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"Somalia: “To me flowers bring in a new light, a solution to the problems faced"

Mohamed Mahamoud Sheik, who opened Somalia’s first flower shop, was killed on 2 August. In this previously unpublished interview posted on www.theguardian.com, he talks about life in war-torn Mogadishu and the importance of flowers.

Born to Somali parents in Italy and raised in Tanzania, Sheik was among a number of expat entrepreneurs who went back to Somalia to open businesses, following the country’s two decades of conflict.

In an interview in 2015, he spoke about why he believed flowers could bring normality to his country. “Most people wonder why [Somalia] is unable to gain peace and stability and have a functioning government. It is not because people do not want peace or a government. It’s because they cannot. They are still haunted and traumatised by the decades of war,” he said. “It has not set into their minds that peace can truly happen.

“On a daily basis [people] witness bombs going off and see bodies and hear of death. They help those injured and bury their dead. They mourn and pray that God helps them. Then they move with their lives. The next day is again the same and nothing seems to change.

“To me flowers bring in a new light, a solution to the problems faced. It provides an opportunity to see beauty and gain sanity from all the problems surrounding us.”

Some people thought his decision to open a florist’s was mad, he said. Security was always a concern, and fresh flowers had to be imported from Kenya.

But his business grew steadily, with international UN staff making up the majority of his clients, as well as young couples on Valentine’s Day.


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