Tag Archives: Somali

The Djiboutian

Far From Africa titled its first post back in 2013 Where is the Gambia? And after two years of publishing, today’s post could be titled Where is Djibouti? There are two plausible theories to explain the name of Djibouti and its capital city, Djibouti City. Some claim that it can be traced to the Afar word Gabouti meaning ‘a kind of doormat made from palm fibre’. Others would say that it comes from the Land of Tehuti after the name of the Ancient Egyptian god of the moon and knowledge.

Me’ad, a Djiboutian living in Melbourne talks about his country and how in such a small country there is a vast and rich culture. Despite the desert-like appearance of Djibouti, he portrays the country as a potential tourism destination offering a variety of landscapes from the breathtaking rugged mountains of the north to the incredible white landscape of the salt lake Assal and the beautiful beaches on the Red Sea.

Lake Assal, Djibouti

Lake Assal, Djibouti © Salt News

When asking Me’ad where Djibouti is, he laughingly responds “I stopped telling people that I am from Djibouti and I just say I am from the Horn of Africa.” He also describes his country as “a small country between Somalia and Ethiopia on the coast of the Red Sea.”

Me'ad © 22/06/2015

Me’ad © 22/06/2015

Comfortably proud of his African and Djiboutian identity, his name Me’ad coincidentally is an Arabic word meaning ‘appointment’ and a Somali name literally signifying “lots of rain drops” as a time of prosperity. He tells that growing up in Djibouti was very interesting thanks to the mix of cultures. This mix initially came from Yemeni traders due to Djibouti’s proximity to the Middle East, the Afar ethnic group from the northern lands of Djibouti, the French and Somali people. Strategically, the French kept Djibouti under their administration to counteract the British influence in the region. Me’ad has very fond memories of the strong sense of community that existed  and still exists in Djibouti as “we were very much supported and protected by my family in Djibouti and in Somalia.”

Somali people speak a more literary and classical Somali and are more connected to the Somali culture. The Somali (as an ethnic group) of Djibouti were more influenced by the West and other cultures through the French, the Arabs and other local ethnic groups. On 27 July 1977, Djibouti gained its independence and the 9 year-old Me’ad still remembers the excitement at that time. He particularly recalls the popular emergence of a Somali band with patriotic songs that he saw the concert of in Djibouti.

Proud Djiboutian with a passion for music and arts, Me’ad shares with Far From Africa his anthology of Somali and Afar music through the following extracts.

“This song is titled ‘Hooyooy La’aanta’ (without mother – the importance of maternal love) is interpreted by a famous and one of the best Somali singers, Mohamed Souleiman Tubeh. His debut started in Djibouti in the late 50s before he went to Somalia.  I like this song because of all the affection I have for my mother.”

“This a video of traditional Somali dance. It revives memories of my childhood as it was a way to socialise and we often attended this kind of spectacle. It was very funny to see adults seducing each other.”

“This is traditional Afar dance. I grew up in a multicultural suburb of Djibouti City and some of my neighbours were Afar. Sharing this video is a way for me to pay tribute to some of my Afar childhood friends and my nieces and nephews who are Afar too.”

This song is extracted from a theatre play titled ‘Gar caadawe iyo caashaq’ and it is the first play I saw in my life in 1973 when I was 5.”


He describes this music as very rhythmic with lyrics on patriotism or on various topics going from societal issues to honesty and unity. “The language that singers use is very metaphoric making the lyrics very poetic. I don’t know how they do it!” Today, Djiboutians still appreciate Somali and Djiboutian music as well as folk dances and young people tend to listen to the modern version of those songs.

After being in Australia for almost 20 years, Me’ad now works in democracy advocacy and policy, another passion of his. He believes that good governance and electoral system are “critical to help a country develop and change. It is the foundational basis for effective and successful development projects and societal change.”

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Strong for Somalia


Jutting out into the Indian Ocean, in the ancient times Somalia had the international reputation of being a one-stop port for commerce. Sadly Somalia is nowadays known for the recurring humanitarian crises and the civil war that broke out in 1991 which has affected countless families including Abdul’s.

Abdul was born in Mogadishu in the south of Somalia, also known as the White Pearl of the Indian Ocean, one year before the outbreak of the war. Although he left his country at a very young age, the thought of Somalia brings back beautiful memories of his childhood and his happy family and community life. “Tribalism is a very big topic in Somalia. We can talk to someone from a different tribe but we are always conscious of our differences and we make sure that we don’t encroach upon their groups. A common social practice in Somalia is to gather and talk of many topics such as sports and other tribes”. For a better picture of this tribal mosaic, Somalia is the land of many clans. There are five mains clans (Darod, Dir, Hawiye, Isaaq and Rahanweyn) which are divided into numerous sub-clans. Abdul is a Majerteen and his tribe falls into the Darod clan. Abdul shares an interesting point about Somalia with Islam being the distinguishing denominator from other countries in the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea). Islam is the main religion and unifies all Somali groups. “We may disagree in many matters but at the end of the day, we all believe in one god and the same principles”.

In 1991 tribalism and tensions among the various Somali peoples became more intense causing his family to flee to Saudi Arabia where they still reside. Alas, Abdul took another route, to New Zealand at the age of 4 – where his uncle was based – because a birth malformation on his legs required special medical assistance. There he grew up and when he reached 10 years of age, doctors advised that they couldn’t undertake such a delicate operation and his last resort was to come to Australia. During his teenage years, Abdul went through a series of operations over 4 years. Thankfully he could finally walk and enjoy a better life. Now 21 years old, he lives in the western suburbs of Melbourne but he has never forgotten his parents and siblings back in Saudi Arabia.

Abdul Photo

© Marion Cabanes – 06/06/2013

The description of his life portrays Abdul as a very brave young man. He overtly says that “it was very hard to leave my family at an age when you most need them. From Somalia to Saudi Arabia, from Saudi Arabia to New Zealand and to Australia, I already had too many start-overs in my first 20 years”. If you were Somali and planning to settle in Australia, Abdul advises that “it is not easy to start over a new life in a different country. At the beginning it’s always a struggle to find a place, friends and it takes some time to make this new country your home”.

Although Abdul left Somalia at a very young age, he still comfortably speaks his mother tongue – Somali –  and he feels a lot of affection for his native country. Deep in his heart and in his daily Melbourne life, his thoughts are with his family with whom he communicates on a  regular basis. His love for his mother who couldn’t be close to him for many years is also the same love that he expresses for his mother land. He is able to share an interesting cultural insight of Somalia because his mother has described and reminded him of their life back in Somalia.

Today completing a Community Services Certificate III at Victoria University, Abdul is ambitious to become a Psychologist or Counsellor. He wishes to help young people suffering mental health problems, “I have been through depression in my teenage years after my operation, I believe I can understand and help young people”.

Abdul’s unique course of life from a family living barely above the poverty line has made him a strong and positive person ready to assist those in need. He has hope that one day peace will be back in Somalia, and he and his family will once again be reunited.

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