In Summary
  • In keeping with the Chelsea name, each avenue between the containers has a London name: like Oxford Street, Regents Street, Carnaby Street and Saville Row.
  • Chelsea Village is certainly more upmarket than the other camps I have seen in the secured airport complex or in Kismayo.
  • It has a well-cushioned sunken lounge, a swimming pool, a café and bar, and a well-equipped gym – well that was the judgement of my two colleagues; I kept well away from its torture machines.

At the hot drinks counter a blonde woman was sniffing cups, one after another. She must have sniffed at more than half a dozen before she found one that had the right smell – or lack of it – and then poured a coffee from the percolator.

At a table across from us a mzungu, rather gaunt except for his bright red baseball cap that never seemed to leave his head, had found a young listener – and he talked non-stop for at least 20 minutes. And for the next three days, whenever I saw him, if he didn’t have a live listener he was speaking to his phone.

I guess if, for weeks on end, you are cooped up in one of the camps within the protected area of Mogadishu airport, your behaviour might well drift into the eccentric if not bizarre.

But for us the camp called Chelsea Village was something of a welcome and quite surprising oasis, a relaxed place within the always tense and often frenetic airport, and well sheltered from the hot glare of the Somalia sun.

It’s called a camp, but instead of canvas tents there are steel containers – in the language of the camp’s leaflet, “bespoke NatCap 5mm steel accommodation unit”. There are rows of them, one steel unit on top of another.

They are very smart containers, too, with a double bed at one end and a washroom with a hot shower, toilet and basin, at the other. In between there is a wardrobe, workspace, a fridge, and a settee. On the walls there is an air conditioner and a multi-channel TV.

In keeping with the Chelsea name, each avenue between the containers has a London name: like Oxford Street, Regents Street, Carnaby Street and Saville Row. I was allocated number 15 Oxford Street. I guess the entrepreneur who set up this place was a Diaspora Somali from the UK.

Chelsea Village is certainly more upmarket than the other camps I have seen in the secured airport complex or in Kismayo. It has a well-cushioned sunken lounge, a swimming pool, a café and bar, and a well-equipped gym – well that was the judgement of my two colleagues; I kept well away from its torture machines.

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