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The Culture, Traditions, and Heritage of Somalia

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The culture of Somalia is a consolidation of traditions accumulated over time from the country’s interaction with such countries as Ethiopia, Persia, Yemen and India. As part of the Islamic culture, it has a strong influence of the Muslims, who consider Islam as vital to the sense of national identity of the people. Central to the cultural practices are the rules and regulations prescribed by the Quran on the political, educational, economic and religious activities of the people. They also consider clan groupings as important units of society and as common marriages between people from different clans.

Culture is expressed in different aspects of the life of the Somalis. In clothing, for instance, the men typically wear the macawis, a sarong-like garment around the waist, a turban on their head or, in some cases, a jellabiya, a long white garment most common among the Arabs. Women, on the other hand, wear the guntiino, a long stretch of cloth tied over their shoulder, in their daily activities, and the dirac, a long, light voile dress, in formal occasions.

The Somali music is recognizable by its unique style and tune centered on traditional folklore. Their songs are usually the product of collaboration between and among the singers, song writers, and lyricists. In literature, the country has produced its own scholars who have written many examples of Islamic literature, and authors of novels some of which have been acclaimed internationally. The two most celebrated writers are Nurudin Farah, whose book From a Crooked Rib earned for him the 1998 Neustadt International Prize for literature, and Farah Mohamed Jama Awl, who is known for his published novel Ignorance is the Enemy of Love.

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