A Somali café by Omar Degan supports community in Mogadishu

Arbe, a Somali café by Omar Degan, offers a gathering hub for the community in Mogadishu

interior of arbe café by omar degan, a new somali café
(Image credit: Omar Degan)

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.'

view of interior with customers and painting at Arbe Cafe by Omar Degan

(Image credit: Omar Degan)

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. 

moody interior at Arbe Cafe by Omar Degan

(Image credit: Omar Degan)

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.

Arbe Cafe by Omar Degan detail of barista

(Image credit: Omar 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 bookMogadishu through the eyes of an architect, which offers an engaging tour of the country's capital through key modern and historical buildings. 

Arbe Cafe by Omar Degan interior

(Image credit: Omar Degan)

bar clos up inside Arbe Cafe by Omar Degan

(Image credit: Omar Degan)

bar detail at Arbe Cafe by Omar Degan

(Image credit: Omar Degan)

hero exterior of Arbe Cafe by Omar Degan

(Image credit: Omar Degan)


Mogadishu through the eyes of an architect, by Omar Degan, is available at amazon.co.uk, £19.99

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).