Somalis, Weddings and the New Era

By Abdulkarim Jimale

Engulfed by decades of civil strife, Somalia, located in the heart of Horn of African, has seen almost half of its seven million population scattered across the globe with most ending up in the western world.

Somalis are Muslims and most of their culture comes from their religion. Traditional weddings are part of their lives but the trends on how they conduct the ceremonies have changed.

“Weddings are very important occasions for Somali communities where ever they are in the world” Gedi Mohamed an elder in Nairobi told The Star.

Somali wedding continuous for seven days sequence, the first day is for the wedding and the next three days called “Sadexda” (means in English the third) are for dancing and celebrating in the bride’s house and the last three days is dancing and celebrating in the grooms’ house which is called “Toddobada” (the seventh).

In the Somali culture, these nights, women and men do not mix or celebrate together; they do their celebrations separately. The celebrations start at the afternoon and carries on up to midnight.

There is a particular party called “Baraambur” (meaning in English to praise the bride and the bride groom)

Somali Women Dancing in Somali Traditional wedding in Nairobi

Traditionally bride, bride groom and their families arrange for a plentiful feast for their guests at the reception. Different traditional types of foods are usually served for the guests to enjoy as they carry on with the festivities.

Relatives from the both sides and the guests exchange gifts in the occasion.

The exchange of gifts can also include showering of praises and congratulations to the bride and groom.

Traditional Somalis have one best man party and one best lady.Somali Women elders are tasked to get the bride ready for her new home and making sure the couple has a comfortable home at least for the first few weeks called “Bisha Malabka” (Honeymoon).

Wedding Gifts

Traditionally “Sooryo” (means in English weddings gift) is been given to the present relatives from the both side and the guests at the time of“Nikah” engagement.

The amount of money is divided amongst themselves and also other important people in the family.

Nowadays modern Somali weddings in western or America left this culture.

Price Bride

The engagement “Meher” usually takes place a few days or a month before the wedding, and sometimes on the same day. It’s a common theme for all Somali weddings to be based in an Islamic rule because almost all of them are Muslims.

Somalis old traditional weddings men used to give 100 camels as pride gift known as her Meher. But nowadays in Somalia only it’s an amount of money and gold but the old culture still is working in some parts of the country.

The importance of Meher cannot be underestimated – without it the wedding cannot take place, so the lady needs to be clear as to what she wants for her Meher and the man is obliged to pay it

Abroad Somalis in Meher Occasion, the couples exchange rings they are supposed to keep for the rest of their lives and a symbol of their unity. This is another new culture aped from Western.

Somali traditional dance in Nairobi
Another new thing is and common these days in abroad Somalis weddings organized in different countries like Kenya and USA, the pride and groom are in different countries.

The families

arrange lunch at same time in the two countries and the Meher will be done through on the mobile phone the modern technology. The love of Somalis for travel has facilitated the exchange of images of the parties.

The parents of the bride and bride groom enjoy watching the wedding ceremony in VCR or DVD until they are satisfied that the necessary social requirements were performed. This has also the effect of all young girls aspiring to the standards of former weddings.

Prayers changed to Music

On Somalis weddings while guests and hosts are celebrating for the wedding traditionally used to pray for the groom and bride Allah to make their marriage which stay forever and never let down until they die.

Clerics were attending the ceremony they pray for the new couples “Wiil iyo Caano, Gabar iyo Caano” “Boy with Milk, Girl with Milk”

As the poet, Cabdullahi Faarax Warsame (Lecture) stated in one of his poems; Waa gob iyo caadkeed, Aroos inay gangaamaan, Guri ay yagleelaan, Gelbiska iyo shallaadkiyo, Gole lagu kulmaayoo, Giringiro ciyaartii, Dadku gaaf ka boodaan, Wa gob iyo caadkeed.

In English It is of Nobles and their custom, To coordinate a splendid wedding, And construct a house, The Gelbis and the chanting, At the places of gathering, Where the dance take place, And the masses leap at the Gaaf, It is of Nobles and their custom.

Somali wedding in Kenya

But nowadays inside Somalia’s main cities and some other Somali regions in Kenya and Ethiopia, this changed to songs of Somali professionals singers. But still they retain the cultural traditional songs and poems for the weeding.

Modern Somali weddings in USA, Europe, Asia and some parts of Africa the prayers changed to music of famous American and western singers such as 50-cent, Puff Daddy, Celina Dion and others.

“There are no prayers for the groom and bride, all they do is indulging in the culture of western songs with no traditional aspect, everything has changed, and we are surprised” Ahmed Sheikh Ali a Somali elder told The Star.

He adds there is no Buraanbur which we used to praise and pray for the bride and the groom.

Culture of dance changed

Traditional Somali weddings changed the way of dancing, old culture of dancing mostly foreign music was not allowed and some of the Somali songs, women and men were separated they celebrate in to two different places.

The bride and bride groom were not used to dance in front of the guests traditionally in Somali weddings, but nowadays during the ceremony of the big night, the bride and groom dance a little with the other guests, also the best men and best ladies dance together.

Traditionally, they used to dance the culture players such as, Buraambur, Wilisiqo, Gaaf and others.

But nowadays they rent big halls where men and women dance together in one place, the western type.

Sheikh Mohamed Jamaa told THE STAR “most of the Somalis abroad returned with another culture aped from western and American people.”

Its new thing the couples kissing in front of the guests also four best ladies and four best men, who also kiss in front of the audience.
Sheikh Jamaa said “this is new culture, and it is prohibited in our religion”

Dress Style

Most Somali weddings vary depending with the economic status of the brides or the bridegroom’s family. The main dress codes for traditional Somali ladies include a Guntino or Dirac, a garbasaar covering for the head as well as a googaro that is worn under the dress. Men are supposed to dress in Somali wear or Islamic wear like Khamis but the traditions has changed and you will now find that they wear modern three piece suits.

Unlike in the old days when traditional Somali women used herbal cleansing methods to clean and beautify their body, modernized western technology, the salon has become the one stop shop that does all this for them.

Somali women are decorated with black henna that is attractive in different shapes and patterns on both hands and legs.

Somali weddings are normally videotaped so that those who were not able to attend it can get to watch what passed them on the big day.

Costly wedding

For Somalis who have moved to western countries, US, Asia and Africa countries, the situation has changed. They have adopted the western way of doing things.

A modern Somali weddings held in Europe or USA, the couple spend almost $500,000 US Dollars. Nowadays, the trend also has penetrated those residing in African countries.

A former Somali Prime minister is said to have spent half a million US dollars at his son’s weeding which was held in Kenya.

A number of other wealth businesspersons and Somalis in the Diaspora do the same.

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