Mogadishu is a famously resilient city. Once known across Africa and beyond as tranquil, relatively prosperous, cultured and cosmopolitan, successive waves of violence over decades have repeatedly reduced much of the city to rubble. It has been rebuilt, destroyed again and rebuilt.

Six years ago, the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab withdrew from the city after fierce fighting. The rebuilding started once more. Now, at weekends, the beaches and restaurants of the Lido are packed with men and women, young and old. Returnees from the diaspora bring capital and skills. The stalls where women serve strong, spiced tea to garrulous elderly men in brightly checked traditional sarongs are busy. The famous Bakara bazaar is boisterous and lively. So, too, are local markets, full of local vegetables, fruit, cheap Chinese clothes and DVDs.

One of these markets had grown up around K5, or Zoobe, Junction. On 14 October a massive truck bomb detonated among its shoppers, stalls, tailors, mechanics, computer stores, clothes shops and restaurants. Powerful enough to rip the front off buildings hundreds of metres away, the explosion killed more than 500 people and injured many more. It was the worst such attack in Somali history and one of the most lethal single terrorist acts since 9/11.

The scars are still very raw; the consequences still to be fully understood. Idil Abdulle Yussuf, 32, lost her husband in the attack. A street vendor selling drinks just a few metres from where the bomb went off, his death is like “death to all the family”.

“Our life is destroyed. There is no more to say. Hassan was everything to us. In the evening, when he returned home, he brought food, drinks and sweets for the children. We could pay the rent of the house. My kids went to school. Now there is nothing,” she says.

The family, evicted from their home, now live in a rudimentary camp for the destitute and displaced, on the outskirts of the city: “I do not know what to do. I do not know what the future of my children will be without their father. Those who killed my husband also killed us. They have sentenced us to death.”

Others, even if they survived the blast, lost their livelihoods. Mohamed Abshir Omey, a 35-year-old taxi driver, had his right leg amputated. “I was only discharged from the hospital two weeks ago and now I cannot drive. Even my name has changed because people call me Jeeri [Lame]”, he says. “I was planning to marry, so I used to keep some savings. All that money is gone now. My car was burnt. Nothing remains for me. October 14 is the day of the disaster which ruined my future.”

Then there are the psychological effects on a city that, though it has long suffered violence, had never seen anything like the carnage of October. “People are more scared, compared with previous attacks,” says Abdirahman Hassan Omar, a lawyer and social activist who now tries to limit the time he spends moving around the city. “You never know when or where a bombing will happen. It is better to stay to home unless you have a very important job to do outside.”

Mogadishu is not an easy place to make safe. Three million people live in its sprawling, scruffy neighbourhoods. Hundreds of thousands have arrived this year alone from rural areas. Most are very poor, fleeing drought and famine. It is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, and senior officials admit that al-Shabaab has a strong presence.

Few now have much trust in security forces. There are frequent shootings. One major attack came just two weeks after the October bombing. Al-Shaabab gunmen killed 23 people at a city hotel, after destroying the entrance with a truck bomb. Fadumo Omar Barrow, 23, survived the bombing but lost her sister Jija and four cousins. All were mothers, and returning from the fish market when the truck bomb hit their minibus.

“The other four cousins were found dead but my sister’s body was never found. We only received body parts, which we thought were her remains and we buried them,” she says.

Fadumo has abandoned plans to go to university and decided to leave the country “because it is not safe … My sister was my mentor. She helped me during my whole life. After her death, I do not want to stay in Somalia. I am planning to leave to immigrate abroad. A safer place.

“I fear a lot … I also try to escape the sad memory I have from the day of tragedy. My sister left three children behind; the eldest one, a three-year-old boy, continues to ask me: ‘Where is my mum?’ I still don’t know how to explain.”

At the blast scene, construction workers labour to rebuild shattered buildings. A new road surface has been laid. A tea stall stands where the 48-room Safari hotel once stood. “This is part of the resilience we Somalis have,” says construction contractor Ahmed Ashur. “There is a blast in Mogadishu destroying whole buildings and you see the next day people start renovating. Life goes on. Those who died have died. We have to think about those who live now. They need life.”

Dhiibo Fikirkaaga

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