Culture shock awaits Somali returnees in homeland



AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

Published — Monday 19 November 2012

Last update 19 November 2012 12:31 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

TWO YEARS AGO, fashion designer Ayan Hussein left the high-end stores of Britain’s capital for a stab at promoting fashion that was in line with Muslim tradition in her Somali homeland.
But she and her family, along with thousands of other Somalis who have returned in the hope of drumming up business or out of nostalgia, often find themselves facing culture shock.
“It is not the same as in London... not the slightest,” says Hussein’s 18-year-old son Guled, who does not speak a word of Somali. “There is dust everywhere. You can’t skate here,” he says in impeccable English.
It is Somaliland, an autonomous territory of around four million people in the north of Somalia along the Gulf of Aden, that has played host to many returnees in recent years. The region, which declared self-rule in 1991, has provided a haven of relative peace and stability in a land otherwise known for decades of brutal war.
Ayan Hussein was only a young woman when she left Mogadishu in 1997. Now in her late thirties, she decided to return to the land of her birth in 2010 to look after her ailing mother as well as to venture into business.
But in making the switch from Britain’s high-end fashion industry to a boutique in Hargeisa, the worldly and sophisticated Londoner had to make some sacrifices.
Her clothes stock is now limited only to long flowing robes as per Muslim custom, albeit in loud colors.
“We have to convince our clients that they are not obligated to be in all black,” she explains to AFP recently, her hair neatly tucked under a flaming red head scarf.
Directly opposite the clothes shop, on the noisy and dusty main street, another new business venture is trying to establish itself.
Hussein has just opened a coffee shop that has become the rendezvous point for Hargeisa’s affluent class, who come complete with sunglasses and smartphones to sip on their cappuccinos while exchanging gossip in English.
And indeed the differences between those who stayed in Somalia and the returnees go beyond the language used.
“It is like we have two different societies here,” explains one returnee from Britain, who came back to work at a recently opened soft drinks plant.
“Because we are Somali, they expect us to be like them,” adds another young woman on condition of anonymity. “This poses some difficulties.” Twenty doctors and health workers have taken from six months to one year off work in Finland, their country of exile, to work in Hargeisa’s public hospital and provide training to local staff.
“This was an opportunity for me to give back to my country and also show my gratitude to Finland,” says Ahmed Abukar, a nurse.
But the first month of interaction between the local staff and the returnees was sometimes tense.
“At the beginning there was a bit of an issue because we needed to get to know each other,” says Abukar.
“Of course there is always a bit of a clash, the locals fear they (diaspora members) are taking over... they feel threatened,” says Ayan Rabi, who is in charge of the program, backed by the International Organization for Migration.
“But they are all Somalis and after a while, all this goes away,” Rabi adds.
The trip home has also offered some interesting lessons for the returnees too.
“Appreciating the simple life is one of the things you learn here,” Abukar says.
For the new general manager of Somaliland’s state television Ali Hassan Khader, coming back home has allowed him to better understand the importance of the clan dynamics that form the base of traditional Somali society.
“In one way it is an insurance policy in a country where there is none,” he says. “If I injure somebody, if I have a car accident, I know the clan will step in.” However, even with a boom in returnee numbers, Somaliland’s much coveted status of being an island of peace in a tumultuous country is slowly being challenged by an emerging Mogadishu, the capital in southern Somalia.
Once a byword for anarchy, the war-ravaged seaside capital has enjoyed a degree of relative stability since Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents fled from fixed positions there in August 2011.
Ibrahim Chama, 32, left his job as a government employee in the Welsh capital Cardiff to set up and manage a grocery store in Hargeisa.
“We are trying to settle down before it becomes too crowded and businesses stop doing well,” says Chama, who left in 1988.
“Now Somalia is getting better, maybe we might try to set up something in Mogadishu as well,” he adds.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman prays inside the historic Quba Mosque in Madinah. The king was accompanied by Prince Muqrin, Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques and Prince Sultan bin Salman, ch...
JEDDAH: Shop rentals at certain malls have risen by 200 percent, with this cost likely to be passed on to the consumer, the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) said here recently. Muhammad Al-Shehri, chairman of the JCCI’s textiles and gar...
JEDDAH: People with special needs can now visit a park that has dedicated services for them.Jeddah Mayor Hani Abu Ras opened Al-Erada Park in Al-Salama district on Prince Sultan Street on Thursday.“The Kingdom provides special care for people with di...
JEDDAH: Is involvement in social media the right thing or wrong, particularly in the month of Ramadan? There is a difference of opinion with some arguing that it eats into the time that should be spent praying while some backing it for its religious...
RIYADH: The Argentine government has thanked the Kingdom for previously hosting its Umrah pilgrims for free.“They were part of a group invited by then Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah,” said Ambassador Jaime Sergio Cerda on Thursday.“T...
RIYADH: The Ministry of Education’s counseling department has approved the Rifq Program for the physical and psychological well-being of students.Nabil Mohammad Al-Budair, director of counseling for boys, said the program aims to reduce violence in p...
RIYADH: Sales of fireworks at public markets and main roads in Riyadh have increased during Ramadan, despite the Ministry of Commerce and Industry announcing a SR5,000 reward for anyone providing information about warehouses storing these dangerous i...
RIYADH: The General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI) has reported that there were 69,241 work-related accidents in 2014, with expatriates making up 65,509 or 94.6 percent and Saudis 3,732.The accidents were in nine sectors with building and c...
JEDDAH: The Health Ministry’s expenditures over the past five years increased from SR29.29 billion to SR53.73 billion, an increase of about 83 percent.According to a study detailing the ministry’s expenditures between 2008 and 2012 issued by the mini...
RIYADH: Five people from the southern Indian state of Kerala were killed in a road accident at Salwa near Dammam in the Eastern Province early Thursday morning.Manoj Kumar, community welfare attache at the Indian Embassy, told Arab News that the vict...
MAKKAH: The government has deployed eight helicopters over Makkah to track the movement of vehicles and people, and assist in security tasks and medical evacuations.Maj. Gen. Mohammad Al-Harbi, commander of the Interior Ministry’s aviation security d...
JAZAN: A Yemeni woman (A.M.) has once again experienced freedom and a renewed sense of hope in life after reuniting with her family last week on her release from Jazan General Prison, where she spent six years on charges of murder of a citizen in the...
RIYADH: A delegation from the Kingdom recently visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to explore that country’s successful experience in tourism, in a bid to further develop the sector. Saudi Arabia has been making all-out efforts to promote tourism,...
RIYADH: The Justice Ministry has appointed 1,145 candidates for jobs in the judiciary and urged them to complete the requirements for their final appointment. The candidates in the sixth and fourth ranks are requested to fulfill employment prerequisi...
JEDDAH: Four thousand Djibouti workers are expected to arrive in the Kingdom over the next few months following the labor pact signed between the two countries last month.Speaking to a local publication recently, Djibouti Ambassador Diaa Eddin Saeed...

Stay Connected

Facebook