This is a Muslim-majority nation. As a result, be cautious about where you aim your camera. There are many excellent picture possibilities around every turn (the question is generally what to leave out of each shot), but always ask first when shooting people. Never, ever attempt to photograph ladies, even if you are a woman yourself. This is a serious crime that may result in more than a few angry words. Also, do not attempt to photograph anything that seems to be of strategic significance (i.e., has at least one soldier, policeman or, more likely, armed militiaman guarding it).
Respect the Somali people’s Islamic beliefs: women should not wear tube tops or short clothes. It is quite normal for people of any nationality to dress in traditional Somali attire.
If you eat in public during the holy month of Ramadan, you may be fined or even imprisoned. The Islamist militia Al-Shabab may be present in many populated places. They take no lightly to any infringement of Sharia law, and since they are not connected with any government, they are not required to comply by any laws other than their own. They will feel free to punish any inappropriate conduct in whatever manner they see fit, including floggings, amputations, and even executions. Government officials also penalize Sharia law breaches, although they are usually less severe than those enforced by rebels.
Alcohol is illegal in Somalia, and having it can land you in serious problems – and never drink and drive.
Don’t show the soles of your feet to a Somali if you’re eating with him/her. Don’t eat with your left hand, either, since the left hand is considered the “dirty hand.” Similarly, don’t try to shake someone’s hand or give a gift with your left hand.
Allow your Somali friend to buy you anything, whether it’s a dinner or a present. Somalis are very welcoming, and there are usually no strings connected. It is customary to advocate in favor of the measure.
Never bring up religion from an atheistic or comparable perspective. Even highly educated Somalis who have studied abroad will be offended, and doors will shut for you. Also, keep in mind that the Islamic “call to prayer” occurs five times each day and may be heard clearly nearly anywhere. Just keep in mind that most Somalis are used to it and embrace it as part of the cultural experience. You are not required to participate if you are not Muslim, but you should always sit silently and politely until the prayers finish.
Staring is very prevalent in Somalia; children, men, and women may certainly look at you just because you are a foreigner, particularly if you go off-season and in remote areas. This is not intended to be an insult; rather, it expresses curiosity, and a pleasant grin will have the youngsters laughing and showing off, and the adults joyfully practicing their few English words.
Men dress in flowing plaid ma’awis (kilts), western shirts, and shawls. They may wrap a colorful turban over their heads or wear a koofiyad (embroidered cap).
Because of their Islamic background, many Somalis wear long gowns known as khameez/thobe in the Arab and Islamic cultures. In recent years, many Somali men have chosen to wear suits and ties in order to seem more contemporary. This western dress code is prevalent among Somali upper-class and government officials.
Homosexuality is a capital offense. It is customary for Somali men to stroll hand in hand as a show of friendliness, but Western males should avoid doing so. Sharing a hotel room to save money is common, but don’t even think of asking for one bed for two.
Women often wear one of the following outfits: Direh, a long, billowing garment worn over petticoats; coantino, a four-yard fabric wrapped over the waist and knotted over the shoulder. They also dress in an abaya, a long, flowing black robe.