1. The Somali language is the national language of Somalia. It has a unique history of varied influences, including Arabic, English and Italian.
2. Due to centuries old ties with the Arab world, Arabic is still widely used and is the second official language in the country.
3. Somali refugees who’ve relocated to Kenya and Tanzania often learn Swahili as it is an official language in both countries.
4. Early written Somali used Arabic script, and it was not until the arrival of Italian and British colonial powers that a Latin-language alphabet was introduced to the Somali language.
5. Today, a Latin-language Somali alphabet is the most widely used script. The Somali alphabet is the same as the English, without the letters p,v and z.
Somali Civil War
6. During the Middle Ages, several powerful Somali Muslim empires dominated the regional trade.
7. In the late 19th century, through a succession of treaties with these kingdoms, the British and Italians gained control of parts of the coast, and established British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland.
8. The country gained independence in 1960. Over the next 32 years violent power struggles developed between warring clan lords. In 1969 President Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke was assassinated and the army seized power. Major General Mohamed Said Barre became president who sided with Russia during the cold war period.
9. In 1977 the 8 month long Ogaden War was fought between Somalia and Ethiopia. During this war Russia and the US switch allegiances. Russia ceased to support Somalia and supported Ethiopia instead and the US ceased supporting Ethiopia and began supporting Somalia.
10. In 1991 President Said Barre fled the country, and left Somalia in the hands of clan-based guerilla groups.
11. For the next 20 years Somalia spiraled into a state of anarchy and civil war with decades of fighting between rival warlords. In addition to this, severe natural disasters such as drought and floods struck Somalia which saw famine devastate the country and its people.
12. In 2012 a new internationally backed government was installed. Since then, Somalia has begun to enjoy a measure of stability once more.
13. Somalis share a uniform language, religion, and culture. However Somali society is divided into more than 500 clan and sub-clans.
14. Islam is the primary religion in Somalia, and the majority of Somalis are Sunni Muslims.
15. Almost all social norms, attitudes, customs, and gender roles among Somalis derive from Islamic tradition.
16. As Muslims, Somalis do not consume pork, lard, or alcohol, and all animals must be slaughtered in a specific way, called xalaal, to be considered clean.
17. Somalis tend to appreciate oral communication above all other art forms. The Somali language has a long and rich tradition of proverbs and idioms, which are passed down through generations and embellished by the individual speaker.