Below you will find the information from a brochure created by the City of Lewiston to help educate the community about the newly arriving Somali population. The information provided in this brochure is very generalized and does not apply to every single person of Somalian descent. It was published during the very turbulent months following the former Mayor of Lewiston wrote to the Somali community asking them to tell their relatives not to come to the City of Lewiston.
“Iska Waran” Means
“How Are You?”
“Fiican” Means “Fine”
WHY DID SOMALIS LEAVE THEIR COUNTRY?
In the 1990s, due to a violent civil war and subsequent famine, thousands of Somali families
fled their homeland, located in the eastern most part of Africa, as a means of survival.
The Somalis traveled to Kenya and Ethiopia to find a safe haven. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees established refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia to house and care for the Somali refugees. Unfortunately, the conditions in the camps and in the areas surrounding them often mirrored the strife and persecution the Somalis had experienced in their own country.
The United States, like other United Nation member countries, accepts a limited number of refugees for permanent resettlement in sites all across the United States. Therefore, some of the Somali refugees (like other refugees) were “resettled” throughout the U.S.
Many Somali refugees currently living in Lewiston are “secondary migrants,” as they were “resettled” in other states but have decided to move to Maine and Lewiston. Some have also become citizens.
Somalis first arrived in Lewiston during February of 2001, and, as of this printing, we currently
have approximately 1,100 Somalis within our city. The majority of our Somali neighbors moved here from larger cities around the country: Atlanta, Georgia; Nashville, Tennessee; Columbus, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Somalis have an extensive family network all over the world due to the vast resettlement, and Somalis have come to Lewiston upon hearing that it is a positive environment in which to live & raise a family. Good housing, safe neighborhoods, andpotential employment all contribute to the appeal of our city. Like the French and Irish who came here years ago, the Somalis believe Lewiston is a great place to be!
Nearly all Somalis are Muslims, the name for those who follow the teachings of Islam. Somalis believe in the God of Abraham and have a high admiration or prophets such as Mohammed whom they believe was God’s last and greatest prophet. Their place of worship is called a “mosque,” and the "Masjid Al Noor” mosque is located at 253 Lisbon Street, Lewiston. Their Islamic scripture is called the “Qur’an,” and Somalis believe it is the word of God as revealed to Mohammed. Somalis, usually by the age of 15, pray 5 times a day, and the times of such prayers are dependent upon the seasonal position of the sun. They also observe “The 10 Commandments.” The work week for Somalis has traditionally been Saturday-Wednesday, with Friday as the “Holy Day,” although they have adjusted to the Monday-Friday work week since their arrival in the United States.
Family is extremely important within the Somali culture. Somalis are very respectful of their
“elders,” and it is often the elders who make a decision for the Somali “community” as a whole. For example, the elders might decide that neighboring Somalis need to pool their resources
to assist a fellow Somali.
Other interesting info:
⇒ A child’s second & third name is taken from the father and paternal grandfather (first name is individualized). Women, when they marry, do not change their names.
⇒ There is no “dating” per se, and a Somali man has to ask a woman’s family for permission to wed.
⇒ In public, women cover their hair with a “hijab," as they believe their hair enhances their beauty & should only be seen by their husband.
⇒ In general, the only public displays of affection that Somalis demonstrate are towards their children.
⇒ In general, Somalis only shake hands with someone of the same gender.
⇒ Somalis strictly prohibit the use of drugs and alcohol.
The Somali diet consists of a lot of pasta, rice, meat, vegetables, and milk, and their food
choices are influenced by Arabic, African, and Italian cuisine. Bananas and tea, heavy with
milk and sugar, are popular favorites. Somalis particularly enjoy “fresh foods” versus processed or packaged foods.
Somalis classify acceptable food as “hallal.” This is similar to foods defined as “kosher.” Pork is “haram” (unacceptable) and should not be consumed. Animals such as cows, goats, and chicken must be slaughtered in a particular way (at the neck) and blessed at the time of slaughter. Somalis believe this process purifies the animal making it safe for consumption.
Many Somalis have been striving to learn or enhance usage of the English language, as well as
enhance the command of their own language, which was formally adopted in 1972—only 31 years ago—the learning of which was interrupted by war. Storytelling and oral tradition have long been the means to pass along information. Spelling for the Somali language is still being standardized, so there are sometimes different spellings for the same Somali word.
Like many newly arrived refugee/immigrant groups, most Somalis who currently reside in
Lewiston have been in the United States, on the average, for more than three years and are therefore no longer eligible for refugee financial assistance. Therefore, Somalis have been seeking employment just like any other new resident, with some already employed and some having already established new businesses within the community. Some individuals, like other Lewiston residents, have needed to utilize local/state General Assistance and federal programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and food stamps; however, self-sufficiency is the goal of Somalis, as they take great pride in providing for their own families.
The influx of Somali families within our community was a new experience. However, the City of
Lewiston and various agencies, organizations,and groups have rallied together to welcome the
Somalis and assist them with the transition to our community, while at the same time striving to
keep other Lewiston residents informed as to their new neighbors. Two contact numbers are listed
below should you have questions or perhaps ideas on how to further enhance the understanding of
cultural diversity within our community.