A Somali Folktale and Lessons on Cultural Adaptation

Quick link: 5 Things Cigaal Shidaad Taught a Foreigner


Cigaal Shidaad is a character in Somali folktales and he is a coward, a bumbling fool, the butt of jokes. In this essay for the Sahan Journal, I write about five things I learned from him, that anyone can learn from him, about cross-cultural adaptation.

In 2003 my husband, two-year-old twins, and I moved to Borama, Somaliland. My husband taught at Amoud University and I focused on managing these toddler twins and life in a strange, new world. One of my favorite things about living in Somaliland was the discovery of local folktales and folk heroes. I begged neighbors to tell me stories and they talked about Dheg Dheer, Caraweelo, the Diin iyo Dawaco (Turtle and the Fox) and, of course, Cigaal Shidaad.

I couldn’t relate with the cannibal woman or the queen who castrated all the men but I could relate with a coward. I understood his perspective, the fear that paralyzed him in the middle of the road in front of a tree stump/lion. But while I empathized with Cigaal Shidaad, I didn’t want to be like him. So I had to learn from him.

What could Cigaal Shidaad teach this foreign woman about how to live and thrive in the Horn of Africa?

Click here to read the rest: 5 Things Cigaal Shidaad Taught a Foreigner

For some more stories about him, see The Travels of Igal Shidad/Safarada Cigaal Shidaad: A Somali Folktale

*bonus: (here is the biggest clickbait I will ever give you, except its for real) the artwork accompanying the essay in the Sahan Journal is a painting done years ago by my husband, man of many talents.

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