Somali people

Somali people

Infobox Ethnic group

caption = Notable Somalis:

Abdi Bile,Mad Mullah,Hadrawi, Siad Barre,Iman ,K'naan
poptime=15-17 Million
popplace=Horn of Africa, Middle East
region1 = flagcountry|Somalia
pop1 = 9.1 million
ref1 = lower| [ CIA World Factbook: Somalia, people] and [ of the Somalia Ethnic groups] (CIA according de [ Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection] ). The first gives 15% non-Somalis and the second 6%. Used 90% of current population of Somalia.]
region2 = flagcountry|Ethiopia
pop2 = 4.5 million
ref2 = lower| [ CIA World Factbook: Ethopia, people] ]
region3 = flagcountry|Yemen
pop3 = 858,000
ref3 = lower|Fact|date=January 2008
region4 = flagcountry|Kenya
pop4 = 481,000
ref4 = lower|Fact|date=January 2008
region5 = flagcountry|Djibouti
pop5 = 350,000
ref6 = lower|Fact|date=January 2008
region6 = flagcountry|Canada
pop6 = 100,000
ref6 = lower| [Cite news|title=From T.O. to Mogadishu|url=|work=Toronto Star|date=2006-10-20|accessdate=2007-07-20]
region7 = flagcountry|Italy
pop8 = 51,000
region9 = flagcountry|Saudi Arabia
pop10 = 50,000
ref7 = lower|Fact|date=January 2008
region8 = flagcountry|Great Britain
pop8 = 43,515
ref8 = lower| [ [ BBC News with figures from the 2001 Census] ]
region9 = flagcountry|United States
pop9 = 35,760
ref9 = lower| [ [ The 2000 USA census] ]
region10 = flagcountry|United Arab Emirates
pop10 = 30,000
ref10 =
region11 = flagcountry|Netherlands
pop11 = 20,000
ref11 = lower| [ [ CBS - Integratie van Iraniërs vordert goed - Webmagazine ] ]
region12 = flagcountry|Norway
pop12 = 19,656
ref12 = lower| [ Population 1st January 2006 and 2007 and changes in 2006, by immigrant category and country background] ]
region13 = flagcountry|Denmark
pop13 = 16,564
ref13 = lower|Fact|date=January 2008
region14 = flagcountry|Sweden
pop14 = 15,294
ref14 = lower|Fact|date=January 2008
region15 =flagcountry|Finland
pop15 = 9,810
ref15 = lower| [ fi]
rels=Sunni Islam
langs=Somali, Arabic
related= Afar, Agaw, Amhara, Bilen, Jeberti, Oromo, Saho, Tigray and Tigre

Somalis ( _so. "Soomaaliyeed", _ar. الصوماليون) are an ethnic group located in the Horn of Africa, also known as the Somali Peninsula. The overwhelming majority of Somalis speak the Somali language, which is part of the Cushitic subgroup of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Ethnic Somalis number around 20-25 million and are principally concentrated in Somalia (more than 8 million), Ethiopia (4.5 million), Yemen (a little under 1 million), northeastern Kenya (about half a million), Djibouti (350,000), and an unknown but large number live in parts of the Middle East, North America and Europe due to the Somali Civil War.


Somalia has experienced a turbulent past and as such, the history of the Somalis is fraught with a great deal of speculation. Numerous sources place Arabia as the original homeland of the Somali people. [ [ The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition 2007] ] [ [ MSN Encarta Encyclopedia] ] Others suggest a more indigenous provenance that some say can be traced all the way back to the 1st millennium BCE. The ancient ancestors of the Somali people, proponents of this theory propose, split off from an early Cushitic-speaking group in the highlands of Ethiopia, and are referred to as the "Sam". [ [ A Country Study: Somalia from The Library of Congress] ] The Sam themselves are said to be a sub-type of the Omo-Tana and are believed to have transitioned first into the Somaal and later the Somali people. The Somali people are then said to have moved into the Zeila region by at least 850 CE and then expanded into all of what is modern-day Somalia.Fact|date=July 2008

It is likely that Somalis were already exposed to Islam through a small group of Arabs [ [ Ethnic Origins of the Somali People] ] , who settled in parts of East Africa during the time when the Ethiopian Emperor Armah of Axum (see also Ashama ibn Abjar) gave sanctuary to Muhammad's followers. However, it was not until the coming of Arab traders in the 10th century that Islam would significantly shape much of modern Somali culture. Trading communities in northern Somalia that had already been present by the 1st century, according to the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, began to trade with the Arabian Peninsula. This trade and interaction significantly altered Somali society, as the vast majority converted to Islam. Due to the conversion of the Somalis to Islam, conflict with the neighboring Christians of Ethiopia led to numerous wars from the 13th to the 16th century. After the Somali Ajuuraan Dynasty collapsed in the 18th century, Omani rule spawned a trade network spanning much of the Arabian Sea from Zanzibar to Arabia. Thus, making Somalia an important center of early trade. In spite of Arab rule along the coast, the Somali clans of the interior exercised almost total independence and often raided the coastal settlements until the Arabs began to withdraw by the 19th century. Egypt and Britain both attempted to colonize Somalia, with the British eventually succeeding in forming a protectorate over northern Somalia, which they called British Somaliland. After much fighting and bloodshed, Italy later managed to claim the southern portions of Somalia, which they in turn dubbed Italian Somaliland. France ended up colonizing the northern-most Somali region, which is now Djibouti.

Following a few decades of British and Italian rule, Somalia gained its independence in 1960, with Djibouti following suit in 1977. Other Somali-inhabited areas of the Horn of Africa are currently administered by neighboring countries such as the Somali Region in Ethiopia and the North Eastern Province (NFD) in Kenya. In 1977, the Ogaden War broke out after the government of Siad Barre sought to unite the various Somali-inhabited territories of the region into a Greater Somalia (Soomaaliweyn).

Pan Somalism

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 colonial powers. Pan Somalism is an ideology that advocates the unification of all ethnic Somalis under one flag and one nation. The Siad Barre regime actively promoted Pan Somalism, which eventually led to the Ogaden War between Somalia and Ethiopia.


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. According to one prominent study published in the "European Journal of Human Genetics", the Somalis are closely related to certain Ethiopian and Eritrean groups:

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 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. [Sanchez et al., [ High frequencies of Y chromosome lineages characterized by E3b1, DYS19-11, DYS392-12 in Somali males] , Eu J of Hum Genet (2005) 13, 856–866]

Besides comprising the majority of the Y DNA in Somalis, the E1b1b (formerly E3b) genetic haplogroup also makes up the bulk of the paternal DNA of Ethiopians, Eritreans, Berbers, North African Arabs, as well as many Mediterranean and Balkan Europeans. [Cruciani et al., " [ Phylogeographic Analysis of Haplogroup E3b (E-M215) Y Chromosomes Reveals Multiple Migratory Events Within and Out Of Africa"] , Am J Hum Genet. 2004 May; 74(5): 1014–1022] After haplogroup E1b1b, the second most frequently occurring Y DNA haplogroup among Somalis is the Eurasian haplogroup T (M70), [Underhill et al., "The Levant versus the Horn of Africa: Evidence for Bidirectional Corridors of Human Migrations," "American Journal of Human Genetics" 74:532-544, 2004] 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, Southwest Asia, and the Mediterranean.

Overall, the genetic studies conclude that Somalis and their fellow Ethiopian and Eritrean Northeast African groups represent a unique and distinct racial bloc on the continent:

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). [Tishkoff et al. (2000). "Short Tandem-Repeat Polymorphism/Alu Haplotype Variation at the PLAT Locus: Implications for Modern Human Origins". Am J Hum Genet; 67:901-925]

Geographic distribution

Somalis comprise the majority of Somalia's population at approximately 94% of the total Somalia population. They are traditionally a nomadic ethnic group, but since the late 20th century, many have moved to the cities. While most Somalis can be found in Somalia proper, large numbers also live in Ethiopia, Yemen, Djibouti and the Middle East.

omali diaspora

The Somali Civil War led to the Somali diaspora, where most of the best educated Somalis left for Northern Europe, The Middle East, and North America.

In Canada, the cities of Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Hamilton all harbor considerable Somali populations. Estimated figures puts Canada at large as having the 6th largest Somali population in the world, after Somalia, Ethiopia, Yemen, Kenya and Djibouti. Somalis are currently Canada's 26th largest ethnic group

In Europe, the distribution of Somalis by country is hard to measure because Somali communities have grown so quickly in recent years. The 2001 UK census reported 43,691 Somalis, but recent estimates range between 95,000 and 250,000. [Hermione Harris, [ The Somali community in the UK: What we know and how we know it] , Information Centre about Asylum and Refugees in the UK, King's College London, June 2004, accessed 2 March 2007] In the United Kingdom, London, Sheffield, Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, and Leicester are home to the largest concentration of Somalis. There are also significant Somali communities in the Netherlands: 21,733 (2005)Fact|date=March 2007; Norway: 19,656 (2007); Denmark: 16,564 (2006)Fact|date=March 2007; and Sweden: 15,294 (2004)Fact|date=March 2007.

In the United States of America, Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Columbus, San Diego, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Los Angeles, Portland, Denver, Nashville, Lewiston and Cedar Rapids have the largest Somali populations, although they are scattered throughout the continent in small numbers.

Between 1992 and 2005, 64,439 persons born in Somalia were admitted to the United States as refugees, which was the vast majority of total emigration from Somalia during that period. Unlike the European figures, however, this statistic does not include US-born children. (Source: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services)Fact|date=February 2007

An estimated 20,000 Somali refugees ended up in the US State of Minnesota some 10 years ago with only their clothes on their backs. Now the Twin Cities has the highest population of Somalis in North America. [Mosedale, Mike (February 18, 2004), [ "The Mall of Somalia"] , "City Pages"] The city of Minneapolis hosts hundreds of Somali-owned and operated businesses. Colorful stalls inside several malls offer everything from Halal meat, to stylish leather shoes, to the latest fashion for men and women, gold jewelry, money transfer or Xawaala offices, banners advertising the latest Somali movie, video stores fully stocked with nostalgic love songs not found in the mainstream supermarkets, groceries, and boutiques. [ [ Talking Point by M.M. Afrah Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA) Aug., 12. 2004] ] Refugees have surged into 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 the Dubai city centre, Deira; internet cafes, hotels, coffee shops, restaurant and import-export businesses are a testimony to the Somalis' entrepreneurial spirit. Star African Air is one of three Somali-owned airlines which have headquarters in Dubai rather than in Somalia. [ [ Somalis cash in on Dubai boom from the BBC] ]

Clan and family structure

Somalis are split up into many clans and sub-clans, including but not limited to the following major clans:

*Rahanweyn (Digil and Mirifle)
*Arab Mohamud Salah (Meheri)

Genealogical claims are an important part of Somali tradition and can appear to outsiders as a form of xenophobic isolation. [ [ Reunification of the Somali People] ] Loyalty to one's clan is important and in Somalia it often supersedes any central government authority.

Somali nationalism often relates to ancestral claims of a Biblical and Qur'anic nature since most Somalis purport to have been descended from Near Eastern religious figures and peoples. Given recent genetic studies, we now know that there does appear to be some truth to many of these claims.

Although ancestral provenance plays a part in inter-clan rivalry, the majority of conflicts between Somalis stem from the inequitable distribution of political and economic power during Somalia's various political administrations. Politicians would often favor their own clan over those of others, and this would build resentment among members of other clans.

Ironically, clan loyalty has arguably done more than anything else to keep the Somali people a relatively homogeneous and cohesive ethnic and cultural unit despite long-term residence in a culturally and ethnically diverse part of the world:

The time of the eastbound Bantu expansion was estimated to be 3400±1100 years ago. Bantu populations have high frequencies of E3a haplogroups. We have observed only a few individuals with the E3a haplogroup in our Somali population, thus, supporting the view that the Bantu migration did not reach Somalia. It has been suggested that a barrier against gene flow exist in the region. The barrier seems to be the Cushitic languages and cultures to which Somalis belongs. The Cushitic languages belong to the Afro-Asiatic languages that are spoken in Northern and Eastern Africa. The Cushitic languages and cultures are mainly found in the Somalis and the Oromos, one of the two main groups inhabiting Ethiopia. The Somali and Oromo languages have a high degree of similarity and the two populations share many cultural characteristics. The Somali and Oromo people live in clans with special patterns of marriage and the Somali and Oromo people have complex, interwoven pedigrees. [Fulvio Cruciani et al, " [ Phylogeographic Analysis of Haplogroup E3b (E-M215) Y Chromosomes Reveals Multiple Migratory Events Within and Out Of Africa", Am. J. Hum. Genet 74] ]

Authors and musicians

Most Somali songs are about love, but some recall how life was in Somalia before the Somali Civil War and some talk about how Somalis should come together to unite and restore the country to its former glory.

* Rageh Omaar, Somali-British journalist winner of the 2003 EMMA Best TV Reporter Award.
* Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame 'Hadrawi', the leading Somali poet of recent times and a philosopher also dubbed as the Somali Shakespeare.


Although it's nowhere near the level of Hollywood, the Somali Movie Industry also known as Somalywood is taking shape and becoming quite popular in the Somali Communities of the Diaspora and back in Somalia. The Somali Directors Mohameddeq Ali (aka knowledge) AbdiMalik Isak and Abdisalan Aato are on the forefront of this revolution that's taking place in the Somali Society. Somalis are great fans of Bollywood movies and Somali Films are usually love stories mixed with Hollywood oriented action.


The vast majority of Somalis are Sunni Muslims. Since the collapse of the federal government, numerous religious schools have attempted to fill in the void. Qu'ranic schools (also known as "duqsis") remain the basic system of 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 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 the other educational sub-sectors, is the only system accessible to nomadic Somalis compared to the urban Somalis who have easier access to education. In 1993, the United Nations Children's Fund conducted a study in which it found, among other things, that about 40% of pupils in Qu'ranic schools were girls [ [ Koranic School Project] ] , in stark contrast to other schools where gender disparity tends to be much greater.

In the Somali diaspora, every year multiple Islamic fundraising events are held 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 droughts or to gather funds for the creation of new mosques like the Abuubakar-As-Saddique Mosque [ [ Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center] ] , which is currently undergoing construction in the Twin cities.

ee also

*List of Somalis
*Culture of Somalia
*Demographics of Somalia


External links

* [ Ethnologue population estimates for Somali speakers]
* [;f=8;t=000477;p=0 Origin of the Somali People]
* [ US Library of Congress Country Study of Somalia]
* [;jsessionid=D678ED24C4BAC1F18B4B805129A47AC1 European Journal of Human Genetics-High frequencies of Y chromosome lineages characterized by E3b1, DYS19-11, DYS392-12 in Somali males]
* [ American Journal of Human Genetics-The Making of the African mtDNA Landscape]
* [ Somali Immigrant Aid Organization] in Canada

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