Introduction / History Most scholars say that the Arabs originated in the Arabian Peninsula. There, in the harsh Arabian Desert, a distinctive tribal culture developed. From that initial location, the Arab world began spreading. Today, several hundred thousand Juba Somali Arabs live in East Africa. Those living in Somalia speak an Arabic dialect called Af-Maay. Reflecting their long association with Islam, they are almost all Muslim.
Most of the Juba Somali live along the western border of Somalia, where they inhabit the fertile regions around the Wabi Shebele tributary. Although most live in villages, they have maintained their tribal affiliations. Two types of settlements occur in East Africa. The first type consists of large, clustered villages. The second is a continuous chain of closely adjoining huts strung out along waterways.
What are their lives like? The part of Africa in which the Juba Somali live is known for its agriculture. Like other Arabs in the region, the Juba Somali farmers grow wheat, vegetables, and coffee. In addition, they cultivate melons, dates, mangoes, and pomegranates. Domestic animals are kept in small yards to supply the villagers with daily with milk and eggs.
For most Juba Somali, life revolves around the village. Their settlements are somewhat more structured than those of other East African Arabs. One style of village home is made of mud brick, with a flat roof and one interior room. Occasionally, homes will have thatched roofs that extend out to make porches. Most families have one or more of these houses, all of which are enclosed by walls of mud or thorns. The other style house that the Juba Somali may live in is called a Sudanese-style house. This is a round one-room hut with a cone-shaped thatch roof. In some areas the bases are made of mud, and in others, they are made of thatch. The Sudanese-style house is particularly popular in the Nile River region.
Juba Somali marriages are typically endogamous, which means that they only marry within their own clans. They are also monogamous (one husband, one wife). In the past, marriages were arranged, but it is now becoming more acceptable for an individual to choose his own mate. In their society, children are seen as the family's greatest asset. Inheritances are passed from fathers to sons and boys inherit more than girls. The value of young girls is seen in their ability to have children and bond families through marriage.
Social life is extremely important to the Juba Somali. Like most East African Arabs, they share a tradition of a daily coffee time. Because wood is expensive and somewhat scarce, animal dung is used as fuel.
Despite the teachings of Islam, the Juba Somali maintain the Arab tradition of different social classes. Manner of dress has become one of the distinguishing factors of class. Women wear veils both at home and while they are in town. When boys enter into manhood, they are allowed to wear a different type of headgear.
What are their beliefs? Being Muslims, the Juba Somali follow the teachings of the prophet Mohammed. They believe that the only way to heaven is through following the teachings of their holy book, the Koran. Their religion is one of works based on five basic teachings or "pillars." These include affirming that Allah is the only god and Mohammed is his prophet. They are also required to pray five times a day while facing Mecca, give alms to the poor, fast during the month of Ramadan, and try to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca.
What are their needs? The Juba Somali in Somalia are virtually all Muslim, and at present there are very few believers in their communities. Evangelization will be challenging due to the nature of the Arabs' lifestyle and religious belief system.
Prayer Points Ask the Lord of the harvest to send laborers to work among the Juba Somali of Somalia.
Ask the Lord to soften the hearts of the Juba Somali so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
Pray that God will use the few Juba Somali believers to share the Gospel with their own people.
Ask God to raise up prayer warriors who will faithfully intercede for the Juba Somali.
Pray that local churches will be established among the Juba Somali. * Pray for completion of Bible translation in this people group's primary language.