Prayer Profile
The Somali of Saudi Arabia

[IMAGE] The Somali are one of the most homogenous people groups in Africa. They share a common language, adhere to a single faith, and share a cultural heritage, which is an integral part of their nomadic way of life. A Somali's concept of himself is inseparable from his flocks and his land.

The Somali first came to Africa around 1200 A.D., and were converted to Islam about 1550 by Arabian traders. Today, nearly 40,000 Somali can be found in Saudi Arabia. The Somali are primarily nomadic shepherds who came from Djibouti or Somalia in search of water and land for their herds. They are usually characterized as being very individualistic; scornful of danger, hunger, or thirst; and constantly involved in blood feuds with other tribes and peoples.

Saudi Arabia, located on the Arabian Peninsula, contains twenty-five percent of the world's oil reserves beneath its sandy, rocky surface. There are no rivers; and most of the land is arid or semi-arid desert.

What are their lives like?
The name, Somali, is derived from the words, "so maal," which literally mean, "Go milk a beast for yourself!" This is actually a rough expression of hospitality.

Although the Somali nomads roam the deserts with their herds of camels, goats, and sheep in search of water and land, they consider themselves primarily warriors. The men often leave the women in charge of the herds, so that they might train to become more effective fighters.

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. They are sharply divided by clans, and recognize no civic relationship except to their own relatives.

The nomads live in portable huts made of wooden branches covered with skins and 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, camel and goat meat, rice, and other grains. Tea is also a favorite drink. Having an abundant supply of food is a status symbol among the clans. 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.

Typically, the Somali wear brightly colored cloths draped over their bodies like togas. The men may also wear kilt like garments.

Limited polygamy—up to four wives—is permitted. The wives are responsible for tending to the children, although the father helps with their religious training. The divorce rate is high among the Somali.

What are their beliefs?
The Somali are 99.9% Shafiite Muslims, with Sufism (a mystic branch of Islam) being an important "religious experience" for many. They often 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.

Islam's holiest city, Mecca, is located in Saudi Arabia. Muslims are required to pray toward Mecca five times a day. In addition, more than two million Muslims make a pilgrimage to the city every year. No Christian is permitted to set foot in Mecca.

The government of Saudi Arabia has banned all Christian literature, and spends large sums of money to spread Islam around the world by building mosques and sending out missionaries. The world's largest printing presses are set up in this country and are used to print 28 million copies of the Koran each year.

What are their needs?
Out of nearly 40,000 Somali in Saudi Arabia, there are only 15 known believers. Currently, there are no known missions agencies working among them.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord to raise up Christian businessmen who will 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 strengthen, encourage, and protect the few known believers among the Somali in Saudi Arabia.
  • 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, Somalia, Tanzania, Yemen, Djibouti, and United Arab Emirates.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Somali
  • Country: Saudi Arabia
  • Their language: Somali
  • Population: (1990) 33,700
    (1995) 37,500
    (2000) 44,600
  • Largest religion: Muswlims (Shafiites) 99.9%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 15
  • Scriptures in their own language: Bible
  • 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: 10,500 (28%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 1,100 (3%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 9,400 (25%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 27,000 (72%)
  • Country: Saudi Arabia
  • Population: (1990) 16,047,600
    (1995) 17,879,600
    (2000) 21,257,200
  • Major peoples in size order: Saudi Arab 77.5%
    Bedouin Arab 3.9%
    Gulf Arab 3%
    Punjabi 2.4%
  • Major religions: Muslim 93.1%
    Christian 4.2%
    Nonreligious 1.4%
  • Number of denominations: 9

© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center

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