Dating in Somalia

⚠️From the outside, Somalia is not seen as a safe or secure country, from a personal security perspective. In many cases, it is referenced as a failed state. As it is highly unlikely as an foreigner that you’ll be dating or visiting Somali any time soon, this article will be more focused on Somalian dating cultural practices. More specifically dating in Somalia as it relates to romantic relationships formed among the Somali themselves. Or, perhaps you are dating a Somalian who has immigrated from somewhere else. In that case, maybe understanding historical cultural norms revolving around Somali culture will help you to understand them better.⚠️

As for a western comparison, Somalians don’t really date. Due to the extreme form of Islam in place, Somalians mostly rely on arranged marriages and social circles to form romantic relationships. Much like its unrecognized neighbor, Somaliland, endogamy is a widely accepted practice since much of the functioning society within Somalia is connected to clans.

Historically, social life and dating culture in Somalia are influenced by many traditions ranging from Somali, Bantu, Benadiri, Arab and even remnants of Italian and English colonial life. Due to the diversity of culture in Somalia it is impossible to characterize all Somali people under a unified dating culture. Individual experiences may vary greatly depending on factors such as age, education, urban vs rural location, religion, and personal beliefs. However, we will attempt to share a glimpse into specific aspects about the romantic and dating lives in Somalia, which we feel are shared experiences by most Somali.

Interesting facts about dating in Somalia

  • Family Introductions: In traditional Somali culture, potential partners often meet through family or community connections. Families play an important role in the matchmaking process, and it’s not uncommon for parents to suggest potential partners for their children.
  • Shukaansi or Courting: The traditional Somali courtship practice known as “Shukaansi” involves respectful, often poetic, expressions of affection and interest towards a potential partner. It can be a direct or indirect approach, sometimes even employing a mediator, known as “geylay.”
  • Mehr (Bride Price): As per Islamic customs, the groom or groom’s family provides a dowry or bride price, known as “Mehr” or “Yarad” in Somalia. This is a gift given as a token of commitment and a symbol of the man’s ability to care for his future wife.
  • Engagement Period: After the proposal is accepted, the engagement period typically involves the couple getting to know each other better under the watchful eyes of their families. This period can range from a few months to over a year, depending on individual circumstances.
  • Wedding Celebrations: Somali weddings are grand events that can last several days. They often involve traditional music, dances, and feasting. The wedding ceremony, known as “Aroos,” often sees the bride and groom dressed in traditional Somali attire.
  • Poetry in Romance: Somali culture is rich in oral tradition and poetry, which often play a significant role in courtship and expressions of love. A man may use poetry to express his feelings for a woman, and vice versa. This display of verbal artistry is often appreciated and respected.
  • Public Courtship: In Somalia, dating often happens in public places like parks, coffee shops, and at social events. Public displays of affection are generally minimal, in line with Islamic customs and norms.
  • Respect for Modesty: Modesty is highly valued in Somali culture. This extends to dating and romantic relationships, where discretion is often maintained, especially in public spaces.
  • Living Near Family: After marriage, it is common for couples in Somalia to live near their extended families. This reflects the close-knit nature of Somali society, where family support is highly valued.
  • Love and Technology: With the growing use of technology, younger generations in Somali might explore online platforms or social media for dating and romantic connections. However, as Islam is very strong and extreme in Somalia, we’d expect only Muslim dating apps to gain any popularity.

Most Romantic Day in Somalia

Instead, the most romantic holiday in Somalia could be considered “Eid al-Adha,” one of the two major Islamic holidays. While it’s not exclusively a romantic holiday, it is a time of celebration, gift-giving, and showing love and appreciation to family and loved ones. During this time, married couples exchange gifts and spend quality time together, often making it a romantic period for them.

Another day gaining popularity as a day of love in Somalia, and across the Arab world, is “Habib’s Day” or “Day of the Beloved,” which falls on the 4th of November. This is can be seen as an alternative to the western, Valentine’s Day, reflecting more regional and cultural values. It’s still a relatively new concept as of 2021, but it’s growing in popularity, particularly among younger generations.

Typical First Date in Somalia

As we mentioned before, dating isn’t a common practice in Somalia. Thus, there is no way to accurately define a first date in Somalia. In terms of situations where courting during the engagement period, this may be the closest association to dating as a foreign comparison.

During this engagement period, it is possible that a couple may meet casually in public places like restaurants, cafes or even markets for shopping. However, traditional meetings will still remain somewhat formal as a means of getting to know one another for marriage. The socioeconomic dynamics of the potential couple, where they might be located and even the extent of their religious beliefs will all have some impact on this.

Large urban centers like Mogadishu and Hargeisa are the busiest cities, though safety is often a concern.

Dating etiquette and Social Cues

In terms of dating etiquette , the expectations of behavior when on a date can vary somewhat from individual to individual. That being said, since Somalians do not date, we can think of dating etiquette as courting etiquette. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Respectful Communication: Respect is of paramount importance in Somali culture. During the courtship process, both parties are expected to communicate respectfully and honestly. In traditional courtship, indirect expressions of interest are common, often conveyed through poetry or subtle gestures.
  • Chaperoned Meetings: In more traditional settings, meetings between the potential couple might be chaperoned, especially in the early stages of courtship. This practice aligns with Islamic principles of avoiding seclusion (“khalwa”) with a non-related member of the opposite sex.
  • Shukaansi: This is the traditional Somali courtship practice. It involves a man expressing his affection and interest towards a potential partner in a respectful manner. The man can express his feelings directly or indirectly, sometimes using a mediator known as a “geylay”.
  • Modesty: Modesty is highly valued in Somali culture, and this extends to dating and courtship. Public displays of affection are generally minimal or non-existent, in accordance with Islamic customs.
  • Consultation of Elders: The elders in both families often play an important role in the courtship process. They can offer advice and guidance to the potential couple and help in resolving any issues that may arise during the courtship.
  • Gifting: Bringing a gift, or Mehr or Yarad, by the groom or groom’s family is generally seen as a token of commitment and a symbol of the man’s ability to care for his future wife. This is considered a dowry or bride price by comparison.

The Importance of language

Africa is an immensely diverse continent. There are thousands of languages spoken throughout and many different cultural practices. Somalia is one of fifty-four countries in Africa, each generally having their own using culture and language norms.

As Somalia was colonized by the Italy and United Kingdom, Italian and English are widely spoken within some communities. It is more likely that older generations will speak some Italian while younger generations would speak some English. In addition to Somali, there are other languages such as Arabic and other regionally significant languages. Though it is not possible to learn all languages, we do always recommend studying local culture and learning language, even if just a few phrases. As you know, language is an incredibly important form of communication and knowing some Arabic or Somali will greatly enhance your connection with a Somali person.

While some Somali may also speak English or other languages, being able to communicate in any other local language can help to build stronger relationships with locals, facilitate communication in a variety of contexts and gain respect or trust with new people. It is a win-win situation for you and the culture.

Is Somalia gay friendly?

In short, definitely not. Unfortunately, as a whole, Africa has a very poor record for LGBTQ+ rights and protections. Further, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, the majority of people in many sub-Saharan African nations held negative views towards homosexuality.4 Because of this, gayness is heavily stigmatized in Somali communities and in Somalia. These stigmas are influenced by a myriad of religious, political and historical cultural beliefs. Further, it is fueled by Sharia law, which is the law of the land in Somalia.

With the exception of South Africa, where there are constitutionally enshrined protections for LGBTQ+ individuals. South Africa was the first country in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation in their constitution, and it remains the only African country to have legalized same-sex marriage. Unlike Mogadishu, Hargeisa cities like Cape Town are known to have vibrant gay communities and events, which is a rare occurrence in Africa.

Gay friendliness around the world
Sexual Orientation Laws by country

As of today, homosexuality remains criminalized in nearly every African country, including Somalia. While a few have made strides towards acceptance and equality, sadly there is a long way to go before LGBTQ individuals are freed from oppression in places like Somalia. Until that time, it remains dangerous to be openly gay in most of Africa.

There may be usage on gay dating apps in Somalia, but please be EXTREMELY careful and weary. Check the latest regulations from a reputable international organization like the ILGA. Interestingly, apps like Grindr and Tinder, actually alert users when they are attempting to date in a country where homosexuality is punishable by law.

Gender roles in Somalia

Traditional gender roles in Somalia, as in many societies, have been largely influenced by cultural, religious, and societal norms. Here are some key points about traditional gender roles in Somalia:

  • Men’s Roles: In traditional Somali society, men are typically considered the primary breadwinners. They are often responsible for tasks outside the home, such as farming, herding livestock, and engaging in trade or business. Men are also traditionally involved in political and community leadership roles.
  • Women’s Roles: Somali women are traditionally responsible for managing the household, which includes caring for children, cooking, cleaning, and maintaining the home. In rural areas, women also often participate in farming and animal care. Somalian women are often considered the backbone of the family, holding significant influence in family and community matters.
  • Division of Labor: In nomadic and rural communities, labor is generally divided according to gender. Men typically handle duties related to livestock and protection, while women manage household chores and take care of children. However, in times of need, roles can be fluid, and women may also take on duties outside the home.
  • Marriage and Family Life: In the traditional Somali family structure, the man is seen as the head of the household. However, women play a crucial role in raising children and managing family affairs.
  • Respect for Elders: Both men and women are traditionally expected to show respect for their elders. Elders, both male and female, hold significant sway in community decision-making and conflict resolution.

Much like the rest of the world, traditional gender roles in Somalia are not substantially different. As globalization and urbanization march forward, norms around dating and gender roles are evolving, especially among younger generations and in urban areas. In many cases, egalitarian dating practices are becoming more common, but in Somalia, there is a long way to go. Further, where applicable and likely behind closed doors, LGBTQ couples will have different norms.

Best way to meet singles in Somalia

As we stated, it is unlikely that you’ll be meeting any Somali singles, at least inside of Somalia. There are significant communities of Somali singles in United States, Yemen Kenya, Ethiopia and the United Kingdom. There are also notable communities in the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Sweden and other areas though.4 Due to the unfortunate state of Somalia, the Somali diaspora is dispersed throughout the world, so it is possible that you will encounter Somalian singles abroad.

Life inside Somalia is perceived to be quite complicated from the outside. Safety is a constant concern in some areas and religious practices and law are strong. The best place to meet singles in Somalia depends a lot on where one might be. If in a rural area, then options may be limited. However, if in a large urban center like Mogadishu or Hargeisa, then Somalian singles may have more options.

The primary way that traditional singles in Somalia meet is through family connections, introductions or even arranged marriages. Meeting a single Somali person and starting to date them wouldn’t be common in Somalia. However, here are some ways that they might meet:

  • Schools and Universities: Educational institutions are key meeting places, especially for younger Somalis. These settings provide opportunities for social interaction among peers.
  • Places of Worship: Mosques are a central part of Somali community life. They serve not just as places of worship but also as gathering points where people can meet and socialize.
  • Family and Community Gatherings: Many introductions and social interactions occur at family and community gatherings. These may include weddings, religious celebrations, community events, and more informal get-togethers.
  • Markets and Businesses: Markets and businesses are common places where Somalis meet, both for trade and social interaction.
  • Workplaces: Like people everywhere, Somalis meet and socialize with colleagues at their workplaces.
  • Sports Events: Football (soccer) is particularly popular in Somalia, and matches can draw large crowds, providing opportunities for socializing.
  • Community Centers: In countries with significant Somali diaspora populations, community centers often serve as meeting points. These centers may host cultural events, language classes, and other activities that bring the community together. For example, in Minnesota, United States there is a large and active Somali community. They have a community center, museum and many shops and restaurants. These offer great ways to meet Somali singles in the United States.
  • Online dating: Though very uncommon, some Somali may turn to online dating. Though the amount of Somali singles on these platforms is still very small, the apps and sites may be ways of meeting someone new. The most accepted form would be a Muslim dating app.

Is it safe to date people in Somalia?

As a continent, Africa has a bad image for safety and security. Somalia has one of the worst reputations for safety and security.

It does not matter if you are Somali, African or a foreigner, social life in Somalia can be quite dangerous. Safety precautions should be taken and followed.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when dating in Somalia:

  • Be Aware of Local Laws and Customs: Learning about the local culture, like you are doing now, can help you navigate dating in Somalia and avoid cultural misunderstandings or faux pas. Further, if Somalia is a new place for you, take some time to review local laws and customs, particularly related to dating and public behavior. This is especially important for LGBTQ+ individuals, as laws and societal acceptance vary greatly. If you are going to use gay dating apps, we recommend that you consider using well known international apps. Some dating apps, such as Grindr or Tinder, have implemented security features into their apps that let you know if you are traveling in a country where gay relationships are illegal.
  • Keep Personal Information Private: Do not share sensitive information like your home address, financial details, or other private information with someone you have just met online.
  • Tell Someone About Your Plans: Always tell a friend or family member where you are going, who you are meeting, and when you expect to return.
  • Meet in Public: On your first few dates, meet in a public place like a café or a park where there are plenty of people around. In a places like Mogadishu, Hargeisa, it should be somewhat easy to find a public space.
  • Trust Your Gut: If something feels off or too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your instincts and do not feel obliged to stay in a situation that makes you uncomfortable. Remove yourself from a bad situation when it feels right to do so.
  • Safe Sex: Though sex outside of marriage is haram and uncommon in Somalia, if you decide to become intimate with your date, remember to practice safe sex. This includes using protection and getting regular check-ups for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Remember, safety first. Somalia is a dangerous place. It is important to take precautions and use common sense when dating in Somalia, whether online or offline.

Dating scams in Somalia

Dating scams can and do unfortunately happen across the globe. Africa is no stranger to scams or deceptive practices. Particularly in the digital world, wherever there are lonely or naive people, a nefarious person can take advantage of their kindness or emotions.

While we do not know of any dating scams unique to Somalia, we do believe you should keep in mind these online dating scams which are common in other African countries and the rest of the world. While we do not believe paranoia helps, it is always a good idea to be careful and approach online dating in Somalia with caution. Until you build trust with someone, you should not provide too many personal details. Whether you are Somali or a foreigner looking to date in Somalia, please keep these common dating scams in mind when using apps and sites to meet new people:

  • Identity theft: Scammers may use dating apps or websites to steal personal information from their targets, such as credit card numbers or other personal details.
  • Romance Scams: In this scam, criminals create fake profiles on dating websites or apps. They build an online relationship with their victims and then ask for money for various reasons – a sick relative, a plane ticket to visit, or some other fabricated story. Once they receive the money, they disappear.2
  • Advanced Fee Fraud: This is one of the most common types of fraud in West Africa, in countries like Nigeria and Ghana, but could also happen in Somalia. The scammer forms a relationship with the victim and then asks for money to help them access a large amount of money or gold they have supposedly inherited but cannot access due to bureaucratic red tape.
  • Catfishing: This involves a scammer creating a fake profile with stolen photos and false information. The scammer entices the victim into a relationship with the goal of obtaining personal information or exploiting them emotionally.
  • Military Scams: In these scams, fraudsters pose as military personnel who are serving overseas or outside of Somalia. They form a relationship with the victim and then ask for money, often claiming that it is for a leave application, medical expenses, or other fabricated reasons.
  • Gift Scams: Scammers, after forming a relationship, might ask for expensive gifts or money to buy such gifts. Once the gifts or money are received, they break off contact.
  • Kidnapping Scams: These are extreme and less common, but there have been reports of scammers luring victims to a location under the pretense of a date and then kidnapping them for ransom.
  • Other money scams: Scammers may create fake profiles on dating apps or websites and then ask their targets for money for any number of other reasons than previously mentioned. If money is involved, it is likely a dating scam. Use good judgement.

Online dating in Somalia

The advent of the digital age has revolutionized many aspects of modern Somali life, including the way people meet and form romantic relationships. Though online dating in the greater African continent is not a significantly developed industry, growth, at least on a relative percentage level, has been significant in recent years. When it comes to Somalia, the online dating industry is virtually non-existent. This is highly unlikely to change any time soon.

Like many other countries in Africa or traditional societies, online dating in Somalia is not popular. This is due to a few aspects:

One is that historically, Somalia has had a low internet penetration and limited access to smartphones. However, over the last decade with the widespread adoption of mobile technology, increased internet accessibility, and reduction in costs, Somali people are increasingly digitized.

Second, accessibility, particularly through localization. Product adoption and education is typically very low when people do not understand the user interface (UI) language of your product. Historically, most dating apps have not localized for any African languages, let alone languages native to the region around present-day Somalia, such as Somali. European languages, a legacy of colonization, make products accessible for those who speak them. For this reason some international dating apps, like Badoo, Bumble, Tinder or gay dating apps localized into Italian and English may be more accessible to Somali singles who speak those languages.

Third, history and widespread scams, have led to distrust amongst online platforms, especially foreign ones on occasion. With time and companies demonstrating devotion to privacy and data security, it is likely that more African singles will be open to online dating though Somali culture prohibits it. However, with the dark colonial past by Italy and United Kingdom, there is definitely a legacy sentiment of skepticism among certain people. Rightfully so in some cases. Companies will need to work extra hard to overturn this and build trust with locals, or be locals themselves.

A fourth reason and obvious reason is mainly culture (religion). More traditional societies and indigenous people like the Somali, Bantu, Benadiri, are quite foreign to the concept of a dating app or website. This is due to the reliance on social circles and emphasis on maintaining culture through relationships within the Somali, Bantu, Benadiri communities. Further, for religious Somali there would definitely be stigmas and risk associated with online dating. Traditional social relationships in Somalia are based on a clan structure of society – therefore unless there is a dating app for Somali clans, then Somalians are unlikely to turn to the internet to find love.

A fifth reason is that dating can be seen as a luxury, even among people who have an open mind towards meeting new people. Though there are small pockets of wealthy Somali people, many singles in Somalia continue to struggle economically. With each passing generation, the economic situation seems to be improving, but many Somali have a long way to go before having a western style social life.

With these setbacks and reservations, we believe that the online dating industry in Somalia doesn’t have much promise. At least in the near term future. That being said, as a whole, the African continent has more than 1.4 billion people; most interestingly, the median age of this population is 19.4.1 Compared to Europe, where the median age is over 40 and population is roughly half, that is a substantial growth story for Somalia and the rest of Africa. As more and more people join the digital world, we expect Somali singles to increasingly turn to online dating as a means for connection. Though this will be a very slow transition for Somalians.

Presently, the online dating landscape in Africa is dynamic, diverse and slowly accelerating. International platforms have had a presence for years, but a notable trend in the online dating scene in Africa, is the rise of niche platforms catering to specific groups. For example, culture-specific dating like dating apps for Muslims or Christians or LGBTQ communities. Where indigenous or linguistic communities are large in number, we may even see dating apps that cater to Somali, Bantu, Benadiri singles.

With continued tech adoption and changing societal attitudes, the future of online dating in Africa looks promising. User growth in Somalia will inevitably contribute to that change, even if in relatively small ways. As a youthful and digitally-connected population continues to grow, so too does the potential market for online dating services. Additionally, the ongoing shift towards homegrown and niche dating platforms suggests a future where the industry is increasingly tailored to the diverse needs and preferences of local Somali daters.

Top dating apps in Somalia

Much like in the rest of the world, international recognized dating apps like Badoo or Tinder, are likely to have users in nearly every African country. If any, these apps are likely to be popular with young Somali singles. If you plan to use a dating app in Somalia, review the below apps in addition to any other apps you may be familiar with. Online dating is a lot about trying different platforms and sites and finding ones that works best for you and your interests. This will give you the best chances of success in meeting someone special.

Keep in mind, the dating sites and apps available and popular by country may depend on how well the apps are localized into the languages of Somalia, such as Somali.

  • AfroIntroductions: As one of the largest African dating sites, AfroIntroductions has a prescence in Somalia and gives Somali singles access to connections with other single daters around the continent and in the diaspora.
  • Tagged: Tagged is a social networking site that has grown to be a popular platform for dating in many African countries with a presence in Somalia.
  • Muslima: This niche dating site caters to the Muslim community. Though it has its largest and most significant user base in North Africa in countries such as Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, Muslims around Africa find value in the dating app.
  • Muzz: a popular dating app for Muslim people
  • DateMeKenya: Though specific to Kenya, DateMeKenya is an example of a country-specific dating site. As there is a sizeable Somali community in Kenya, this site may be a way to meet Somali singles.
  • Liefie: Additionally, in South Africa, Liefie is particularly tailored towards Afrikaans-speaking singles.


2 Romance dating scams in Africa are common:

3 Sub-Saharan views on homosexuality:

4 The Somalian diaspora: