29 Fun Facts About Somalia That Challenge Your Perception

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Although marred by civil wars, government instability, extreme poverty, and widespread malnourishment, Somalia has unique attributes in culture, geography, agriculture, and destinations.

Here are some facts about the Federal Republic of Somalia, some that are fun to learn, and some, unfortunately, that aren’t the country’s best foot forward!

1. Somalia Is Almost The Same Size As Texas

At 637,657 square kilometers, Somalia is just about the same size as Texas in the US, whose area is 695,662 square kilometers (268,596 square miles).

Like the state of Texas, Somalia is known for its high temperatures since its one of the thirteen countries that share the Equator.

Somalia is one of the countries that make up the Horn of Africa. It borders Kenya, Djibouti (formerly French Somaliland), Ethiopia, and the Indian Ocean.

2. Somalia’s Coastline Is The Longest In Mainland Africa

Somalia has the longest coastline in mainland Africa. It’s well-known for its shape, which appears like the number 7.

A map of Somalia

The expansive 3,025-kilometer coastline comprises the Gulf of Aden coastline to the north of Somalia and the Indian Ocean coastline to the East of the country.

3. Somalia Is Home To Laas Geel Paintings

The famous Laas Geel ancient cave paintings are found near Hargeisa in Somalia. They have depictions of humans, giraffes, and cattle in ceremonial attires.

Despite the years of ruin in the Somali Republic, the iconic Laas Geel cave paintings still stand because granite overhangs naturally protect them from human or environmental interference.

4. Somalia Has One Of The Highest Fertility Rates

The Republic of Somalia has one of the world’s highest fertility rates, with an average of six children per woman. However, many children die young because of poor health facilities and consistent poverty.

5. Fragrances Are A National Sensation

Making Somali homes smell good is a routine, especially when a family hosts guests or has a significant celebration. The people of Somalia burn frankincense and other incense on hot charcoal to produce a fragrance that lasts for hours to boost morale and enhance the celebratory feel-good effect.

6. Somalia Has One Of The Lowest Life Expectancy

Life expectancy in Somalia is estimated at 56.6 years for women and 53.6 years for men, meaning the embattled African country has one of the world’s lowest life expectancies.

The low life expectancy is attributed to over two decades of violence and civil wars, government instability, the prevalence of communicable diseases, and a brutal climate.

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7. Somalia Has A Harsh, Unforgiving Climate

Somalia’s climate is largely hot and dry. The embattled nation is characterized by a warm desert climate in the north and a semi-arid climate in the south.

People on a hot beach in Somalia

Most of the country is flat, with the lowest point being the Indian Ocean at zero feet and the highest point being the peak of Mount Shimbiris at only 8,071 feet (2,460 meters) above sea level.

The largely semi-desert climate in the country is quite unforgiving, and extensive droughts and famines hit Somalia and cause loss of human and animal life.

8. Over Half Of Somali People Are Self-employed

More than half of the people living in Somalia are self-employed as business owners, pastoralist herders, and farmers.

9. Somalia Has One Of The Highest Unemployment Rates

The population of Somalia comprises largely of youthful people aged between 14 and 29 years, making up 42% of the population. Of these, about 67% are unemployed, making Somalia one of the countries with the highest unemployment rate in the world.

10. Over 66% of Somalian Exports Are Livestock

Despite having a harsh climate with very little annual rainfall, Somalia’s major exports are livestock and related products like hides.

Cattle account for 22%, while goats and sheep account for 44% of all livestock exports. The country also exports bananas, fish, construction materials, charcoal, and petroleum products.

11. Somalia Is Home To Famous Athletes

Mo Farah, one of Britain’s most famous Olympic athletes, was born in 1983 in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital and the country’s largest city. He relocated to the United Kingdom in 1991.

12. The Somalian Flag Is One Of The World’s Simplest

Somalia’s national flag is one of the simplest in the world, featuring a light blue background and a white star. Each of the five points of the star represents a Somali homeland.

The flag of Somalia

The light blue color was an inspiration from the United Nations flag for the organization’s efforts in Somalia’s independence.

13. Somali Pirates Are National And International Threat

The pirates on Somalia’s coast are a threat to the state and the international community. They are known for terrorizing international cargo and fishing vessels along the Gulf of Aden.

The Somali pirates rob the people on the ships and even hold them hostage for ransom, with one of the most famous piracy events happening in 2010, leading to the famous movie known as Captain Phillips. The pirates have now raided more than 42 ships and captured over 1,000 hostages.

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14. Somalia Has One Of The Largest Crime Rates

Talking of pirates and civil wars, Somalia has one of the largest crime rates in the world based on terrorism, murders, thefts, kidnappings, and sexual violence.

15. Somalia Is Home To Al-Shabaab

The Al-Shabaab, which many nations have helped the country to contain over the years, is deeply entrenched in Somalia. The group is known widely for its terrorist activities.

16. Somalia’s Unending Civil War Stems From A Bid To End Clanism

Between 1969 and 1991, the Republic of Somalia was under the leadership of General Mohamed Siad Barre, who precipitated the Somalian Civil War.

A war-torn building in Somalia

Siad Barre tried to change Somalia into a socialist state by shifting the country from clanism, a move that was vehemently resisted by the clans and led to the development of government-rebel group conflicts and the outbreak of the Civil War.

17. The Civil War Has Lasted Over Two Decades

The Somalian Civil War broke out in the early 1990s and has lasted over two decades. The country didn’t have an effective central government for 20 years since 1991.

The first formal federal parliamentary government since 1991 was formed in 2012, and a president was elected democratically in 2017.

18. Somalia Has A Highly Homogeneous Population

Most of the 12,386,248 Somali people (2022 estimates) practice Islam as Sunni Muslims with ethnic Somali descent traceable to common foreparents.

The patriarchal, largely semi-nomadic Somali society is based on an extended family clan system, with the main clans being the Dir, Darod, Rahaweyn, and Hawiye.

Most ethnic groups of Somalis live in the Ethiopian Ogaden region, northern Kenya, and northern Somalia.

19. The Official Languages Are Arabic And Somali

The Somali language and Arabic are the official languages in Somalia. Other common languages include Italian and English, owing to the British presence in British Somaliland and Italians in Italian Somaliland in the colonial era.

Most of the highly educated Somali people can speak five languages or more!

20. The Somali Shilling Has Been In Use Since 1962

The Republic of Somalia has been using the Somali Shilling, also known as the SOS, since 1962.

21. Somalia Has Had No Tourists Since 1991

The outbreak of the Civil War in Somalia led to the crippling of the country’s tourism sector. Well, until 2010, when Canadian Mike Spencer Brown became the first tourist in Somalia since 1991.

22. Somalia Has One Of The Lowest HIV Acquisition Rates

A welcome sigh of relief in war-torn Somalia is that the country has one of the lowest HIV acquisition rates in Africa.

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23. Somali Civil Has Inspired Several Books And Movies

The famous Battle of Mogadishu of 1993 inspired the book Black Hawk Down, which depicted the events when the Somali militia shot down two US helicopters and killed the Army Rangers on board.

The book was adapted into a movie by the same title by Ridley Scott in 2001, featuring actor William Fitchner of the Prison Break fame.

24. Somalia Is One Of The World’s Poorest Countries

Following more than two decades of internal conflict, Somalia ranks as the second poorest country in the world after Burundi.

25. It’s Tough Being A Woman In Somalia

Somalia has been ranked often as one of the worst countries to be a woman! This owes to the largely patriarchal system, the unending Civil War, and the perpetration of violence against Somali women.

In 2014, the country had the lowest ranks based on child mortality, women’s political status and income levels, education, and maternal health.

26. Somali Culture Cultivates Honor

Personal honor is deeply rooted in Somali culture. It is largely based on family reputation and is accorded regardless of power and wealth dynamics.

A person’s behavior traditionally affects that of the entire family or clan. This awareness of personal honor guides people’s behavior and defines their sense of pride, loyalty, integrity, and situational interactions.

27. Somalis Are Spontaneously Generous People

The spontaneous generosity of the Somali people is practiced not only within families and clans but also extended to poor people and strangers.

Friendly women of Somalia

The Somalis are quick to offer shelter, food, and money to those in need. Local mosques are essential in mobilizing community support.

28. The Republic Of Somaliland Is One Of The World’s Newest Countries

Although yet to be internationally recognized as an independent state, the Republic of Somaliland, initially a British Protectorate, is one of the newest countries in the world after seceding from Somalia in 1991.

Other autonomous parts of Somalia that have established their own political institutions to save themselves from clan rivalry include Galmudug, South West Somalia, Puntland, Hirshabelle, and Jubaland.

29. Somalia Has The Largest Camel Population

Somalian camels aren’t only the highest in number in the world; they are also the largest in any African nation at over 800kgs (1,763 pounds).


Since discovering how much fun and learning are to be had traveling, Alex has made it a point to tour his home country and continent while still in his heydays. His ultimate desire is to travel farther afield to see the wonders of Europe, the Americas, Australia, and Asia. When he isn’t traveling, he takes his time to write about various places to share his experiences with other global citizens.

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