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CHAPTER V

Knowledge of Somali Customs

(Do's and Dont's in Somalia)


TOPIC: DOs AND DON'Ts.

DISCUSSION: The following guidance is provided to assist you in your understanding of Somali customs and society:

Greetings

DO:

  • Shake hands whenever you meet or bid farewell to a Somali.
  • Always offer your right hand; the left hand symbolizes uncleanliness and is used for personal hygiene.
  • Rise to show respect whenever an important person enters the room.
  • Be aware that it is customary for Somali men to greet each other with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. This is a sign of friendship.

DO NOT:

  • Use Somali greetings (spoken or gestured) unless you are sure how to use them correctly.

Conversation

DO:

  • Open conversations with small talk.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Place your feet flat on the floor if you are sitting on a chair, or fold them under you if you are sitting on the floor.
  • Demonstrate verbal skill. Verbal facility is highly valued in Somali society. If you can recite a poem or a tongue-twister, you will win esteem for your skill.
  • Avoid arguments.
  • Avoid political discussions.
  • Bring photographs of your family to show during conversations.

DO NOT:

  • Show impatience or undue haste.
  • Ask direct or personal questions, especially about female family members.
  • Criticize a Somali directly. This will cause him to lose face and respect for you.
  • Patronize or talk down to a Somali, even if he does not speak English very well.
  • Do not move away from a Somali who stands "close" to you during conversation. It is customary for a Somali to stand about one foot away.

Hospitality

DO:

  • If given a gift, give a gift in return (at a later date) of slightly lesser value.
  • Thank your host profusely for his hospitality and good conversation. Plan to return the hospitality.
  • Accompany your guest outside the door or gate when he leaves.

DO NOT:

  • Feel obligated to bring a gift. If you do bring a gift, make it a gift for the children.
  • Praise too much any possession of your host; he may give it to you. If he does, you are expected to give something in return.
  • Appear anxious to end a visit.

Religion

DO:

  • Understand and respect the devotions of Muslims.
  • Respect the requirement for Muslims to fast from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan. In 1993 Ramadan corresponds to a period from about 22 February to 30 March. Following Ramadan is the festival known as Eid AL Fitr, hich is celebrated for three days after Ramadan ends.

DO NOT:

  • Enter a mosque unless invited. If invited, remove your shoes before entering.
  • Pass in front of a prayer rug while a Muslim is in prayer.
  • Take photographs of a Muslim while he is in prayer or stare at them while praying.
  • During the holy month of Ramadan eat, smoke, or drink in public from sunrise to sunset or offer food, beverages, or tobacco products to Muslims.

LESSON(S): Understanding Somali customs and society will assist in mission accomplishment.

TOPIC: "KHAT," THE SOMALI DRUG OF CHOICE.

DISCUSSION: Khat is also known as miraa, kat, gat, chat, or Arabian tea, after the Middle Eastern habit of toasting khat leaves and steeping them in hot tea. The active ingredient in khat, cathinone, is related to amphetamine in structure and effect. Khat chewing induces at least two kinds of psychotic reactions. Khat keeps the user awake for hours and most Somali gunmen use it. This may lead to many incidences of violence during early morning hours. Khat is readily available in Somalia.

LESSON(S): Be aware of the effects of Khat. Do not use it because it is illegal, and it will inhibit your ability to accomplish your mission.

TOPIC: COMMON SOMALI CONVERSATIONAL PHRASES.

DISCUSSION: The following Somali conversational phrases are provided for your use. A more comprehensive listing can be found in a pamphlet, "Surviving in Somalia," from the Foreign Language Center, Defense Language Institute. The words and phrases provided here are first in English, then in Somali, and then their pronunciation is given.

ENGLISHSOMALIPRONUNCIATION
Yes/NoHAA/MAY("HA/MY")
We Are American MilitaryWAXAAN NAHAY ("WAHAN NAHY EEDAMADA CIDAMADA MARAYKANKA")
We Are Here To Help YouINAAN INDIN CAAWINO AYAAN("IN AN EEDIN AWENO AYAN HALKAN OO CHOGNA")
What Do You Need?MAXAAD DOONAYSAA?("MAHAT DOANAYSA?")
Give meI SII("ISEE")
Wait HereWAA KU SUG("HALKEM KOOSOOK")
Come With Me I SOO RAAC ("ESSORRA")
Stop! JOOGSO! ("CHOK SO!")
Hands UpGACMACHA KOR U TAAGA("GAMAKA KOROOTAG")
Lie DownJIIFSO("CHEEF SO")
Face Down WAJIGAAGA DHULKA SAAR("WICHEE GAGA LULKASAR")
Get Up STAAG("KA")
Be QuietAAMUS("AMMOOS")
Good MorningSUBAX WANAAGSAN("SUBAH WANAKSIN")
Good NightHABEEN WANAAGAN("HABAYN WANAKSIN")
HelloISKA WARAN("ISKA WARRAN")
Good-Bye JAAW("CHOW")
Put Your Weapon Down!HUBKAAGA OHIG!("HOOPKAGA DIG!")
LeaderHOGAAMIYE("HOGAMEEYA")
FamilyREER("RAYN")
RefugeeQAXOOTI("KAHOATEE")
Do You Speak English? MA KU HADLI KARTAA INGIRIISI?("MAKO HADLEE KARTA INGREEZEE?")
What Is Your Name?MAGACAA? ("MAGA-A?")
Who Is In Charge?YAA KA TALIYA HALKAN?("HALKAN YAHOOKOOMA?")
East BARI("BAREE")
WestGALBEED ("GALBAYT")
NorthWAQOOYI("WAKOYEE")
SouthKOONFUR("KONFOORN")
DownHOOS("HOAS")
VillageTUULO ("TOOLO")
Today MAANTA("MANTA")
Which Way?HAGGEE?("HAGAY?")
ComeKAALAY("KALAY")
Danger!KHATAR! ("KHATAR!")
Do Not Drink The Water! BIYAHA HA CABIN!("BIYAHA HA-ABIN!")
Mine Field GEGI MIINAYSAN("GEGI MEENAYSAN")
Keep Out! KA DHEEROW! ("KA DERO!")
Warning! DIGIIN! ("DIGNEEN!")
How Is The Road? WADDADU WAA SIDEE?("WADDADOO WA SIDAY?")
Get In SO GAL ("SOAGEL")
Don't Be FrightenedHA CABSANIN("HA APSANIN")
Are You Carrying A Weapon?HUB MA SIDATAA?("HOOB MA SIDATA?")
Don't Fire HA RIDIN("HARIDIN")
Don't Shoot UsHA NA TOOGAN("HADAHGLIN")
You Are a Prisoner MAXBUUS BAAD TAHAY("MAHBOOS AYAT TAHAY")
Stay Where You AreHALKAAGA JOOG("HALKAGA CHOAG")
Where Are You From?XAGGEE BAAD KA TIMID?("HAGAY BAT KATIMIT?")
GoTAG/BAX("TAG") (NOTE: Don't say BAX/TAG to elderly people because it tells them to leave the village.)
Line UpSAFTA ("SAFF TA")
DoctorDHAKHTAR("DAKHTAR")
MedicineDAAWO("DAWO")
Show MeITUS("ITOOS")
Are There Any Dead?CID DHIMATAY MIYAA JARTA?("IDD DIMATAY MIYA CHIRTA?")
Boil Your WaterBIYIHIINA ISKA KARIYA("BIYIHEENA EESKA KAREEYA")
Wash Your HandsQACMAHIINA DHAQA("KAMIHEENA DAKA")
Thank YouMAHADSANID("MAHATSENIT")
BreadROOTI("ROATEE")
Camel MilkCAANO GEEL("ANO GEL")
RiceBARIIS("BAREES")
FlourBUR("BOOR")
DrinkCAB("AB")
Eat CUN("OON")
Don't Be Afraid HA CABSAN("HA ABSAN")
FoodCUNTO("OONTO")

LESSON(S): Knowing and understanding some basic conversational phrases will assist in mission accomplishment.


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