The Somali of Yemen
In the early years of the Islamic era, the east African coast became a place of refuge for many of Mohammed's followers who were fleeing persecution. It was under the influence of these Arabians that the Somali were converted to Islam around 1550 A.D.
Today, more than 500,000 Somali live on the Arabian Peninsula of Yemen. The country is separated from Djibouti and Somalia by the Gulf of Aden on the southwest. Yemen is surprisingly fertile, with much of its land suitable for farming. Rainfall is adequate and there is very little need for irrigation.
What are their lives like?
The name, Somali, is derived from the words, "so maal," which literally mean, "Go milk a beast for yourself!" To the Somali, this is actually a rough expression of hospitality. Their society is based on the nuclear family, which consists of a husband, wife, and children. The man is the head of his household. A typical family owns a herd of sheep or goats and a few burden camels. Some may also own a herd of breeding and milking camels. The more camels a man has, the greater his prestige.
Many of the Somali who live in Aden are bilingual, speaking both Somali and Arabic, the official language of Yemen. The Somali language was without written form until 1972.
Most of the Somali in Yemen can be classified into three main groups: rural farmers, city dwellers, and nomadic shepherds. The principal crops grown by the farmers include potatoes, sorghum, dates, wheat, barley, and corn. About one-third of the country is grassland, where herds of sheep, goats, and cattle are raised. Camels are also raised and are used as a means of transportation in the rural areas.
The nomadic shepherds live in portable huts made of wooden branches covered with grass mats. They are easily collapsible so that they can be loaded on pack animals and moved along with the herds. Their diet includes milk, meat, and wild fruits. Tea is also a favorite drink.
The more settled farmers live in permanent, round huts that are six to nine feet high. They have a more varied diet, which includes grains, eggs, poultry, bananas, dates, mangoes, and coffee.
Typically, the Somali wear brightly colored cloths draped over their bodies like togas. The men may also wear kilts. Those living in Aden sometimes wear Western style clothing.
What are their beliefs?
Villagers and urban settlers frequently turn to the wadaad, a religious expert, for blessings, charms, and advice in worldly matters. They believe in a supreme male "sky god," and rainmaking rituals as well as animal sacrifices are commonly practiced.
What are their needs?
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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