AT THE Coconut Beach Hotel, which opened last month, new guests are served coconut smoothies when they arrive. The rooms do indeed have a view of the ocean. What betrays where the hotel is, in Mogadishu, the war-torn capital of Somalia, are the two dozen guards in football shirts loafing around the doors clutching AK-47s. At the top of the stairs sits a machine-gun nest pointing at the gate. Aisha Abdulle Hassan, the proprietor, explains that she has invested $2m in the business. She is confident that it will soon be highly profitable. But she is taking no chances: “Our security is as tight as we could make it,” she says. “Only Allah knows if it is enough.”
Hotels are booming in Mogadishu. This is not thanks to tourists—only the most daring or idiotic would take a holiday in Somalia. Rather, the demand comes from power-brokers, who meet in them to discuss how to create a new government. This year Somalia is meant to hold elections, as part of the UN-led reconstruction effort. But even as peacemakers blather inside air-conditioned conference rooms, battle continues to rage outside. Hotels have become a target for militants. On August 30th a car bomb blew up outside one in Mogadishu, killing at least 15 people. After a quarter-century of costly foreign intervention, Somalia is still Africa’s most-failed state.