Minnesota resident Abdikhafar Abubakar fled Somalia in 1992, leaving behind his mother, three siblings, and other family members. He planned to visit twice in previous years, but each time his mother warned it was too dangerous.
Last week, he finally returned to Mogadishu, where he saw his mother for the first time in two decades. This time, she said it was safe, and she welcomed him home with tears of joy. He later walked the streets with his brother.
"One thing I could say about Mogadishu as the most dangerous city in the world: I've been here one week, and I never felt any danger," Abubakar said. "When I was out walking around, I wasn't scared. There was nothing to be scared of."
He did hear gunshots in the distance, but that didn't rattle him.
Mogadishu's designation as the World's Most Dangerous City was unofficial, of course, but widely applied.
The U.N. and embassies pulled out in the 1990s, following the collapse of the last fully functioning government in 1991. Al-Qaeda-linked militants in the al-Shabab group held sway over much of the city from 2007 until last August, a four-year span when full-fledged war raged with African Union troops.
On Aug. 6, the African Union fighters pushed out al-Shabab, ending the daily grind of war. Last month, the African force took control of Afmadow, an al-Shabab stronghold on Mogadishu's outskirts that the insurgents had used for staging the occasional bomb attack.
Armored personnel carriers driven by Ugandan and Burundian troops still rumble through the city. But with the fighting at bay, the military convoys feel more like heavy security than frontline forces.
"This is the longest period of sustained peace Mogadishu has seen in 20 years," said Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the African Union force known as AMISOM.
Britain announced in February that it was naming an ambassador to Somalia, though he is mostly stationed in Nairobi. Johnnie Carson, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, visited Mogadishu on Sunday and noted that eight or nine countries - including Turkey, Libya, Yemen, and Sudan - now have a diplomatic presence in Mogadishu, though the United States does not.