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Our Somali Neighbors

Where Is Somalia

Where is Somalia?

Boasting the longest coastline of any African nation, Somalia hugs the far eastern coast of Africa – the ‘horn’ of Africa - bordering Kenya and Ethiopia.  About 11 million people live there presently, mostly speaking the Somali language.

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One common explanation of the name Somalia is derived from "Soo" and "maal" - which means "come and milk" - a reference to the pastoral heritage of the people. It is an expression of hospitality related to the word for welcome: "Soo dhwoow!"

Are you looking for a warm place?  The capital city of Mogadishu has an average high temperature of 87 degrees, and an average low of 71 degrees ( 

People of Somalia

And the People of Somalia?

Historically, Somalia's population has been rural and nomadic – raising crops or animals like camels, cattle, sheep, and goats in woven structures that could easily be disassembled and moved with the seasons.

The people have lived this way, as ‘big families,’ or clans, for generations. Historian Charles Geshekter notes, "When Somalis meet each other they don't ask: 'Where are you from?' Rather, they ask: 'Whom are you from?' Genealogy is to Somalis what an address is to Americans."

Somali_map - wiki - native somali land.j

Somalia has been a Muslim nation since the 11th or 12th century, and was impacted by European colonization during the 1800’s – their traditional land divided into 5 current countries.

In the 1960s, independence swept across Africa, and two of the regions of Somali people joined to form the nation of modern Somalia on July 1st, 1960.  Attempts at a republic never took hold, and in 1969, a military dictator named Siad Barre took control. Barre held power until a revolt around the year 1990.


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Different clans fought each other and within themselves to gain control of the country, leading to civil war and anarchy.  A resulting famine, exacerbated by the civil strife, gained world attention, leading to UN and finally U.S. military involvement.  After the killing of U.S. troops in an incident known as “Blackhawk Down," the U.S. military pulled out of Somalia.

Many Somalis fled the country, escaping into refugee camps across the border into Kenya and Ethiopia, then transitioning into other host countries such as the Netherlands, Yemen, and the United States.  An estimated  one million, about ten percent of Somalis, live outside of Somalia (Wikipedia) . 

Somalis In Minnesota

When Somalis Became Our Neighbors

The first Somali refugees started arriving in the Twin Cities around 1993.  The numbers have grown each year since, encouraged by jobs, a good educational system, and relatives living nearby.


Our new neighbors - impacted by famine and war - have overcome many difficulties and bring gifts of resilience in hardship and entrepreneurship through business to Minnesota.


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Department of Education’s “Primary Home Languages” report, which lists 64 urban, suburban and rural communities in Minnesota whose school districts report Somali-speaking school children. 


The number of Somalis living at a given moment in the Twin Cities is difficult to determine. Most estimates are around 50,000 – making them the third largest ethnic population in the Twin Cities behind the 160,000 Hispanics and 85,000 Hmong that call the Twin Cities home. 

As it has been for generations of immigrants to the U.S., they face the challenges of learning new customs, working, and communicating in that tricky language we call English.

Do you know who answered a call to reach out to our Somali neighbors through literacy and friendship?

SALT's Story

Somali Adult Literacy Training 

SALT officially started on International Literacy Day, September 8, 2003, under the leadership of a young Somali Christian man. Rev. Yaqub Mohamed saw the great need for English skills in the Somali community and longed for his people to come to know the Lord.  He partnered with Michael Neterer, who was given a vision to reach our newest Minnesota neighbors with the good news of Jesus. 

Morning and evening classes were launched above the Urban Jungle Coffee Shop on East Lake Street, seeding a powerful idea - Sharing Jesus with our Somali neighbors through literacy and friendship.

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A student project by Fartun Dirie of St. Thomas University mapped out where 68 randomly chosen Somalis who live in the Twin Cities might move if the opportunity arises.


In 2006, SALT joined World Relief Minnesota (now Arrive Ministries), whose mission was “Empowering the local Church to serve the most vulnerable.”  Under this guidance, SALT continued to grow to many locations throughout the Twin Cities and beyond.

Do you know what religion almost every Somali you meet identifies with?

Basics of Islam

The Basics of Islam

Islam is monotheistic religion that arose in the seventh century A.D. under the leadership of Muhammad.  Muhammad is believed to be the greatest of a long line of prophets that included Moses and Jesus. 


Growing up as an orphan, Muhammad was first raised by his grandfather, then after his death, the prophet’s uncle.  Allah, the God of Islam, is believed to have revealed to Muhammad what is recorded in the Quran, Islam’s holy book, over a 23-year period. 


Somalis are among the nearly 1.5 billion people around the world that profess the Islamic faith. 

Praying In Mosque

Islam involves both obligations (The Five Pillars of Islam) and beliefs (The Six Articles of Islam)

Black and White Mosque

The 5 Pillars of Islam (Actions)

 – The profession of faith (Shahadah)

 – 5 daily prayers (Salah)

 – Alms to the poor (Zakah)

 – Fasting during Ramadan (Sawm)

 – Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)

One way to remember these is:

  - Declare

  - Charity

  - Prayers

  - Forbear (fast)

  - Go there (Mecca)

Man Praying

What do these words mean?

Quran - that which is to be read

Islam - submission of the will of Allah

Muslims – those who submit


Islamic Washing

The 6 Articles of Islam (Beliefs)

 - One God called Allah

 - Angels

 - Holy Books

 - Prophets

 - Day of Judgment

 - Predestination

Somali Language

Somali Language

thank you
what is your name?
magacayguwa __
mah-gah-ay-gu waah
my name is __
sideed tahay
sih-day tah-HAY
how are you?
adaa mudan
a-DAH mu-dahn
you're welcome
soo dhawow
fadlan, ku celi
FAHD-lahn koo 'eh-lee
please repeat
ma fahmin
mah FAH-min
I didn't understand
nabad gelyo
nah-bahd GEHL-yo
good bye (peace to you)
habeen wanaagsan
ha-BANE wah-NAHG-sahn
good night

Growing Participator Approach (GPA)

GPA is a self-directed language learning method which can be used to learn Somali. It involves individuals or small groups meeting regularly with a native Somali speaker (”language nurturer”) and using specific techniques to draw out vocabulary and phrases.

Contact SALT about attending an upcoming GPA training or forming a language-learning group.

Somalia - GPA Language Blog.jpg

This blog explains GPA in detail and provides resources and tips to use in your sessions with your language nurturer.

Fiqi’s Somali English Dictionary

Fiqi dictionary

By Awil Ali Hashi & Abdirahman A. Hashi.


1998 Fiqi Publishers - 512 p.

Somali Language Intro App (Apple)

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Contains over 600 vocabulary words organized into 21 categories, all recorded by native Somali speakers. Some content is free and some must be purchased. Currently only available for Apple devices.

Somali-English Dictionary

Somali-English Dictionary

Somali language.PNG


Dictionary & Phrasebok 

By C. Quadir and Nicholas Awde

1999 Hippocrene Books - 180 p.

Somali News

Somali News

The sites below contain news articles written in Somali. Use these resources to practice Somali words together with your neighbor, or print out an article to help your students practice reading.  Then practice conversational English with your student by having them explain the article to you.

BBC News - Somali

BBC News - Somali

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Voice of America - Somali

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Good job getting all the way down here : )

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