Culture of Somalia

Culture of Somalia

Culture of Somalia

Somalia has been characterized as one of the most ethnically and culturally homogenous countries in

Africa. Several minority groups in current-day Somalia are Arabs, Southeast Asians, and the Bantus, who were brought from Southeastern Africa to Somalia as slaves


Dress among Somalis is diverse. In formal and public settings, such as work or school, most Somalis wear Western dress. However, traditional dress is generally favored in rural areas and in non-formal settings

Though women’s traditional dress varies, depending upon region, marital status, or religious beliefs, women usually wear a full-length dress or a traditional guntiino, which is similar to an Indian sari, but made of simple white or red cotton. In cities and in the rural North, women are more likely to wear cotton or polyester dresses or hejab over a full length slip

The Traditional costume of Somali women is a long cloth that is draped around the waist and over the shoulders. This is called GUNTIINO.

For everyday use, Somali women wear a BAATI – a long loose cotton dress made in many patterns and colours. It is usual for women to cover their hair with a scarf. These often match the material of the dress.

For special occasions such as weddings, parties or Eid, Somali women wear a DIRAC. This is a silky, shiny and highly decorated top dress, it is often transparent and you were an under dress beneath it.

Sometimes Somali women wear an outdoor dress called a JILBAAB that covers from head to toe and a NIQAB that covers the face. Somali women like to wear gold jewellery including necklaces,bracelets, earrings and rings

Traditional dress for men consists of two lengths of white cotton wrapped as a skirt and a brightly colored shawl. Men may also cover their heads with a cap called a benadiry kuia.

Men wear KHAMIS- along loose overshirt that is suitable for hot climate. Men usually wear small hats. For relaxing at home a man will often wear a MACAWIS- along cloth wrapped around the body and tied at the waist


Although diet varies depending upon geographical region and livelihood, generally the Somali diet is low in calories and high in protein. Pastoral nomads, who are a signiicant proportion of the Somali population, traditionally eat mostly milk, ghee (clariied butter), and meat. As Muslims, Somalis do not consume pork, lard, or alcohol, and all animals must be slaughtered in a speciic way, called xalaal, to be considered clean.

It is customary for Somali family and friends to eat with their hands from the same plate of food and drink from a shared cup


Islam is the primary religion in Somalia, and the majority of Somalis are Sunni Muslims. Almost  all social norms, attitudes, customs, and gender roles among Somalis derive from Islamic tradition (Lewis, 1996). The five pillars of Islamic faith are 1) faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophet Muhammad, 2) prayer  five times a day, 3) giving 2.5% of one’s income to charity, 4) making a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, at least once in one’s lifetime, and 5) fasting from dawn until dusk every day during the period of Ramadan

During the ninth month of the lunar calendar, Muslims, including Somalis, observe Ramadan to mark the initial revelations to the prophet Muhammad (Lewis, 1996). Because the lunar calendar is about 11 days shorter than the calendar used in the United States, Ramadan varies each year, though it will occur in the autumn months until 2020. During the 30 days of Ramadan, people pray and fast between sunrise and sunset. Pregnant women, the ill, and children are exempted from the fast (Lewis, 1996). During this period, Somalis may only take medication at night


The universal language in Somalia is Somali, a Cushitic language shared by people of Eastern Africa.

Somali includes distinct regional variations. The two main variants, Af Maay and Af Maxaa, were the oficial languages of Somalia until 1972 when the government determined that Af Maxaa would serve as the oficial written language.

Clan and family structure

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 divided into sub-clans and sub-sub-clans, resulting in extended families

Major Somali clans include:

  • Darod
  • Dir
  • Hawiye
  • Isaaq
  • Rahanweyn (Digil and Mirifle)

Culture of Somalia has been summarised to include the following

Foods of Somalia

Traditional Music Instruments in Somalia


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