Diplomatic relations.

In Matrimony by Mohamed Sheikh Sidow

My name is Mohamed Sheikh Sidow

I am a Somali Canadian, I am about …  65. 

I have been living in canada for 30 years

I came from Somalia in 1989, around that time. 

I raised my kids here. My family is here. My children have now finished university and some of them are married. 

In General, my childrens marriage is the same as the traditional somali marriage, but there are some different approaches, starting from the traditional  nomadic kind of marriage to today’s urban centric marriage. 

When we start with the traditional nomadic marriage, the girl and boy meet somehow, they get to know each other, and maybe they fall in love, and  they arrange to marry. 

Usually, the traditional way is that some elders from the boys family will go to meet other elders from the girls family, including her father, uncle and some other relatives, and they will officially ask that the girl and  the boy be engaged. 

It is usually not the boy who proposes to the girl, but the elders that propose to the girl’s family. 

The boy is not even included in the meeting. Only his parents, or uncles. 

This is done, because these elders are always responsible for the marriage. The marriage is not between the boy and the girl but between the two families.  Once there is a marriage, the two families are connected. 

They have to respect each other very delicately, and maintain diplomatic relations. They can’t engage with themselves the way they engage with other people, so the two families have to respect each other. 

This mainly comes from the middle eastern and Islamic tradition. When the two families engage with each other, they are closer. 

When you got back to the time of the Prophet Mohhamad عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ, and he was spreading the message, he can marry from a tribe that is not in the islamic community that time, if possible when he married, that tribe would be closer to him when he traveled there.  There would be no enmity, and they would extend their hospitality towards him as their own son. 

When it comes to who you can marry, we don’t really have rules. You can marry from the neighbourhood, or from anywhere. There are some circumstances where marriage may not be allowed. 


There is a good story, the Law of the Grazing Field by Cyprian Ekwensi , and in this story a woman and her groom run away to get married because they might not be permitted to marry in their homes. This also happens traditionally in Somalia. 

What usually happens is the boy and the girl will go together far away from their families. Usually, it is called Masafa in Arabaic. Masafa is the distance you have to cut, to marry the girl without her family’s blessing. 

If you are closer than 80km away from the girl’s parents, without their permission, you can not marry. Then you will go to any religious person who can perform their marriage. You will usually need two witnesses who are brought in by the religious person.

In this case, you avoid sending a delegation to her family. And in some cases, this delegation usually includes some kind of economic support to the girls family. Usually money. And many nomadic peoples will pay in animals.  This payment is called  Sooryo. It is a gift typically money you bring when you go to the girls family. 

Once they go out of the range of the family, and they can get legally married you come back, and then the elders from the boys family will bring the girls to her family and they give what they call a peace offering for dispute resolution. They ask for forgiveness and for the procedure of the rest of the marriage. 

Sometimes the girl and the boy go away and marry without the family’s blessing, and they might not even come back . They settle far away and come back maybe after they have a baby, and that is when the delegation comes for the peace resolution. 

There are reasons why the girl’s family may not accept the boy. If the boys family is not as wealthy for example, and also, there is some discrimination becase some groups are looked at as lower cast.  Although they may live in the same neighbourhood for centuries, they are the same people, the same language, the same culture, the same religion,  but they will say because of tradition…centuries ago, their parents did something bad. 

For example, there were two brothers who were traveling, and they were very hungry, and they see a dead animal, and one they were very hungry so one brother says i will eat some of the meat from the dead animal and the other one says no i will not eat, i will rather die than eating this dead animal, and the other brother does not eat the meat, and when they come back home they tell their father what happened, and the father condemns the one who eats the meat and the sentence of the father will make his sons lineage be discriminated against over generations. 


The wedding traditions are different in many parts of the country. Some places do the wedding and the marriage at the same time, some places, it is close to one year apart.  Depending on where you go, there are different procedures. 

One week before the wedding night the girl is sent to a relatives family. It could be her sister, or aunt’s house. There they prepare,  put henna on her hands, they provide wedding advice. Till then, they should not have  met with a man physically,  so they give her the advice. This is what they call Dhegaal.  

On the day of the wedding the Sheikh goes through the marriage procedures and provides a blessing. The night , it is mainly for the ladies. It’s ladies night!  And some places use a modern western style. And men and women come and dance together. 

And during the wedding, there is a special performance called Buraambur. It is a poem that is said by ladies only. So they praise the family of the girl and the bride groom and they bless and ask for God to bless them. 

The dowry used to be practiced in the rural areas. But the practices are different depending on where you go. Some places don’t pay that much, in some places you can pay up to  100 camels. But it is the relatives of the family who come together to pay this. This is too much for one family.

The wealth of the people in the rural areas is counted by how many camels you have. You know camels can withstand the most difficult weather unlike say cows. Anyone who has a lot of animals is wealthy. 

I think the dowry comes from the middle eastern tradition.  You are taking someone away from their home.  In the instance that a bridegroom pays a lot of animals, and for whatever reason, the girl dies, they have to marry another girl from their family. He has given them everything he has and is not able to go through another marriage procedure.


In the cities since independence,  more people married for love, some for arrangement , some for convenience ! Because if the person is wealthy, then the girl has to accept. If an older person, but a wealthier person asks the daughter to be married to him, they would rightaway  accept because of the wealth. 

Lately, it has become more about love. But at the same time, it must also be about arrangement. But even in the west, the bride would say, after they have agreed to marry, that the Groom must go to her family, and the same traditional procedure will begin. 

The Groom’s family brings the Sooryo to share amongst the family of the bride and the money is distributed amongst the girls’ elders who are there. What they do is, they give the money to the eldest person there, and they share it amongst their relatives and most of the time, half of that money is returned back to the elders of the boys family. 

This is usually out of respect for the boy’s family. They understand this may cause hardship for the boys family, and since they are now one family, let the Groom’s delegation also get some of the money.  So they return half of it. 

The marriage, whether it is a big one, or a small one, is the binding of two families. It is for conflict resolution. If the husband has any conflicts, he tells his in-laws and his families. They are connected to these families. 

Here in the western world, the boy and the girls live together and are separated from their families, and they have nothing to do with the marriage.  But the somali way is that the family will be involved in any dispute between the husband and the wife.

The two families from both sides are always bonded.