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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008, 14:50 GMT
The meaning of Obama's robes
Barack Obama with Mohammed Hassan
The photo has sparked a storm over who released the image
A photo of US presidential candidate Barack Obama wearing Somali clothing is causing a storm after it got released to the Drudge Report website.

Yusuf Garaad Omar, head of the BBC's Somali Service, explains the meaning of the robes.

These are the normal clothes that nomadic people wear.

The head turban is especially used by elderly people as a suggestion of respect. It is something that has no meaning whatsoever in Somalia culture.

If you see someone dressed like that in Somalia, you think it is a nomadic person - that is all.

There is no religious significance to it whatsoever. It is mainly the nomadic people who use it. Some of them are religious, some are not.

It is simply a tradition of the place where they are from.

In this particular place, Wajir in north-east Kenya, the community is majority ethnic Somali.

They have a council for Peace and Development, and when they get delegates they dress them as a nomadic person.

I have been trying to track down the old man in the photo with Mr Obama, and I have been told he is Mohammed Hassan, the chair of the council itself. But he is not in town today, and we could not get hold of him.

This debate reminds me of people back home in Somalia, who say that women should not wear trousers, or other cultures who say men should not wear a tie. I just don't think it makes sense.

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