'''Mogadishu''' (or '''Mogadiscio''' in Italian) was the capital of Italian Somalia in the first half of the XX century. In Italian language, the city was officially called ''Mogadiscio italiana'' and the inhabitants were called ''Mogadini''. Italian Mogadiscio was under Italian control from 1885 until February 1941: officially it disappeared in 1947 after the "Peace Treaty" following WW2 when Italy lost all the colonies.
Aerial view of 1938 "Mogadiscio italiana", nicknamed "White Pearl of the Indian Ocean"
"Mogadishu (or Mukdishu) is mentioned by Marco Polo and described by Ibn Batuta as an “immense” city. This was in the early part of the 14th century.....In 1892 it was transferred to Italy. The name of the town is spelt in a great variety of ways, including Madeigascar, whence the name of the island of Madagascar. Alfred Grandidier points out that the Portuguese, misled by Marco Polo's description of Mukdishu as an island, fancied they had discovered the land of which he wrote when they touched at Madagascar". 1911 E. Britannica
The first Italian to write about Mogadiscio was Marco Polo, who knew of the city during his merchant travels in Asia. But only in the late XIX century the commerce company "Filonardi" from Italy took control of facilities in the port of Mogadishu.
By 1882, Mogadishu was under the joint control of the Somali "Geledi Sultanate" (which was also holding sway over the Shebelle Valley region in the interior called "Benadir") and the Omani Sultan of Zanzibar. In 1885, the sultan Ali bin Said leased the city to an Italian chartered company owned by Vincenzo Filonardi. This "Compagnia Filonardi" (1893–96) and later the "Società Anonima Commerciale Italiana del Benadir" (1899-1905) was finally taken by the Italian government, that obtained the control of the entire region of Benadir with the port of Mogadishu through an agreement with the British government in 1892. From 3 August 1889 to 15 May 1893 Filonardi was the first Governor of the "Somalia italiana" (he was governor again from 1896 to 1897).
The Kingdom of Italy purchased the city in 1905 and made Mogadishu the capital of the newly established "Somalia italiana". The Italians subsequently referred to the city as ''Mogadiscio''.
The city was soon modernized in the early 1910s with the creation of the first sewage system, the first hospital, the first paved roads and the new electricity facilities. In the 1910s and 1920s the Italians enlarged the "Port of Mogadishu" and created the first airport (initially only for military airplanes). In the 1910s was created the first (radio)telegraph station in eastern Africa, under the supervision of Guglielmo Marconi, that was able to connect Mogadishu directly with "Italian Eritrea" and Rome: it was worldwide celebrated.
Guglielmo Marconi's first radio-telegraph station in Mogadiscio
From 5 April 1908 to 5 May 1936, the Royal Corps of Somali Colonial Troops (''Regio corpo truppe coloniali della Somalia Italiana''), originally called the "Guard Corps of Benadir", served as the territory's formal military corps with headquarters in Mogadiscio. At the start of its establishment, the force had 2,600 Italian officers. Between 1911 and 1912, over 1,000 Somalis from Mogadishu served as combat units along with Eritrean and Italian soldiers in the Italo-Turkish War. Most of the troops stationed never returned home until they were transferred back to Italian Somaliland in preparation for the Second Italo-Ethiopian war in 1935.
In November 1920, the "Banca d'Italia", the first modern bank in Italian Somaliland, was established in Mogadishu. Later were founded in the city the branches of other Italian banks: in 1936 the "Banco di Roma" and in 1938 the "Banco di Napoli" established a branch (Banco di Napoli replaced the "Cassa di Risparmio di Torino", which had opened an office in Mogadishu in 1932). After WW2 from the Banca d'Italia was developed the "Central Bank of Somalia".
On December 5, 1923, Cesare Maria De Vecchi was named Governor in charge of the new colonial administration and promoted the process of complete pacification of the Somalia italiana, with the initial integration of the native population. Italian colonial policy followed two principles in Italian Somaliland: preservation of the dominant clan & ethnic configurations and respect for Islam as the territory's religion.
The Mogadishu Cathedral and the Arch of Umberto were the core of Mogadiscio in the late 1930s
Furthermore, in 1929 there were nearly 1600 Italian civilians resident in Mogadiscio and the government started to publish daily in the growing city the first newspaper of Somalia: "Corriere della Somalia". Its name was changed in "Somalia Fascista" in 1934 but in 1941 was closed by the British when they conquered Mogadiscio; it was reopened in 1950 with the original name "Il Corriere della Somalia" and lasted until 1969/1970 (read www.jstor.org/stable/40759963 ). Other monthly publications in Mogadiscio were "Somalia Sportiva" (1937-1940) and "Somalia Cristiana" (1936-1941). Of course all these newspapers and magazines were in Italian language until April 1941 (successively the British made the "Somali Courier-Corriere della Somalia" in 3 languages -English, Italian and Arab- between 1945 and 1950).
In the early 1930s, the new Italian Governors, Guido Corni and Maurizio Rava, started a policy of full assimilation of the Somalis. Many Somalis were enrolled in the Italian colonial troops, and thousands of Italian colonists moved to live in Mogadishu.
The city grew in size and some small manufacturing companies opened up. The main industries were food processing and the production of leather footwear and wood products. The Italians also settled in agricultural areas around the capital, such as Jowhar (''Villabruzzi'') and Janale (''Genale''), and developed the production and exportation of the bananas.
In 1937, there were 22,000 Italians living in Italian Somaliland, representing 2% of the territory's population. The majority resided in the capital Mogadishu, with other Italian communities concentrated in Jowhar (''Villabruzzi''), Adale (''Itala''), Janale (''Genale'') and Kismayo (''Chisimaio'').
Photo of the eleven children of an Italo-Somali family: nearly 10,000 children were born from Italians (mainly soldiers) and Somalian native girls during the half a century of colonial presence in Italian Somalia. Most of them lived in the Mogadishu area
In Mogadiscio in the 1920s and early 1930s there were 4 Italian men for every Italian woman and as a consequence was common the "Madamato" (relationship between Italian soldiers and native girls).
Nearly 7,000 children were born from the Madamato in the Mogadiscio area: they were mulattos who received Italian citizenship when baptized as catholic. But after 1939 the Italian Fascism -since 1938 linked to the German Nazism- imposed harsh racial rules against this Madamato.
By 1935, Mogadishu began to serve as a major naval base and port for the Italians. Then Prime Minister of Italy Benito Mussolini regarded "Greater Somalia" (''La Grande Somalia'') with capital Mogadiscio as the crown jewel in Italy's colonial empire in eastern Africa.
Consequently, from 1936 to 1940, new roads were constructed in the region around Mogadiscio, such as the "Imperial Road" from Mogadishu to Addis Abeba, the capital of the newly created "Italian Ethiopia". New railways (114 km from Mogadishu to Jowhar) and many schools, hospitals, ports and bridges were also built. The biggest salt production company in the world -located in Dante (now called "Hafun") had the headquarters in Mogadiscio.
Mogadishu airport was established in 1928 with the name ''Petrella-Mogadiscio aeroporto'', the first such facility to be opened in the Horn of Africa. It served as the main military airport for Italian Somaliland. In the mid-1930s, the airport began offering civilian and commercial flights. A regular Asmara-Assab-Mogadishu commercial route was started in 1935, with an "Ala Littoria" Caproni Ca.133 providing 13-hour flights from the Mogadishu airport to Italian Eritrea. The aircraft had a maximal capacity of 18 passengers, which at the time was a record. In 1936, Ala Littoria launched an intercontinental connection between Mogadishu-Asmara-Khartoum-Tripoli and Rome. The voyage lasted four days and was one of the first long range flights in the world.
The port of Italian Mogadiscio had an exportation in 1934 of 43.467 tons of agricultural products (mainly bananas) toward Italy and Europe. For this commercial transport were used the service of special container-ships called "RAMB" (that were built with the possibility to be converted to be an auxiliary cruiser). The Ramb II was a banana boat ship based even in Mogadishu. Ramb II was the second of four sister ships all built to the same design: the other ships were the Ramb I, the Ramb III, and the Ramb IV. The four ships were built for the Royal Banana Monopoly Business ("Regia Azienda Monopolio Banane") to transport refrigerated bananas from Italian Somalia to Italy.
From 1936 the port started to have a weekly international ship line for passengers, connecting Mogadishu with Massaua in Eritrea and Genova in Italy with the Italian "Lloyd Triestino" and "Italian Line". The MS Vulcania was a transatlantic ship that served the port of Mogadiscio. Later, in 1941 the port was damaged by British bombings during WW2.
In the 1930s, Italian authorities began to organize professional sport in Somalia. These sports were initially concentrated only in the capital Mogadishu. In 1931 governor Maurizio Rava created the ''Federazione Sportiva della Somalia'', which organized competences of athletics, tennis and football for the Italian community and promoted the first sport activities among the young native population. In 1933 the first Somalian football championship was created in Mogadishu, called ''Coppa Federazione Sportiva'', with three teams ("Societa' Mogadiscio", "Marina" and "Milizia"). In 1938 the football championship was won by the "Amaruini" team, made up mainly of local Somalians; in 1939 the winning team was the "Araba". In 1938 competitions of other sports, like swimming and cycling, were held.
In summer 1938 was created the ''Circuito Mogadiscio'' (called even "Circuito di Mogadiscio" and in English: "Mogadishu Circuit"), a car race done in the main streets of Mogadishu that was one of the firsts in Africa. The main Italian newspaper of Mogadiscio and the Italian colonies, "Il Littoriale", reported that on mid-August 1938 was done the first car race circuit of Mogadiscio. Indeed, on August 15 the Governor Francesco Saveno flagged the start of a car race followed by many thousands in the "Corso Vittorio Emanuele" (actual "Somalia Boulevard") of Somalia's capital, where there were the main stands. On Mogadiscio streets many native Somalis enjoyed enthusiastically to the first car race in their country. It was followed even by a motorcycle race, done with 250 cc and 350 cc category. The "Circuito di Mogadiscio" was repeated in 1939, but the edition of 1940 was not done because of the beginning of the war.
Map of the railway Mogadiscio-Villabruzzi (green line), showing the most developed area of Italian Somalia (that was inside the triangle Mogadiscio-Merca-Villabruzzi)
In the first years of the XX century there were only one hundred Italian civilians (mostly members of the colonial administration with their families) in Mogadishu, but soon started to arrive thousands of colonists (with some merchants and entrepreneurs) from Italy: by March 1940, over 30,000 Italians lived in Mogadishu, representing around 33% of the city's total of approximate 100,000 residents (and making Mogadiscio the second most "Italian" city -after Asmara- of the Italian East Africa). They frequented local Italian schools that the colonial authorities had opened, such as a local "Lyceum" called 'Ginnasio-liceo Emilio De Bono'. They also started the first championships of local football/soccer with teams (like the "Societa' Calcio Mogadiscio" and "Amaruini", that played amateur football in the Italian Somalia from 1936 until 1941 and that later become in 1947 the "Lavori Publici (LLPP calcio)" now called "Jeenyo United (LLPP) FC") in the first stadium of Mogadiscio called 'Stadio Municipale di Mogadiscio' (now 'Banadir (CONI) stadium').
During WW2 Italian Mogadiscio was conquered by the British in February 1941: nearly all the Italians in Somalia took refuge in the city -for security reasons- during those war years until 1945. Because of these refugees Mogadishu in those years had a population that was nearly half Italian, when added the 7,000 descendants of Italian soldiers who had illegitimate offsprings with Somalian girls. According to historian Tripodi, in Somalia nearly 10,000 children were born from Italians (mainly soldiers) and Somalian native girls during the half a century of colonial presence in Italian Somalia. Most of them lived in the Mogadishu area.
Since then the Italian population of Mogadiscio started to diminish, mainly after 1948 when there was the killing of Italians by the "Somali Youth League", and practically disappeared a few decades later. Indeed somali nationalist agitation against the possibility of renewed Italian rule reached the level of violent confrontation in 1948, when on 11 January, large riots broke out that left fifty-two Italians dead in the streets of Mogadishu and other coastal cities in which many more were injured.
Even if there was an important community of nearly 10,000 Italians in Mogadishu in the 1950s, when Italy administrated the country with a ONU mandate, in the late 1970s practically there were no more Italians in Mogadishu.
The legacy of the Italian presence in Mogadishu is mainly related to the decision to develop this city as the capital of actual Somalia: in 1885 the Italians found a small city/village with nearly 2,000 inhabitants living in ruined medieval buildings and in just half a century the city was transformed in a modern colonial capital (of one of the biggest countries in eastern Africa) with more than 100,000 inhabitants, that was nicknamed ''the White Pearl of the Indian Ocean'' in 1938.
However some other legacies of the Italian presence in Mogadishu still remain: from the diffused use of pasta (''baasto'') such as spaghetti and of polenta (''mishaari''), that comes from the Italian Somalis families, to the latin script in the Somalian language and to the architecture of the city.
It is noteworthy to pinpoint that Catholicism in Mogadiscio greatly increased under Italian rule. In the 1950s journalist and history writer Indro Montanelli wrote on magazine "Il Borghese" that Italian Mogadishu in 1942 -after the arrival of the British- was an African capital where most of inhabitants were Catholics: he indicated that of the 95,000 inhabitants more than 40,000 were Italians, while inside the less than 55,000 Somalis there were nearly 8,000 Catholics including the many illegitimate sons of Italian soldiers and Somalis native girls, who were baptized in order to get Italian identification. This meant to him that more than half of the Mogadiscio inhabitants were Catholics in that year, but soon they started to disappear (since the late 1970 practically there are no more catholics in Mogadishu:)
''The story of Mogadishu’s Modernist buildings begins during the time of Italian colonial rule. Unlike Asmara in Eritrea and Tripoli in Libya, where the Italians built their colonial city alongside the native walled town, in Mogadishu the walls of the old medina were torn down and the occupiers’ buildings imposed in the city centre.''Rakesh Ramchum
In 1905 was started a plan to develop the city, that the Italians found divided in two medieval areas: Amaruini and Scingani. In the middle was built the new "Corso Vittorio Emanuele III" (the main avenue) and governmental buildings with a garden area (that in 1934 was beautified with the "Arch of Umberto"). In 1928 was created the "Piano regolatore di Mogadiscio", the first urban planification for the city, when the medioeval Scingani was demolished and was created a modern area with new buildings and tree lined roads.
Since then in Mogadishu were made many architectural improvements before WW2 (read http://www.fedoa.unina.it/1881/1/Santoianni_Progettazione_Architettonica.pdf). The most inportant are:
1) the "Villa Somalia". It is the official presidential palace and principal workplace of the President of Somalia. It sits on high ground that overlooks the city on the Indian Ocean, with access to both the Port of Mogadishu & the harbour and the Aden Adde International airport.
Villa Somalia when inaugurated in the 1930s
Villa Somalia sits on high ground that overlooks Mogadishu on the Indian Ocean, with nearby the first athletic structure for sport in Somalia. It was originally a large, squarish stucco building with a modern tiled roof.
Villa Somalia was built in the new section of the city created by the Italians in the late 1930s.
It was a famous symbol of modernist (art deco) architecture and one of the few in all Africa.
2) The "Governor's Palace of Mogadiscio". In the 1930s it was the seat of the governor of Italian Somalia, and then of the administrator of the "Trust Territory of Somalia" after WW2. It was built during the colonial period (in the late 1920s) in the capital city of Mogadishu: in those decades the city was improved with Italian architecture and urbanism: this palace was one of the most representatives of the colonial fascist architecture.
It was located on the "Corso Umberto", the main street of Italian Mogadiscio, and overlooked the ocean & the port. The architecture was a mixture of Italian and Arab styles, with the second floor decorated with Italian Renaissance furniture. A huge garden was created in front of the main entrance.
In the Palace, among other things, there were the following halls in the lower floor:
* Arab hall with decorations, which were derived from the Islamic architecture of the old Mogadishu.
* Rooms of "Queen Elena of Italy" with tapestries.
* "Sala della Giustizia" with furniture in the Gothic style of the Aosta Valley.
* Hall of deliberations, with the wall-scenes taken from the classical style of the Italian architecture and with a huge panel showing "San Giorgio".
The second floor was for private use, with rooms for royal guest.
It was inaugurated by Italian governor Cesare Maria De Vecchi, who ruled from 1923 to 1929. He ordered excavations in the gardens in front of the Palace that proved to be the ancient Arab palace of "El Muzaffar". In 1975 the Palace was completely razed to the ground (for political reasons) and the site was dedicated to the new construction of the luxurious "Al Uruba" (Curuuba) Hotel.
3) the "Garesa Museum" (actual "National Museum of Somalia") . In 1933, the building that used to be the "Garesa" residence of the Zanzibar Sultanate was totally reconstructed by the Italian governor Rava and adapted to the Somalia Museum.
It was the most important cultural place in Italian Mogadiscio.
The "Museo della Garesa" (as was called by the Italian colonists) was officially opened to the public the next year 1934 by Governor Maurizio Rava. The museum suffered heavy damages during WWII.
The just reconstructed white building of the "Garesa Museum" (in the center of photo)
After shutting down, the National Museum later reopened: it holds many culturally important artefacts, including old coins, bartering tools, traditional artwork, ancient weaponry and pottery items.
4) the "Mogadishu Cathedral". Known as the ''Cattedrale di Mogadiscio'' (when inaugurated on March first, 1928), was constructed in a Norman "Gothic Revival architecture" style, based on the Cefalù Cathedral in Cefalù, Sicily. It was built in nearly six years by the Italian authorities in their former Italian Somalia, in a central area of the capital not far from the Governor's Palace of Mogadishu|
Indeed the Cathedral was built as the biggest in eastern Africa by order of Cesare Maria De Vecchi, a catholic governor of "Somalia italiana" who promoted the "Missionari della Consolata" christianization of Somalian people. It was built between 1923 and 1928 and was used as a model the "Cathedral of Cefalu" (in northern Sicily), created to commemorate the Christian reconquest of Sicily from the Arabs in the X century.
The Cathedral was done in "Norman" Gothic style, designed by architect Antonio Vandone. The facade, with an impressive appearance, was delimited to the sides by two towers, each 37.50 meters high. The plan of the building was a Latin cross; inside was divided into three naves separated by piers with pointed arches.
The church was entrusted to the "Consolata" missionaries, then replaced by the Franciscans (Friars Minor). The altar had a huge statue -done by sculptor Cesare Biscarra- of the Virgin Mary of Consolata, that looked at the parishioners in an impressive way like a statue of Roman Gods inside an ancient imperial temple.
5) the ''Fiat's Boero Building''. In 1939 Mogadishu was created a building that was judged as a masterpiece of the "Italian-Arab architecture".
The 'Fiat Boero' building
Indeed in the surrounding manufacturing area was created the "Inataree" Somali version of the famous Fiat 650 truck, assembled near the "Porto di Mogadiscio"
6) the "Arch of Umberto". In 1934 Crown Prince Umberto II of Italy made his first publicized visit to Mogadishu. To commemorate the visit, the Arch of Umberto was constructed. The arch was built at the center of Mogadishu Garden.
7) the "Lyceum De Bono". It was the best school institution in Italian Somalia, with the official name: "Ginnasio-Liceo Emilio De Bono". It was built in Italian colonial "Art Deco" style, not far away from the "Mogadiscio Stazione ferroviaria" (railway station).
8) Other important architectures & buildings were: the ''Casa del Fascio'' (later headquarter of Somalian Parliament in the 1960s); the ''Arco Trionfale'' (made in 1928); the ''Albergo Croce del Sud'' (a modern "Art Deco" hotel); the "Scuola Regina Elena" (the first educational building in Mogadiscio); the "Palazzo degli Uffici" (neoclassical Italian style administrative building, that after WW2 was the headquarter of the Italian administration of Somalia by ONU mandate in the 1950s) and the ''Cinema Italia'' (the first cinema theater in Mogadishu).
The following were the official Institutions created by the Italians and their government in Mogadiscio (for further information read Institutions & Educational organizations in AOI):
* Schools for Italians:
**Scuola elementare mista • Ginnasio-Liceo Emilio De Bono
**Missione cattolica dei Cappuccini
**Asilo d’infanzia e scuola elementare parificata mista Regina Elena
* Schools for Native Somalis:
**Missione cattolica orfanotrofio Guido ed Elisa Corni e scuola parificata
**Scuola speciale per i figli dei notabili somali
* Associations, Media and Cinema/Theaters:
**Casa del Fascio
**Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro
**Museo della Garesa
**Regio Automobile Club d’Italia
**Consociazione Turistica Italiana
**Compagnia Italiana Turismo (CIT)
**Circolo Duchessa d’Aosta
**Circolo del Tennis
**Associazione Motociclistica Mogadiscio
**Associazione Sportiva Mogadiscio
**Unione Sportiva Mogadiscio
**Supercinema (with theater installations)
**«Bollettino ufficiale e foglio d’ordini e di comunicazioni del Governo della Somalia Italiana»
**«Bollettino della Federazione dei Fasci di combattimento»
**Newspaper «Il Littoriale» (edizione Somalia)
**Newspaper «Somalia Fascista»
**Magazine «Somalia Sportiva»
**Magazine «Somalia Cristiana»