Prayer Profile
The Somali of the United Arab Emirates

[IMAGE] Ten million Somali live scattered across eight countries in the northeastern portion of Africa, commonly called the "Horn of Africa," and in the Middle East. They are one of the most homogenous people groups in Africa, speaking a common language, adhering to a single faith, and sharing a cultural heritage.

The Somali first came to Africa around 1200 A.D., and were converted to Islam about 1550 by Arabian traders. Today, nearly 34,000 live in the United Arab Emirates. They have worked in various occupations including shepherding, farming, trading, and unskilled labor.

The U. A. E. is a federation of seven independent Arab states within the Arabian Peninsula, which is located on the southern end of the Persian Gulf. Although the Somali were originally nomadic shepherds, many now live in urban areas, serving as middlemen between the Arab world and their nomadic brothers of the interior.

What are their lives like?
The Somali 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.

Although the official language of the U. A. E. is Arabic, the Somali speak the Somali language. They have often been called "a nation of poets in search of an alphabet," because the Somali language had no written script until 1972.

The U. A. E. has a hot climate with little rainfall. The humidity is often high along the coast, but the inland desert regions are dry. Temperatures range from as high as 120 degrees F. in the summer months to 60 degrees F. in the winter.

The economy, centered primarily on oil and oil-based industries, provides the U. A. E. with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. To diversify the economy, the government has begun introducing new industries. The country has used its vast oil wealth to transform the economy through the expansion of roads, ports, and airports. Free hospitalization and medical care are also provided by the government. Most of the population has access to health care and safe water. Education is free for all ages and is required for children up to 12 years old.

Although the U. A. E. has undergone extensive modernization, many of the Somali have continued their lifestyles as nomadic shepherds. They 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 consists of milk, meats, and wild fruits. Others, however, are more settled, living as farmers in permanent, round huts. Their diet includes corn, beans, rice, eggs, poultry, bananas, dates, mangoes, and coffee.

Having an abundant supply of food is a status symbol among the Somali. Each family periodically holds banquets for their relatives and friends. A family's prestige is determined by the frequency of its feasts, the number of people invited, and the quality and quantity of food served.

What are their beliefs?
Although the Somali are 80% Shafiite Muslims, numerous pagan beliefs and traditions have been intermingled with their Islamic practices. They achieve "ecstasy" by chanting or taking narcotics. The standard Islamic prayers are usually observed; however, Somali women have never worn the required veils. Individuals frequently turn to the wadaad, a religious expert, for blessings, charms, and advice in worldly matters. They believe in a supreme male "sky god." They perform rainmaking rituals, abstain from eating pork or fish, and perform animal sacrifices. They believe in spirit possession, and in spirits that live in trees, water sources, and on hilltops.

What are their needs?
Among the nearly 34,000 Somali living in the United Arab Emirates, there are only 14 known believers.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord to raise up long term missionaries to live among the Somali and share Christ's love with them.
  • Pray that God will raise up prayer teams to go and break up the soil through worship and intercession.
  • Ask God to encourage the few known believers among the Somali in the United Arab Emirates.
  • Pray for effectiveness of the Jesus film among them.
  • Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio and television to the Somali.
  • Pray that God will reveal Himself to them through dreams and visions.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Somali by the year 2000.

See also the following related groups:
the Juba Somali of Ethiopia and Somalia;
the Somali of Ethiopia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tanzania, Yemen, and Djibouti,.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Somali
  • Country: United Arab Emirates
  • Their language: Somali
  • Population: (1990) 29,800
    (1995) 33,900
    (2000) 37,500
  • Largest religion: Muslim (Shafiite) 80%
    Muslim (Hanafite) 19.9%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 14
  • Scriptures in their own language: Bibe
  • Jesus Film in their own language: Available
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
  • Mission agencies working among this people: None
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 8,500 (25%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 1,000 (3%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 7,500 (22%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 25,400 (75%)
  • Country: United Arab Emirates
  • Population: (1990) 1,670,600
    (1995) 1,904,200
    (2000) 2,107,200
  • Major peoples in size order: Gulf Arab 12.6%
    Malayali 11.3%
    Gulf Bedouin 9.4%
    Southern Baluch 7.1%
    Egyptian Arab 6.2%
  • Major religions: Muslim 83.4%
    Christian 9.7%
    Hindu 4.7%
  • Number of denominations: 17

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Bethany World Prayer Center

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