By this time (in mid-2012) the country had been without a functioning government for more than twenty years, and the city was a byword for chaos, lawlessness, corruption, and violence. But this wasn’t the Mogadishu we saw. Far from it: on the surface, the city was a picture of prosperity. Many shops and houses were freshly painted, and signs on many street corners advertised auto parts, courses in business and English, banks, money changers and remittance services, cellphones, processed food, powdered milk, cigarettes, drinks, clothes, and shoes. The Bakara market in the center of town had a monetary exchange, where the Somali shilling—a currency that has survived without a state or a central bank for more than twenty years—floated freely on market rates that were set and updated twice daily. There were restaurants, hotels, and a gelato shop, and many intersections had busy produce markets. The coffee shops were crowded with men watching soccer on satellite television and good-naturedly arguing about scores and penalties. Traffic flowed freely, with occasional blue-uniformed, unarmed Somali National Police officers (male and female) controlling intersections. Besides motorcycles, scooters, and cars, there were horse-drawn carts sharing the roads with trucks loaded above the gunwales with bananas, charcoal, or firewood. Offshore, fishing boats and coastal freighters moved about the harbor, and near the docks several flocks of goats and sheep were awaiting export to cities around the Red Sea and farther afield. Power lines festooned telegraph poles along the roads, many with complex nests of telephone wires connecting them to surrounding buildings. Most Somalis on the street seemed to prefer cellphones, though, and many traders kept up a constant chatter on their mobiles. Mogadishu was a fully functioning city.