By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost
Long before they flooded into many parts of North America and Europe, Somalis romanticized another part of the world: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, regarding the region as dream destination.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Somali men often journeyed to the oil-rich nations in the Middle East in search of jobs — and with the goal of sending financial assistance to those left behind, building houses for loved ones and buying cars in a country where only a few privileged people drove.
The income these workers generated in the region earned them a symbolic status among their peers in the East African Somalia, which struggled with chronic unemployment under the authoritarian government of General Mohammed Siad Barre.
“Often [these men] were marrying the most beautiful girls in old villages,” noted Professor Cawo Abdi of the University of Minnesota. “There was that sense that they went to a place that resembled Jannah.”
Jannah — the Arabic word for paradise — inspired the title of Abdi’s new “Elusive Jannah” book, which she will discuss during an event on Saturday afternoon at the Cedar Riverside People’s Center, near the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.
Ibrahim Hirsi reports on immigrant communities, social issues, marginalized groups and people who work on making a difference in the lives of others. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he interned for Newsday and has written for multiple publications in Minnesota.
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