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The Hotel You Won’t Find on Booking.com

6 May 2022

The Hotel You Won’t Find on Booking.com

From the moment you arrive at RA International’s Camp Cotton in the Safe Zone of Mogadishu, you realise this is no ordinary hotel. Two sets of security gates overseen by watchtowers with armed guards, an x-ray luggage scanner and a walkthrough gate, form a first impression few will forget.

When you decide to stay in one the world’s less stable hotspots like Mogadishu, quality hospitality is important. But security is critical.

Don’t expect a room with a view. The hotel, strategically sunk into the high ground on a hill, is cleverly constructed with rooms on the inside and corridors on the outside, providing protection from mortar attacks from the side and above. Rooms don’t have windows, which would create a vulnerability.

As well as the usual introduction to how the Wi-Fi works, you will also be familiarised with the location of your nearest evacuation bunker. Regular drills for active shooters and mortar attack ensure you will know exactly what to do in the case of emergency.

But security is only a part of the story. Muhamed Altumbabic, RA International’s Country Manager in Somalia, explains that the aim is to offer guests the highest level of hospitality in a safe and secure environment.

A place to relax and unwind

“We are home to people from peacekeeping forces, NGOs, private companies and the military. Some will be here for weeks or months while they oversee various economic or diplomatic initiatives. They need to be able to relax and unwind like you would in any leading hotel around the world.

“Our restaurant and dining room, rated to the same high level of security, have been created by award-winning interior designers. They serve first-class food, and are the beating heart of the hotel, where everyone comes together. We have first class conference facilities. We’re home to the best Internet service in Mogadishu, sited within our own compound to ensure the highest quality connectivity. We provide our own power generation to ensure our facilities run uninterrupted 24/7 and proudly feed electricity into our grid through an onsite solar farm for enhanced sustainability.”

Focus on health and wellbeing

“For our guests who are working in challenging environments with underdeveloped infrastructure, health and well-being are a valid concern. That’s why we have our own state-of-the-art water treatment plant, providing safe and regularly tested tap water with a purity higher than local bottled water.

“We have impeccable food supply chains and strict kitchen hygiene that operates to international standards. And the highest quality laundry services.

“We treat each guest as an individual, working hard to meet their independent needs. Our dedicated concierge is an expert at taking care of guests’ requests.”

Expanding from 10 to 150 beds

RA International, the global facilities management company, were originally approached by the UN back in 2013 to create a temporary 10-person accommodation site for UN helicopter crews and contractors. Ryan Hattingh, Head of Integrated Facilities Management, explains: “We’re an agile private operator that can get things done quickly. We created a prefabricated single-storey facility in a matter of months.”

But then two things changed. Mogadishu became an important centre for infrastructure investment, so demand for beds increased. And at the same time, terrorist activity began to proliferate, particularly targeting people involved in development.

This led to an ambitious new project to extend the original accommodation to become a full-blown 150-bed hotel, whilst also constructing a compound that meets the highest standards of resistance to terrorist attack.

A template for global success

Ryan says it was a project that changed the way they work.

“To have total confidence in what we were creating, we kept everything in-house. Not just design and planning, but construction too. So, for example, locally available materials (aggregates, cement, water) were tested to determine concrete mix design that would meet blast criteria.

“We used products and construction techniques rated against the highest threat levels and approved by blast engineers. We positioned evacuation bunkers near to each accommodation and working area to provide additional safety for guests and staff in the event of a sustained live attack. And once complete, we have manned security posts with highly trained ex-military personnel, carefully vetted by RA.”

Camp Cotton was so successful in providing the right blend of dependable security, hospitality, and business services, that it’s become a template for such facilities around the world.

RA International now has three Camps in the region. It is also using techniques learned here to construct other prominent hospitality sites with capacities for over 1,000 guests in countries like Mozambique.

The invisible challenge we’re all facing

But it’s not all been plain sailing. Muhamed says: “Whilst our hotel operations in post-conflict environments have evolved significantly, there are always new challenges facing our operations; even we couldn’t have anticipated COVID 19.

"We went from an average of 96% occupancy to months of just catering to a handful of guests. We’re now regrouping whilst taking the opportunity to repair and refurbish infrastructure and facilities, while we wait for the world to get back to business once again.”


RA International is a leading provider of services to remote locations in Africa and the Middle East, specialising in construction; integrated facilities management; and supply chain.

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