It’s a Tuesday morning in Mogadishu. The sun is out, as it usually is, promising to be a dry and hot day in the city. For the head of UN Information Management Unit Albert Abou Hamra, settling into the AAIA Mogadishu safe zone was challenging but is now somewhere he feels right at home. An honoured guest of Chelsea Village, Albert was happy to share some insights into what life is really like living in a remote camp based in one of the most dangerous regions in the world. Continue reading for more about his experiences over the past few years.
Albert has been at Chelsea Village since 2017
How long have you been staying at Chelsea Village?
I joined the UN OCHA Somalia office in 2016, but I was initially based in Nairobi. I moved to Mogadishu in October 2017 and have been living in the same room in Chelsea Village ever since.
What is your favourite part of staying at the camp?
When you are assigned to a hard duty station, the first thing that comes to mind is that you want to live in a peaceful and well-serviced environment. There should be some kind of community interaction and social events to help ease your transition into a new environment. When I first arrived in Chelsea Village, I instantly noticed that it is nice, clean, and cosy with excellent service from the get go.
After a few months, I began to notice improvements and changes in the space, with better well-being facilities, service, and also new additions that appeared from time to time. These continuous improvements were the result of the excellent management that is still in place to this day. Because of all of these factors, particularly the family spirit that exists, Chelsea Village has become a favourite of mine.
When living and working in a high risk environment, what are the top three most important things you would hope to find in the place you are staying?
The first thing that every person needs to see in place is security, followed by comfort and high quality service, good dinning, and socialising. At Chelsea Village , there is a very high level of security in place at all times, which is combined with a friendly approach (Something you don’t see very often!) With regards to service, Chelsea Village provides us with a 5 star treatment.
If my colleagues and I request anything of management, we are immediately tended to. From general workers to restaurant staff and admin workers to cleaners, the Chelsea Village staff are incredible! Great food is served, and suggestions are not only welcome, but always taken into account. At Chelsea Village we are able to socialise in a welcoming and respectful environment that embraces diversity.
At Chelsea Village, we believe we’re not just providing a roof above your head but hope that we’re providing somewhere you can feel part of a community. Has this been true of your experience? And have you met any interesting people during your stay?
During my four years at the camp, I have been able to expand my circle of friends, as well as my professional connections. The diverse circle at Chelsea Village ensures that social opportunities are plentiful. As simple as going out to lunch or dinner and sitting with someone for the first time, you can end up with a great connection and friendship.
Furthermore, the people you meet in Chelsea Village are often connected to your professional work, where you end up meeting people with whom you need to discuss work-related topics, saving you time and emails.
Working and living in high risk environments where freedom of movement is limited, what do you do for your wellbeing or in your down time?
There are numerous ways to entertain yourself in the village. One of the places where you can do your daily exercises is at the gym. Chelsea Village also has a great location and is walking distance to the beach, allowing you to take a walk along the sea. The rooftop is very well designed, providing you with peace of mind and relaxation while you enjoy some delicious seafood. Everyone has access to the movie screening option, which includes a large screen projector. There is good internet access, which keeps you connected to home and in touch with your family at all times. You can also bring your own items from home and use them. This is what I do every evening when I light up my Shisha as I do for the past 4 years in the open space of the rooftop which many now call it ‘The Shisha Corner’!
There are so many opportunities available, and the flexibility and support of Chelsea management allows your wishes to come true in a difficult environment.
Can you describe an average day for you at the Village?
From Sunday to Thursday, an average day begins with an early breakfast, office work, and an evening chill after a long working day, whereas Fridays and Saturdays are more flexible in terms of breakfast and free time, allowing you to engage in a variety of activities or simply relax all day.
What has been the highlight of your time living in Mogadishu?
I’ve been living in Mogadishu for four years and am now in my fifth. I can say that living here for the past four years has given me a lot of experience and knowledge. Things I would like to mention as important are:
- The value of your time when you are busy. You should still make a point to communicate with your loved ones.
- Learning how to adapt to living in a difficult duty station is an ongoing process
- Have fun, even if the situation is difficult.
- Meet new people and work with new people.
- Put your favourite skills to use.
- Be prepared for any and all emergencies that may arise.
Any advice for someone who is travelling to this region or planning on living in Mogadishu in the near future?
My most crucial advice is to properly plan out your priorities. In normal circumstances, when traveling to the region here, you should consider your security, well-being, and staying in a very well-serviced place where you do not have to worry about your daily routine of clothes washing, cooking, and so on…
If you have the opportunity to do so, consider Chelsea Village Mogadishu for your stay. You will be able to achieve all the above and more in one place.