Childbearing usually commences shortly after marriage. A woman's status is enhanced the more children she bears. Thus it is not unusual for a Somali family to have seven or eight children. The concept of planning when to have or not to have children has little cultural relevance for Somalis.

/**/ Somalia Customs Information Customs Information – Somaliland Duties and Tax Exemption Emergency Response: Exemption Regular Regime (Non-Emergency Response):  Exemption Certificate Application Procedure:  Exemption Certificate Document Requirements Customs Clearance General Information  Customs Clearance Document Requirements

Circumcision is universally practiced for both males and females. It is viewed as a rite of passage, allowing a person to become a fully accepted adult member of the community. It is commonly viewed as necessary for marriage, as uncircumcised people are seen as unclean.

There is much discussion about the acceptability of life support in Somali culture and religion. While Somalis appreciate every effort to preserve life, there is controversy regarding at what point life support may interfere with God's will and extend life artificially. Yet, some Somalis don't feel they can make the decision to remove life support because that too would be interfering with God's will. As a result, Somalis may have complicated spiritual issues surrounding life support.

Male circumcision is performed at various times between birth and 5 years of age. It is accompanied by a celebration involving prayers and the ritual slaying of a goat. It is performed either by a traditional doctor (see Traditional Medical Practices above) or by a nurse or doctor in a hospital.

Toubia, N., "Female Circumcision as a Public Health Issue" NEJM , Sept 15, 1994, vol 331, no 11, p 712-716.

Expectant and newly-delivered mothers benefit from a strong network of women within Somali culture. Before a birth, the community women hold a party (somewhat like a baby shower) for the pregnant woman as a sign of support. Births most frequently occur at home, and are attended by a midwife.

Many religious holidays involve the ritual killing of a lamb or goat. In Seattle, families travel to a farm in Sumner, Washington, where they purchase the needed animal and perform the ritual slaughter. Islamic tradition forbids eating pork or drinking alcohol.

As in many Islamic cultures, adult men and women are separated in most spheres of life. Although some women in the cities hold jobs, the preferred role is for the husband to work and the wife to stay at home with the children. Female and male children participate in the same educational programs and literacy among women is relatively high.

Opinions vary among Somalis regarding who has high status and is most respected in their communities. Opinions about what contributes to high status include those who: have a strong character, are able to lead, are educated, are wealthy, are able to communicate with everyone, and have knowledge of the Qur'an, tribal and family history. Since the war, tribal affiliations have divided much of the society but unity is still valued (especially when in the U.S.).

Somalia, the Horn of Africa nation, is finally recovering from recent wars and famine. Written by a native Somali, Culture and Customs of Somalia gives students and interested readers an in-depth look at the land and people, past and present. It is the only accessible, comprehensive, and up-to-date general reference on this country. Somalia was once colonized by Europeans, but Abdullahi's superb survey, with its historical context, evokes a Somaliland from a Somali viewpoint.

There are several main clans in Somalia and many, many subclans. In certain regions of the country a single subclan will predominate, but as the Somalis are largely nomadic, it is more common for several subclans to live intermixed in a given area. Membership in a clan is determined by paternal lineage. Marriage between clans is common. When a woman marries a man of another clan, she becomes a member of that clan, though retains connection with her family and its clan.

The traditional womens dress is called a hejab, and the traditional clothing for a man is called a maawis. The snug-fitting hat that men wear is a qofe.

Children and elders share mutual respect. When addressing another family member or friend, words for “aunt,” “uncle,” “brother,” “sister,” and “cousin” are used depending on the person's age relative to the speaker.

Somali names have three parts. The first name is the given name, and is specific to an individual. The second name is the name of the child's father, and the third name is the name of the child's paternal grandfather. Thus siblings, both male and female, will share the same second and third names. Women, when they marry, do not change their names. By keeping the name of their father and grandfather, they are, in effect, maintaining their affiliation with their clan of birth.

In 1977 Djibouti received independence from the French. Although the government of Djibouti chose not to reunite with Somalia, ties between the countries remain close, as the citizens share a common culture and language. Travel is permitted freely across the border without a visa.

As proscribed by Moslem tradition, married women are expected to cover their bodies including their hair. In Somalia, some Somali women wear veils to cover their faces, but few do in the U.S. as they find this a difficult custom to adhere to in American society. Pants are not a generally accepted form of attire for women, but may be worn under a skirt.

In Islam, life is considered sacred and belongs to God (Allah). It is believed that all creatures die at a time determined by God and that no one knows when it is his or her time to die except Allah (EthnoMed, 2008). For this reason, when a patient is determined to be terminally it, it is best not to offer a timeframe for when death might likely occur. Likewise, the provider could say, “According to us, we have done all that we can.” This will demonstrate respect for religious beliefs.

Birthdays are not celebrated; rather the anniversary of someone's death is commemorated.

Somalis are familiar with tuberculosis. In Somalia, if a person develops tuberculosis they are quarantined to a special TB hospital for many months. Many Somalis were exposed to TB in the refugee camps where TB control was poor.  See also: Somali Tuberculosis Cultural Profile

For a short historical review about health care in Muslim experience, as well as current general information about Muslim people and their main observances and concerns in the Western health care system, see:

Immediately following Ramadan is the holiday of Id al-Fitr which marks the end of the fast. This celebration involves big family gatherings and gifts for children. Id Arafa ( also called Id al-Adhuha) is the most important holiday of the calendar year. This is the time for making pilgrimages (hajjia) to Saudi Arabia. Moulid is another important holiday, occurring in the month after Ramadan. It commemorates the birth and death of the Prophet Mohammed.

See related articles about death in the Somali culture on Ethnomed:

Unlike many African nations, Somalia is composed of a single, homogeneous ethnic group. Although Somalis may differ in nuances of local lifestyle, they share a uniform language, religion, and culture, and trace their heritage to a common ancestor.

Customs In Somalia

Listed below are the documents required for Customs Clearance. Copies of the documents are sufficient for custom processing, but original documents are required by the shipping line or Master when collecting the cleared cargoes. UN and NGOs follow similar documentation process. 

Men are usually the head of the household. Women manage the finances and take care of the children. It is considered culturally unacceptable for a man to not be perceived as being in charge of his home. At the wedding ceremony, the groom is told by the elder/sheik/father/father-in-law that he is responsible for feeding his family and respecting his wife.

There are a number of Somali service agencies, community organizations and businesses in and around the Seattle area. For more complete information visit Somali Community Organizations in Seattle

Living with extended families is the norm. Young adults who move to the city to go to school live with relatives rather than live alone. Similarly, people who do not marry tend to live with their extended families. Divorce does occur, though proceedings must be initiated by the husband.

This section, Adolescence, Adulthood, and Old Age, added March 2009, was written by Jessica Mooney and Gillian Shepodd. It is based on information contributed by eight members of Seattle's Somali community and was reviewed by a Somali medical interpreter at Harborview Medical Center.

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1 copy, applied to both UN & NGO for Customs processing.Yes, Original when collecting the cargo

Refugee Health - Vancouver's Somali Cultural Profile gives a main overview of Somalia with a focus on political and health issues. 

It is common for providers who have gained the trust of their Somali patients to be referred to others in the community. Community members may seek out that provider, once word spreads.

AIDS is a recognized but uncommon illness (<1% incidence) in Somalia compared to other East African nations.  A Seattle Times article reports on efforts in the Seattle area to help African immigrants learn to talk openly about HIV/AIDS. The article includes information about a trend toward higher rates of disease in African immigrant women compared to African immigrant males.

MOHAMED DIRIYE ABDULLAHI, formerly a journalist in Somalia, is now an independent language consultant and translator in Montreal. He specializes in the language, cultures, and history of the peoples of the Horn of Africa. He has previously published Parlons Somali, a book on the Somali language and culture.

There are many different opinions regarding when death has occurred. The definition of death in Islam is the departure of the soul from the body in order to enter the afterlife. The Qur'an does not provide any specific explanation of the signs of this departure. The common belief is that death is the termination of all organ functions (EthnoMed, 2008). (For more information about death and Islam, see Health Care in Islamic History and Experience.)

1 copy, applied to both UN & NGO for Customs processing. Yes, Original when collecting the cargo

When death is imminent, Somalis read from the Qur'an. The patient, family, and community members take turns reading passages.

[Note: This section should contain information on the usual duties & taxes exemption regime during non-emergency times, when there is no declared state of emergency and no streamlines process (e.g. regular importations/development/etc.).]

MOHAMED DIRIYE ABDULLAHI, formerly a journalist in Somalia, is now an independent language consultant and translator in Montreal. He specializes in the language, cultures, and history of the peoples of the Horn of Africa. He has previously published Parlons Somali, a book on the Somali language and culture.