Bringing Peace to Somalia, One Plate at a Time


After surviving a deadly suicide bomb attack that killed 14 people at his restaurant in Somalia's capital Mogadishu last September, BBC reports that chef Ahmed Jama Mohamed had this to say: "I will open the restaurant again — I will try and I'm not going to give up."

Within weeks, the restaurant was up and running, amid death threats and a second failed bombing attempt a month and a half later.

Ahmed had been living in the U.K. since 1989, where he trained to become a chef near Birmingham and worked at several restaurants in London. He opened the well-received The Village in West London that put Somali cuisine on the map. But in 2008, he left behind his comfortable life and his wife and children to help rebuild his war-ravaged homeland.

In a CNN article, Ahmed explains that he wanted to restore a sense of community and normalcy to his countrymen. "Basically, what I am looking for is to show them, 'yes , you can laugh when you finish work, university, office work, wherever you are, you have somewhere to go,'" he shares. This seems simple enough, if not for the fact that parts of the country are starting to recover from more than two decades of civil war and years of rule under the terrorist group Al-Shabaab that is linked to al Qaeda. Last year's attack on one of Ahmed's restaurants is an example of the dangers the Somali people face every day.

A risk-taker by nature, Ahmed opened his first branch of The Village in one of the most dangerous areas of the city in 2008 and has since opened four more properties. His restaurants have become the city's must-eat destinations, where patrons can enjoy traditional Somali food like soor, a sorghum mash, canjello, a Somali pancake and camel meat, as well as treat themselves to luxuries like ice cream and cappuccinos.

He has even introduced lobster to his menu in the hopes of widening the culinary palate in Somalia. Ahmed says most Somalis do not eat seafood, even though the country has a long coastline and access to water rich with lobster, shrimp and fish.

He also gives back to the community by providing jobs to locals, especially those who need it most like women who lost their husbands during the war. "That's what makes me keep moving," he shares in a recent CNN interview.

His dream is to transform Mogadishu into a tourist destination. "A mix of people — white, black — everyone coming on holiday," he tells CNN.

Check out the slideshow above for more about Chef Ahmed Jama's story.