Men wear trousers or a flowing plaid ma'awis kilt western shirts, and shawls. On their heads they may wrap a colorful turban or wear a koofiyad embroidered cap.
Due to its Islamic heritage, many Somalis wear long dresses known in the Arab and Islamic worlds as khameez/thobe. In recent years, many men in Somalia choose to wear suits and ties to look more modern. This western dress code is dominant amongst members of the Somali upper class and the government.
Homosexuality is punishable by death. It is common for Somali men to walk hand in hand as a sign of friendship, but it would be unwise for Western men to attempt the same. Sharing a hotel room as a way of cutting costs is normal, but don't even think about asking for one bed for two.
The public telecommunications system was almost completely destroyed or dismantled by the civil war factions. Local cellular telephone systems have been established in Mogadishu and in several other population centers. International connections are available from Mogadishu by satellite. International outgoing connections also work from the cellular infrastructure. There is dialup internet access in Mogadishu, by visiting one of the internet cafes. Somalia has the cheapest cellular calling rates on the continent, with some companies charging less than the equivalent of US cent per minute. Competing phone companies have agreed on interconnection standards, which were brokered by the United Nations funded Somali Telecom Association.
Wireless service and Internet cafÃ©s are available, but do remember that the .so domain is not operating in Somalia.
This is a Muslim country. As such, be sensitive about where you point your camera. There are many great photo opportunities around every corner the question is usually what to leave out of each image, but when photographing people, always ask first. Don't ever, ever try to take pictures of women, even if you're a woman yourself. This is considered a great offense and can even result in more than a few harsh words. Also don't try to take pictures of anything that looks as if it could be of any strategic importance i.e., has at least one soldier, policeman or, more likely, armed militiaman guarding it.
Respect the Islamic beliefs of Somali people: Women shouldn't wear tube tops or skimpy outfits. It is absolutely acceptable for any nationality to wear the traditional Somali clothes.
Do not eat in public during the holy month of Ramadan -- you may be fined or even go to jail. The Al-Shabab Islamist militia can be found in many inhabited areas. They absolutely do not take kindly to any kind of violation of Sharia law and as they are not affiliated with any kind of government, they do not have to abide by any kind of laws per se, they will feel free to punish any abberant behavior any way they please, often by floggings, amputations, or even executions. Government authorities also punish violations of Sharia law, but these are generally less harsh than those imposed by insurgents.
Alcohol is prohibited in Somalia and possessing alcohol will get you into a lot of trouble -- and never drink and drive.
If you're dining with a Somali, don't expose the bottoms of your feet to him/her. Don't eat with your left hand either, since the left hand is seen as the 'dirty hand'. Similarly, don't attempt to shake hands or hand a package with your left hand.
If your Somali friend insists on buying you something - a meal or a gift - let him! Somalis are extremely hospitable, and typically there are no strings attached. It is generally a custom to argue for the bill.
Never discuss religion from an atheistic or similar point of view. Even highly-educated Somalis who studied abroad won't appreciate it and doors will close for you. Also be aware that the Islamic "call to prayer" happens five times daily and can be heard loudly almost anywhere you go. Just understand that most Somali people are used to it and enjoy it as part of the cultural experience. If you aren't Muslim, it is not expected for you to participate, but you should always sit quietly and respectfully until the prayers end.
Staring is quite common in Somalia; children, men and women are likely to stare at you simply for being a foreigner, especially if you travel off-season and in out-of-the-way places. This is not meant as an insult; it rather shows an interest, and a friendly smile will leave the kids giggling and showing off, and the adults happily trying out their few English phrases.
Somali is the official language in Somalia. However, Arabic is spoken by many and represents a secondary language. As the Somalis are almost exclusively Sunni Muslims, Somali has borrowed much religious terminology from Arabic, although there are also Persian or Arabic loan words for everyday objects e.g. Somali albab-ka (the door, from the Arabic Ø§ÙØ¨Ø§Ø¨ al baab). While the southern part of the country was a former protectorate and colony of Italy, it is unclear just how much Italian is still spoken. Many Somalis speak English to communicate with the people who generally handle all of the menial jobs in their country. If you can learn a few words of Somali, your hosts and any other locals that you may meet will be very impressed and appreciative.