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Somalis (Somali: Soomaaliyeed, Arabic: الصوماليون‎) are an ethnic group located in the Horn of Africa also known as the Somali Peninsula.[13] The overwhelming majority of Somalis speak the Somali language, which is part of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Ethnic Somalis number around 15-17 million and are principally concentrated in Somalia (more than 9 million[1]), Ethiopia (4.6 million[2]), Yemen (a little under 1 million), northeastern Kenya (900,000[3]), Djibouti (350,000), and an unknown but large number live in parts of the Middle East, North America and Europe.

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In antiquity, the ancestors of the Somali people were an important link in the Horn of Africa connecting the region's commerce with the rest of the ancient world. Somali sailors and merchants were the main suppliers of frankincense, myrrh and spices, items which were considered valuable luxuries by the Ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians, Mycenaeans and Babylonians.[16][17]

According to most scholars, the ancient Kingdom of Punt and its inhabitants formed part of the ethnogenesis of the Somali people.[18][19][20][21] The ancient Puntites were a nation of people that had close relations with Pharaonic Egypt during the times of Pharaoh Sahure and Queen Hatshepsut. The pyramidal structures, temples and ancient houses of dressed stone littered around Somalia are said to date from this period.[22]

In the classical era, several ancient city-states such as Opone, Mosyllon and Malao that competed with the Sabaeans, Parthians and Axumites for the wealthy Indo-Greco-Roman trade also flourished in Somalia.[23] [1][2]The Citadel of Gondershe, Somalia was an important city in the medieval Ajuuraan Empire.The birth of Islam on the opposite side of Somalia's Red Sea coast meant that Somali merchants, sailors and expatriates living in the Arabian Peninsula gradually came under the influence of the new religion through their converted Arab Muslim trading partners. With the migration of fleeing Muslim families from the Islamic world to Somalia in the early centuries of Islam and the peaceful conversion of the Somali population by Somali Muslim scholars in the following centuries, the ancient city-states eventually transformed into Islamic Mogadishu, Berbera, Zeila, Barawa and Merca, which were part of the Berberi civilization. The city of Mogadishu came to be known as the City of Islam,[24] and controlled the East African gold trade for several centuries.[25] [3][4]Mohamoud Ali Shire, a prominent Somali anti-imperialist leader and the 20th Sultan of the Warsangali Sultanate.In the Middle Ages, several powerful Somali empires dominated the regional trade including the Ajuuraan State, which excelled in hydraulic engineering and fortress building,[26] the Sultanate of Adal, whose general Ahmed Gurey was the first African commander in history to use cannon warfare on the continent during Adal's conquest of the Ethiopian Empire,[27] and the Gobroon Dynasty, whose military dominance forced governors of the Omani empire north of the city of Lamu to pay tribute to the Somali Sultan Ahmed Yusuf.[28]

In the late 19th century, after the Berlin conference had ended, European empires sailed with their armies to the Horn of Africa. The imperial clouds wavering over Somalia alarmed the Dervish leader Muhammad Abdullah Hassan, who gathered Somali soldiers from across the Horn of Africa and began one of the longest colonial resistance wars ever. The Dervish State successfully repulsed the British empire four times and forced it to retreat to the coastal region.[29] As a result of its successes against the British, the Dervish State received support from the Ottoman and German empires. The Turks also named Hassan Emir of the Somali nation,[30] and the Germans promised to officially recognize any territories the Dervishes were to acquire.[31] After a quarter of a century of holding the British at bay, the Dervishes were finally defeated in 1920, when Britain for the first time in Africa used airplanes to bomb the Dervish capital of Taleex. As a result of this bombardment, former Dervish territories were turned into a protectorate of Britain. Italy similarly faced the same opposition from Somali Sultans and armies and did not acquire full control of parts of modern Somalia until the Fascist era in late 1927. This occupation lasted till 1941 and was replaced by a British military administration. The Union of the two regions in 1960 formed the Somali Democratic Republic that would actively pursue a Greater Somalia policy of uniting all of the Somali inhabited regions of the Horn of Africa.

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Somali people in the Horn of Africa are divided among different countries (Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and northeastern Kenya) that were artificially and some might say arbitrarily partitioned by the former imperial powers. Pan-Somalism is an ideology that advocates the unification of all ethnic Somalis once part of Somali empires such as the Ajuuraan Empire, the Adal Sultanate, the Gobroon Dynasty and the Dervish State under one flag and one nation. The Siad Barre regime actively promoted Pan-Somalism, which eventually led to the Ogaden War between Somalia on one side, and Ethiopia, Cuba and the Soviet Union on the other.

[edit] Notable Pan-SomalistsEdit

[edit] GeneticsEdit

Genetic genealogy, although a new tool that uses the genes of modern populations to trace their ethnic and geographic origins, has also helped pinpoint the possible background of the modern Somalis.

[edit] Y DNAEdit

[5][6]A Somali man in a traditional taqiyah.According to Y chromosomes studies by Sanchez et al. (2005) and Cruciani et al. (2004), the Somalis are paternally closely related to certain Ethiopian groups, particularly Cushitic speakers:[32][33] "The data suggest that the male Somali population is a branch of the East African population − closely related to the Oromos in Ethiopia and North Kenya − with predominant E3b1 [E1b1b1] cluster lineages that were introduced into the Somali population 4000−5000 years ago, and that the Somali male population has approximately 15% Y chromosomes from Eurasia and approximately 5% from sub-Saharan Africa."[32] Besides comprising the majority of the Y DNA in Somalis, the E1b1b1a (formerly E3b1a) genetic haplogroup also makes up a significant proportion of the paternal DNA of Ethiopians, Sudanese, Egyptians, Berbers, North African Arabs, as well as many Mediterranean and Balkan Europeans.[33][34] The M78 subclade of E1b1b is found in about 77% of Somali males,[32] which, according to Cruciani et al. (2007), may represent the traces of an ancient migration into the Horn of Africa from Egypt/Libya.[35] After haplogroup E1b1b, the second most frequently occurring Y DNA haplogroup among Somalis is the Eurasian haplogroup T (M70),[36] which is found in slightly more than 10% of Somali males. Haplogroup T, like haplogroup E1b1b, is also typically found among populations of Northeast Africa, North Africa, the Near East and the Mediterranean.[37][38]

[edit] mtDNAEdit

According to an mtDNA study by Holden (2005), a large proportion of the maternal ancestry of Somalis consists of the M1 haplogroup,[39] which is common among Ethiopians and North Africans, particularly Egyptians and Algerians.[40][41] M1 is believed to have originated in Asia,[42] where its parent M clade represents the majority of mtDNA lineages[43] (particularly in India).[44] This haplogroup is also thought to possibly correlate with the Afro-Asiatic language family:[39] "We analysed mtDNA variation in ~250 persons from Libya, Somalia, and Congo/Zambia, as representatives of the three regions of interest. Our initial results indicate a sharp cline in M1 frequencies that generally does not extend into sub-Saharan Africa. While our North and especially East African samples contained frequencies of M1 over 20%, our sub-Saharan samples consisted almost entirely of the L1 or L2 haplogroups only. In addition, there existed a significant amount of homogeneity within the M1 haplogroup. This sharp cline indicates a history of little admixture between these regions. This could imply a more recent ancestry for M1 in Africa, as older lineages are more diverse and widespread by nature, and may be an indication of a back-migration into Africa from the Middle East."[39] [7][8]A Somali schoolgirl.Another mtDNA study indicates that: "Somali, as a representative East African population, seem to have experienced a detectable amount of Caucasoid maternal influence... the proportion m of Caucasoid lineages in the Somali is m = 0.46 [46%]... Our results agree with the hypothesis of a maternal influence of Caucasoid lineages in East Africa, although its contribution seems to be higher than previously reported in mtDNA studies."[45] Overall, these genetic studies conclude that Somalis and their fellow Ethiopian and Eritrean Northeast African populations represent a unique and distinct biological group on the continent:[46][47]

"The most distinct separation is between African and non-African populations. The northeastern-African -- that is, the Ethiopian and Somali -- populations are located centrally between sub-Saharan African and non-African populations... The fact that the Ethiopians and Somalis have a subset of the sub-Saharan African haplotype diversity -- and that the non-African populations have a subset of the diversity present in Ethiopians and Somalis -- makes simple-admixture models less likely; rather, these observations support the hypothesis proposed by other nuclear-genetic studies (Tishkoff et al. 1996a, 1998a, 1998b; Kidd et al. 1998) -- that populations in northeastern Africa may have diverged from those in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa early in the history of modern African populations and that a subset of this northeastern-African population migrated out of Africa and populated the rest of the globe. These conclusions are supported by recent mtDNA analysis (Quintana-Murci et al. 1999)."[47]


Somalis are entirely Muslims, the majority belonging to the Sunni branch of Islam and the Shafi`i school of Islamic jurisprudence,[48] although a few are also adherents of the Shia Muslim denomination.[49] [9][10]The whitewashed coral stone city of Merca is an ancient Islamic center in Somalia.Qu'ranic schools (also known as duqsi) remain the basic system of traditional religious instruction in Somalia. They provide Islamic education for children, thereby filling a clear religious and social role in the country. Known as the most stable local, non-formal system of education providing basic religious and moral instruction, their strength rests on community support and their use of locally-made and widely available teaching materials. The Qu'ranic system, which teaches the greatest number of students relative to other educational sub-sectors, is oftentimes the only system accessible to Somalis in nomadic as compared to urban areas. A study from 1993 found, among other things, that "unlike in primary schools where gender disparity is enormous, around 40 per cent of Qur'anic school pupils are girls; but the teaching staff have minimum or no qualification necessary to ensure intellectual development of children." To address these concerns, the Somali government on its own part subsequently established the Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs, under which Qur'anic education is now regulated.[50]

In the Somali diaspora, multiple Islamic fundraising events are held every year in cities like Toronto and Minneapolis, where Somali scholars and professionals give lectures and answer questions from the audience. The purpose of these events is usually to raise money for new schools or universities in Somalia, to help Somalis that have suffered as a consequence of floods and/or droughts, or to gather funds for the creation of new mosques like the Abuubakar-As-Saddique Mosque, which is currently undergoing construction in the Twin cities.

In addition, the Somali community has produced numerous important Muslim figures over the centuries, many of whom have significantly shaped the course of Islamic learning and practice in the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and well beyond...........

[edit] Important Islamic figuresEdit

[11][12]Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti: Somali scholar living in Cairo who recorded the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt.*Sheikh Uways Al-Barawi (1847–1909) – Somali scholar credited with reviving Islam in 19th century East Africa and with followers in Yemen and Indonesia.

Clan and Family StructureEdit

Main article: Demographics of Somalia[13][14]This 2002 CIA map shows the distribution of the various Somali clans.The clan groupings of the Somali people are important social units, and clan membership plays a central part in Somali culture and politics. Clans are patrilineal and are often divided into sub-clans, sometimes with many sub-divisions.

Somali society is traditionally ethnically endogamous. So to extend ties of alliance, marriage is often to another ethnic Somali from a different clan. Thus, for example, a recent study observed that in 89 marriages contracted by men of the Dhulbahante clan, 55 (62%) were with women of Dhulbahante sub-clans other than those of their husbands; 30 (33.7%) were with women of surrounding clans of other clan families (Isaaq, 28; Hawiye, 3); and 3 (4.3%) were with women of other clans of the Darod clan family (Majerteen 2, Ogaden 1).[51]

Major Somali clans include:

Geographic distributionEdit

Main article: Somali diaspora[15][16]Beach in Djibouti City.Somalis constitute the largest ethnic group in Somalia, at approximately 85% of the nation's inhabitants.[13] They are traditionally nomads, but since the late 20th century, many have moved to urban areas. While most Somalis can be found in Somalia proper, large numbers also live in Ethiopia, Yemen, Djibouti, the Middle East, South Asia and Europe due to their seafaring tradition.

Civil strife in the early 1990s greatly increased the size of the Somali diaspora, as many of the best educated Somalis left for the Middle East, Europe and North America.[52] In Canada, the cities of Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Hamilton all harbor Somali populations. Statistics Canada's 2006 census ranks people of Somali descent as the 69th largest ethnic group in Canada.[5] [17][18]The Somali-owned Buckeye Market and Halal Meats store on Morse Road in Columbus, Ohio.While the distribution of Somalis per country in Europe is hard to measure because the Somali community on the continent has grown so quickly in recent years, the official 2001 UK census reported 43,515 Somalis living in the United Kingdom.[4] Somalis in Britain are largely concentrated in the cities of London, Sheffield, Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, and Leicester, with London alone accounting for roughly 78% of Britain's Somali population.[4] There are also significant Somali communities in Norway: 25,496 (2010);[53] the Netherlands: 19,549 (2008);[7] and Denmark: 16,550 (2008).[10]

In the United States, Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Columbus, San Diego, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Los Angeles, Portland, Denver, Nashville, Lewiston, Portland, Maine and Cedar Rapids have the largest Somali populations. [19][20]Sign on Somali Road in the London Borough of Camden.An estimated 20,000 Somalis emigrated to the US State of Minnesota some ten years ago. The Twin Cities now have the highest population of Somalis in North America.[54] The city of Minneapolis hosts hundreds of Somali-owned and operated businesses. Colorful stalls inside several shopping malls offer everything from halal meat, to stylish leather shoes, to the latest fashion for men and women, as well as gold jewelry, money transfer or hawala offices, banners advertising the latest Somali films, and video stores fully stocked with nostalgic love songs not found in the mainstream supermarkets, groceries, and boutiques.[55] The number of Somalis has especially surged in the Cedar-Riverside area (in particular, Riverside Plaza) of Minneapolis.

Somalis now comprise one of the largest immigrant communities in the United Arab Emirates. Somali-owned businesses line the streets of Deira, the Dubai city centre,[56] with only Iranians exporting more products from the city at large.[57] Internet cafés, hotels, coffee shops, restaurants and import-export businesses are all testimony to the Somalis' entrepreneurial spirit. Star African Air is also one of three Somali-owned airlines which are based in Dubai.[56]

[edit] Notable individuals of the diasporaEdit

[21][22]Born in Mogadishu, supermodel Iman was the first Somali woman to appear on the cover of Vogue in 1979 and to sign a cosmetics contract.*Abdirashid Duale – award-winning Somali entrepreneur, philantropist, and the CEO of the multinational enterprise Dahabshiil.


[edit] MenEdit

[23][24]Somali man wearing a macawis sarong.When not dressed in Westernized clothing such as jeans and t-shirts, Somali men typically wear the macawis, which is a sarong-like garment worn around the waist. On their heads, they often wrap a colorful turban or wear the koofiyad, an embroidered fez.

Due to Somalia's proximity to and close ties with the Arabian Peninsula, many Somali men also wear the jellabiya (jellabiyad in Somali), a long white garment common in the Arab world.

[edit] WomenEdit

During regular, day-to-day activities, women usually wear the guntiino, a long stretch of cloth tied over the shoulder and draped around the waist. In more formal settings such as weddings or religious celebrations like Eid, women wear the dirac, which is a long, light, diaphanous voile dress made of cotton or polyester that is worn over a full-length half-slip and a brassiere.

Married women tend to sport head-scarves referred to as shash, and also often cover their upper body with a shawl known as garbasaar. Unmarried or young women, however, do not always cover their heads. Traditional Arabian garb such as the jilbab is also commonly worn.

[edit] CuisineEdit

Main article: Somali cuisine[25][26]Canjeero, the Somali version of injera, is a staple of Somali cuisine.Somali cuisine varies from region to region and consists of an exotic mixture of diverse culinary influences. It is the product of Somalia's rich tradition of trade and commerce. Despite the variety, there remains one thing that unites the various regional cuisines: all food is served halal. There are therefore no pork dishes, alcohol is not served, nothing that died on its own is eaten, and no blood is incorporated. Qado or lunch is often elaborate. Varieties of bariis (rice), the most popular probably being basmati, usually serve as the main dish. Spices like cumin, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and sage are used to aromatize these different rice dishes. Somalis eat dinner as late as 9 pm. During Ramadan, dinner is often served after Tarawih prayers – sometimes as late as 11 pm. Xalwo or halva is a popular confection eaten during special occasions such as Eid celebrations or wedding receptions. It is made from sugar, cornstarch, cardamom powder, nutmeg powder and ghee. Peanuts are also sometimes added to enhance texture and flavor.[67] After meals, homes are traditionally perfumed using frankincense (lubaan) or incense (cuunsi), which is prepared inside an incense burner referred to as a dabqaad.

[edit] LiteratureEdit

Main article: Somali literature[27][28]Award-winning author Nuruddin Farah.Somali scholars have for centuries produced many notable examples of Islamic literature ranging from poetry to Hadith. With the adoption of the Latin alphabet in 1972 to transcribe the Somali language, numerous contemporary Somali authors have also released novels, some of which have gone on to receive worldwide acclaim. Of these modern writers, Nuruddin Farah is probably the most celebrated. Books such as From a Crooked Rib and Links are considered important literary achievements, works which have earned Farah, among other accolades, the 1998 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Farah Mohamed Jama Awl is another prominent Somali writer who is perhaps best known for his Dervish era novel, Ignorance is the enemy of love.

[edit] Authors and poetsEdit

[edit] LawEdit

Main article: XeerSomalis for centuries have practiced a form of customary law, which they call Xeer. Xeer is a polycentric legal system where there is no monopolistic agent that determines what the law should be or how it should be interpreted. [29]A guurti (court) is traditionally formed beneath an acacia tree, where judges arbitrate a dispute until both parties are satisfied. This process can sometimes lead to several days' worth of discussions.The Xeer legal system is assumed to have developed exclusively in the Horn of Africa since approximately the 7th century. There is no evidence that it developed elsewhere or was greatly influenced by any foreign legal system. The fact that Somali legal terminology is practically devoid of loan words from foreign languages suggests that Xeer is truly indigenous.[68]

The Xeer legal system also requires a certain amount of specialization of different functions within the legal framework. Thus, one can find odayal (judges), xeer boggeyaal (jurists), guurtiyaal (detectives), garxajiyaal (attorneys), murkhaatiyal (witnesses) and waranle (police officers) to enforce the law.[69]

Xeer is defined by a few fundamental tenets that are immutable and which closely approximate the principle of jus cogens in international law:[70]

  • Payment of blood money (locally referred to as diya)
  • Assuring good inter-clan relations by treating women justly, negotiating with "peace emissaries" in good faith, and sparing the lives of socially-protected groups (e.g. children, women, the pious, poets and guests).
  • Family obligations such as the payment of dowry, and sanctions for eloping.
  • Rules pertaining to the management of resources such as the use of pasture land, water, and other natural resources.
  • Providing financial support to married female relatives and newly-weds.
  • Donating livestock and other assets to the poor.

[edit] ArchitectureEdit


Somali Architecture

Main article: Architecture of SomaliaSomali architecture is a rich and diverse tradition of engineering and designing multiple different construction types such as stone cities, castles, citadels, fortresses, mosques, temples, aqueducts, lighthouses, towers and tombs during the ancient, medieval and early modern periods in Somalia, as well as the fusion of Somalo-Islamic architecture with Western designs in contemporary times.

In ancient Somalia, pyramidical structures known in Somali as taalo were a popular burial style with hundreds of these drystone monuments scattered around the country today. Houses were built of dressed stone similar to the ones in Ancient Egypt[22] and there are examples of courtyards and large stone walls such as the Wargaade Wall enclosing settlements.

The peaceful introduction of Islam in the early medieval era of Somalia's history brought Islamic architectural influences from Arabia and Persia, which stimulated a shift in construction from drystone and other related materials to coral stone, sundried bricks, and the widespread use of limestone in Somali architecture. Many of the new architectural designs such as mosques were built on the ruins of older structures, a practice that would continue over and over again throughout the following centuries.[71]

[edit] Somali studiesEdit

Main article: Somali Studies[31][32]Prominent Somali Studies scholar, Said Sheikh Samatar.The scholarly term for research concerning Somalis and Somalia is known as Somali Studies. It consists of several disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, linguistics, historiography and archaeology. The field draws from old Somali chronicles and oral literature, in addition to written accounts and traditions about Somalis and Somalia from European explorers and neighbouring regions in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. Since 1980, prominent Somalist scholars from around the world have gathered annually, either in Somalia or a different country, to hold the International Congress of Somali Studies.

[edit] Somalist scholarsEdit

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