Downtown Mogadishu,  circa 1991,  amidst scenes depicting what appears to be the Somali Civil War,  has temporarily been relocated to Essaouira.  It is the location for a movie being made,  so I am advised,  by a South Korean film company.

By the large murals on the sides of houses the movie appears to be about the rule of Somalian dictator Siad Barre who came to power in 1969 following a coup.  Subsequent to introducing radical change and instigating human rights abuses he was removed from power in the 1991 Civil War and died in exile in 1995.

It is ironic though that a south Korean film company is producing the film when Barre had such strong links with the north Korean government,  sharing the ideals of a ‘one party Marxist-Lenninist state’.

More of his life can be read here and here

Morocco is no stranger to films being produced in its varied landscapes.  Around Ouarzazate there are several large studios where Gladiator,  Black Hawk Down,  Babel,  Jewel in the Nile, Lawrence of Arabia and more were filmed.  In Essaouira,  Orson Welles’ Othello,  The Kingdom of Heaven,  scenes from Game of Thrones have been filmed.  More films were made in Marrakesh,  Rabat and elsewhere.

The current production is in town for 2 months,  apparently employs some 200 crew,  its set and entourage occupy a large area in the new town.   I was advised it has brought prosperity to the house owners and shopkeepers whose property has been temporarily transformed to depict a conflict situation and will be reconstituted after filming ends.  I am sure it has also brought wealth to the local government in Essaouira.

Below are some photographs I managed to take yesterday after shooting finished and in between being encouraged by staff to ‘move on’ or ‘hurry please’.  Security is tight and all the surrounding roads are blocked off by metal barriers,  police and staff.  Together with many town’s people and children I watched the last hour of filming from behind the barriers; columns of soldiers being shunted around,   military jeeps wheeling through the streets with armed guards on board and the occasional rattle of gunfire from somewhere I couldn’t see.

When all the fires in the burnt out cars and elsewhere on the street had been extinguished we were permitted to enter the film set.

Siad Barre was not an enlightened leader.  Some of his quotes are below.



In our Revolution we believe that we have broken the chain of a consumer economy based on imports, and we are free to decide our destiny . And in order to realize the interests of the Somali people, their achievement of a better life, the full development of their potentialities and the fulfilment of their aspirations, we solemnly declare Somalia to be a Socialist State.



I did not come to power to divide Somali but to unite them, and I will never deviate from this path. I shall respect a Somali individual as long as he deserves respect, but if he turns away from the correct path, then that is not my business.



I support any political entity that represents our interest…whether ssc/khaatumo/darwiishland/Centre North state…



When I came to Mogadishu…here was one road built by the Italians. If you try to force me to stand down, I will leave the city as I found it. I came to power with a gun; only the gun can make me go.



Some of the colonizers do understand and quickly retreat, while some, because they are stupid, continue colonizing others, increasing the suffering, deaths, injuries, defeat and humiliation. The people colonized by Abyssinia will be free. Eritrea will be free, and they cannot refuse to let them be free. Western Somalia will be free, and they cannot refuse to grant it freedom. The numerous Abo will be free because this is history, and no one can prevent the sunshine from reaching us.



We should teach the foreigners and colonialists that Somalia cannot be led by other people and that the traitors who fled the country will never lead Somalia



As far as socialism is concerned, it is not a heavenly message like Islam but a mere system for regulating the relations between man and his utilization of the means of production in this world. If we decide to regulate our national wealth, it is not against the essence of Islam. God has created man and has given him the faculty of mind to choose between good and bad, between virtue and vice. We have chose social justice instead of exploitation of man by man and this is how we can practically help the individual Muslim and direct him to [a] virtuous life. However, the reactionaries wanted to create a rift between socialism and Islam because socialism is not in their interest



When I leave Somalia I will leave buildings but not people