What’s the polite thing to say on Ramadan?

Ramadan is a month-long time of fasting, with the date determined by the lunar calendar. This year Ramadan ends at sunset on August 18. Fasting means no food and nothing to drink (not even water!) When that’s in the heat and long days of summer, as it is this year, fasting from sunrise to sunset is particularly difficult. Continue Reading

Dressing for the wedding

This last week a coworker had some questions for me.  She’d been to a Somali wedding and saw several of the women there dressed in much more revealing clothes than she’d ever seen Somali women wearing.  She wanted me to shed some light on this. Continue Reading

Cell phones and hijabs: A match not made in heaven

Question:  I keep seeing Somali women with cellphones tucked into their headscarves.  Is this a common thing?

I don’t know how this started, but it seems like almost every Somali woman in the city is talking on her phone while it’s tucked into the fold of her hijab. It makes me wonder who first started this and if that person is still doing so. Did one woman start this one day, and then her friends all did it, and their friends, or did it happen at a group meeting where everybody decided this is how they will use their phones from now on? Continue Reading

Pop music and Somali-Americans: “The Somali Beyoncé” and beyond

Q: What kind of music do young Somali-Americans listen to? Are there Somali or Somali-American pop stars?

A: Like most immigrants before us, young Somali kids try to fit in rather than stand out. More likely than not you’ll see the car next to you on the road with the window down and loud rap music blaring out. Our young boys wear baggy clothes and imitate rap stars like 50 Cent, Young Money, and Lil Wayne. They adopt a lot faster than their elders, or their older siblings. This of course creates a huge rift between the young population and the older generation. Among the many things that divide them is music, clothing style, religion of course, and almost everything that is perceived as an Americanization. Continue Reading

There’s pork in those Pop-Tarts: Navigating the supermarket as a Muslim

Living as a Muslim in America, and especially the Midwest, can be a challenge sometimes. Surprisingly, it’s not the big stuff that I end up dealing with every day, but the small stuff, the stuff you don’t think about until it’s right there in front of you: whether you can eat the candy that’s been set out on a desk, or the birthday cake a coworker brings in, or the food at a neighborhood barbecue. Continue Reading

Taste of Somalia: Making Injera in MInnesota

Q: A few weeks ago a coworker of mine took me to a restaurant called Safari.  It was my first time having Somali food, and I loved it!  I’m interested in getting into Somali food.  I’ve found a few other restaurants around the Twin Cities, but it seems Somali food is really underrepresented here among all the other cultures.  I’d like to try making a few things at home.  Are there any books on Somali cooking that you know of?

To my knowledge, there is only one Somali cookbook that’s ever been written. Continue Reading

Taking some time

To my loyal readers,

I’ve always considered myself blessed for the good fortune that’s been given to me, even in spite of the hardships I’ve had to endure along the way. That being said,  life still isn’t perfume and roses, and in the last little while I’ve had more challenges I’ve had to rise to, with my other jobs, my family here, my family abroad, and the situation of my brothers and sisters still in Somalia. 
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Christmas: To celebrate or not to celebrate

The holidays are not my favorite time of the year for two reasons. One, it is the time that I am constantly aware of how much I miss my family who are scattered all over the world. Two, I am guilty if I celebrate Christmas because that is not what Somalis do, and I am still guilty if I don’t celebrate it because my friends say I am different from your typical Somali and do everything else and am always preaching to them how we should integrate and assimilate.
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Somali clans in Minnesota

Question: Do Somali people still practice the clan system in Minnesota?

Yes, they do. All you have to do is go to the Starbucks coffee shop on Riverside. Every Somali tribe probably sends about five men to represent them at that coffeehouse. These men leave their kids and wives to sit there and argue over who started the 20-something year civil war back home. I am waiting one of these days to walk in there and find the men signing a resolution that will solve all of our problems. That is not a lot to expect right? I mean they’ve being arguing since at least 2004. That is when I noticed the large number of men anyway; maybe they were there even before 2004. Continue Reading