualties in a day. In Kabul…” he then adds with an air of incredulity “…it can be more than that!”  Can you imagine that? You’ve sold me Mr Noor! I was toying with the idea of a Baghdad weekend-break this April, but now it’s Mogadishu for me. I’ll play safe and book Somalia. A quiet time, that’s my motto.

With that in mind I checked internet tourist information on my resort of choice. Oddly enough it was sparse. Basically there were two entries. Bakara market, now known even by the locals as “Black Hawk Down” after the Tony Scott film of that name about the US military helicopter crash and rescue, and “Shanghai Old City”, which actually isn’t in Shanghai, but is one of Mogadishu’s “most scenic spots”, yet unfortunately “controlled by Warlords” and “not open to tourists”. Shame.

Never mind I thought, forget culture and concentrate on that famous Horn of Africa tan. The sunny Saharan weather and beaches that stretch inland as far as neighbouring Ethiopia, make for a perfect sea based holiday destination. But there’s the pirates. I checked out the security situation in the water. Somalia has a navy, but no boats…or sailors.

It does have an Admiral, Mr Farah Ahmed Omar, who has been in charge since 1982, but hasn’t himself been to sea for twenty three years, and admitted that the navy hasn’t actually had any boats since 1991, when the nation descended into anarchic violence. Yet like Mayor Noor, Admiral Omar remains positive. It must be a Somalian trait. Denied ships and sailors, Admiral Omar has used his spare time productively in setting up his own University, and is now a professor of economics.

Suddenly Benidorm didn’t seem so bad. Perhaps a relative merits campaign could be set up by the mayor. Forget tapas and castanets. Push the other positive aspects. Benidorm’s lower daily-death rate is an attractive feature when compared to other hot spots around the world, and we haven’t seen rocket launchers on the streets for quite a while. One can para-glide and enjoy a hairy banana ride off the Levante beach without fear of some heavily armed men in an inflatable hoving into view and inviting you to join them for a few months. All in all Benidorm’s got a lot going for it.

When researching holiday choices people look for different things. Some want good weather, others culture etc, but unless you are the adrenalin junkie, bungee jumping type, the risk of being murdered whilst tucking into your all-inclusive buffet breakfast is a yardstick that all us tourists can relate to- me included – and is a situation that most tourists actively avoid. There is even a word for this type of person …. “Sane”.

Death rates and kidnap statistics shouldn’t figure in travel brochures.  Unless you are really from a different planet you’ll already know that Rio is a murderous place, and Central America can be “rather dodgy”. So I guess monthly temperature graphs and photos of the pool area will remain standard marketing fare.

Admiral Omar should have studied marketing instead of economics, he then could have advised Mayor Noor on a better promotional tag. Maybe research relative tropical disease statistics. How about “Mogadishu, warmer than Inverness, sunnier than Manchester, less yellow fever than equatorial west Africa” says it all!

By Paul Deed







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