A new Somali café, Arbe, has been completed in Mogadishu. The space, created by locally based, Somali-Italian architect Omar Degan, was conceived as a key hub to support the neighbourhood’s community in one of Somalia’s most populous cities.
Degan explains: ‘Mogadishu is one of the most fragile cities in the world, but also one of the most resilient, and I think that the story of this city could be an example of how communities work towards a more sustainable and resilient future.’
Arbe: a Somali café by Omar Degan
‘Arbe café wants to respond to the need for spaces for gatherings [within the local community] while challenging the usual design style of restaurants and cafés within the city,’ explains Degan. Located in the heart of Mogadishu’s financial district, the space is defined by its large, arched windows, conceived to connect inside and outside. ‘The arches are inspired by what was once the gold market of Mogadishu, which was located in the historical centre of the city, Xamarweyne – an important market that was characterised by a big central square and porches with round white arches,’ the architect continues.
The bar counter is made out of recycled wood from old furniture and floor planks. A selection of local potted plants serve as a reminder that this was once a very green city. ‘The combination of the palm trees and the white façade with the arches are a tribute to what was Mogadishu before the civil war, a city named the “white pearl of the Indian Ocean” due to the green of the palm trees, the white of the buildings and the blue of the Indian ocean,’ writes Degan.
Degan leads an architecture practice in the country, founded in 2017. He has completed projects such as the multifunctional, leisure and cultural space Salsabii in the city’s Laba Dhagax neighbourhood – aiming to highlight the rich cultural identity and heritage of Somalia.
His work is defined by his passion for Somali culture; this is also expressed in his recently published architecture book, Mogadishu through the eyes of an architect, which offers an engaging tour of the country’s capital through key modern and historical buildings.