In The Mayor of Mogadishu, Andrew Harding reveals the tumultuous life of Mohamud “Tarzan” Nur – a brave, driven, divisive man – and of his friends and family.
Tarzan was born under a tree into an impoverished nomadic family, was abandoned in a state orphanage in newly independent Somalia during a famine, and became a street brawler, minor basketball star, and activist. When the country collapsed into civil war and anarchy, Tarzan and his young family became part of an exodus, eventually spending twenty years in north London.
In 2010 Tarzan returned, against his family’s wishes, to the unrecognizable ruins of a city now almost entirely controlled by the Islamist militants of Al Shabab. For many in Mogadishu and in the diaspora, the new Mayor of Mogadishu became a galvanizing symbol of courage and hope for Somalia in the fight against extremism and chaos. But for others, Tarzan was a divisive thug, who sank beneath the corruption and clan rivalries that continue, today, to threaten the country’s revival.
The Mayor of Mogadishu is a rare an insider’s account of Somalia’s early promise and subsequent unraveling, and an intimate portrayal of one family’s extraordinary journey.
"Africa can be explained in dry prose, in figures, in newspaper reports; or it can be explained, as Andrew Harding does in this book, through an astonishing personal story, vivid and utterly memorable. This is a triumph of a book: surprising, informative, and humane."
– Alexander McCall Smith
"Andrew Harding is one of the great foreign correspondents in any medium. He has a sympathy for Somalia and its people that shines through this powerful book. He disdains cliche and reductive analysis, in the process creating some of the most beautiful writing about Africa that I have ever read."
– Fergal Keane, author of Road of Bones, and Season of Blood.
"A stunning odyssey. Harding masterfully shows us there is no 'them' in the world - there is only 'us'."
– Jonathan Ledgard, author of Submergence.
"A wonderful account of one of the most troubled yet beautiful countries on Earth, told by one of our most gifted and sensitive journalists. This is a book laced with hope amid the dark layers of hatred through which the Mayor of Mogadishu battles."
- Jon Snow, Channel 4 News, UK.
"One of Africa's most experienced correspondents zeroes in on one of the most intriguing characters in the extraordinary post-apocalyptic world of modern Mogadishu. Like the city and its mayor, Harding brings depth, clarity, nuance and occasional poetry to his story. Rich, epic and important."
– Alex Perry, author of The Rift.
"An excellent portrait of Somalia. Harding captures the agony the country has suffered for the last 25 years but also the strength, resilience and the humour of its remarkable people.”
– Richard Dowden, author of Altered States, Ordinary Miracles.
"Andrew Harding's elegantly-written account is much more than a portrait of the Mayor of Mogadishu. In bold, vivid brush-strokes it captures all the charm, colour, contraditions and menace of contemporary Somalia."
- Michela Wrong, author of Borderlines.
"It is easy to gawk at the tragedy of Somalia; assuming an attitude of sensationalised disbelief. Andrew Harding refuses to do this. Instead he offers a wry, sceptical story. Parto fable, part journalistic account, Harding's tale brims with sympathy and admiration for the human capacity for survival. The Mayor of Mogadishu is a great big gorgeous read."
- Sisonke Msimang, columnist.
"I am truly inspired by this book. This is the best-written and most well articulated book about about Somalia that I have ever seen. Any Somali reader, let alone non-Somalis, will learn so much about Mayor Tarzan, Mogadishu, and the nomadic Somali life style."
Abdirashid S. Ahmed - East African Community Specialist, Minneapolis