Mogadishu is the country's largest city, a seaport, and a commercial and financial center. Its principal industries are food and beverages, and textiles. The city is linked by road with Kenya and Ethiopia and has an international airport. Among its historic buildings are the Mosque of Fakr ad-Din (1269) and Garesa Palace, built in the late 19th century for the local administrator of the sultan of Zanzibar and now housing a museum and library. Mogadishu is the seat of the Somalia National University.
Mogadishu was settled by Arab colonists c.900, and by the early 12th century had become an important trade center for the east coast of Africa. It was visited by Zheng He's armada and came under the control of Portugal in the 16th century.
In 1871 the city was occupied by the sultan of Zanzibar, who leased it to the Italians in 1892. In 1905 Italy purchased the city and made it the capital of its colony of Italian Somaliland. Mogadishu was captured and occupied during World War II by British forces operating from Kenya. During Somalia's long civil war from the 1970s, rebel forces took the city in 1990. Intense battling between clan-based rebel factions damaged many parts of Mogadishu in 1991 and 1992. UN peacekeeping forces were stationed in the city between 1992 and 1995.
On October 3, 1993, an attempt by the United States Army to capture a major warlord failed badly. In the ensuing battle, Gary Gordon and Randall Shughart earned Medals of Honor. The events were later dramatised in the novel and film Black Hawk Down
Today Mogadishu continues to be one of the world's most dangerous cities (see Attacks on humanitarian workers), as clan and faction fighting rages unabated. The city is also the seat of the Transitional National Government, ostensibly an interim government for the entire nation of Somalia, but in reality the TNG has no influence outside the radius of a few blocks beyond its headquarters. Realizing their hopeless task, the TNG bureaucrats mainly concern themselves with embezzling international aid, and taking pay offs from local gangsters. While the rest of Somalia, particularly the northwest, is slowly pulling itself back together, Mogadishu seems perpetually mired in chaotic power struggles, with no end in sight.
See also: Battle of Mogadishu
A Mogadishu boy straddles the remains of a Black Hawk helicopter.