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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 February 2007, 14:45 GMT
Hussain Noor - Somali in Cardiff
People on the streets in Butetown, Cardiff
Wales' Somali community is around 7,000 strong

I was born to Somali parents in Yemen and I was brought up in the UK. I was nine when my family came to Cardiff.

My parents left Somalia to go to Yemen in 1961 because my father couldn't find work at home.

Once in Yemen, he got a job as a seaman on a British ship. Eventually we moved to Cardiff, where the oldest Somali community in the UK is.

My parents knew a few people here, that's why they chose to come here. Cardiff was a major port and the majority of Somalis worked as seamen and in the steel industry.

My mother was a housewife. We were six brothers and sisters when we came to Cardiff, and after that four more were born.

The Somali community was and still is a very closed society

Being a seaman, my father was absent from home almost all the time. So the burden of bringing us up fell almost entirely on my mother. We received lots of help from Somalis who had been here for longer and were well established.

None of us spoke English in the beginning. My mother still doesn't speak much English. My challenge as a kid was to learn two new languages - English and Somali. It was very difficult.

We were used to speaking Arabic at home. The reason why I needed to learn Somali was because we existed mostly within the Somali community. It was, and still is, a very closed society.

People gathered in front of the oldest Mosque in Great Britain, Peel Street, Butetown, 1947
Butetown, Cardiff, 1947: The oldest Mosque in Great Britain

Racism was quite bad in the 70s and we used to get a lot of hassle and verbal abuse in the streets.

I remember that going to the meat shop was a terrifying experience for me. We are Muslim, so we only eat halal meat. There was only one halal meat shop in Cardiff back then.

I used to be so scared every time my mother asked me to buy meat. The shop was located in an area full of unfriendly people. The journey there would always risk some kind of hassle and bullying. But I was a boy, I could run away.

In order to spare herself such abuse, my mother wouldn't leave the house, unless she really needed to. I attended the only mixed-race secondary school. I made friends with kids from other communities, as well as Welsh kids.

When it was time to find a job, things became even more difficult. I sent out lots of application forms and I was constantly rejected. But I was very persistent and all in all I've been unemployed for only six months. Though I know that one of the biggest problems in the Somali communities today is the high unemployment.

A building in old Butetown
Somalis settled in areas such as Cardiff's Butetown

During the 70s and 80s the problem was skin colour. There's been a big change of attitude since then. Now there's another problem - it's not to do with skin colour, but with religion. Now it's Islam. I can defend myself but I feel sorry for the people who don't speak English.

In the late 80s and early 90s, there was a large influx of Somalis fleeing the civil war. New people are still arriving. Basic things like sorting out immigration papers, schools, doctors - things we take for granted, are a challenge for them.

There are people who were pillars of their community back in Somalia, with property, education, and social status. They have lost everything because of the civil war to become a nobody in a foreign country. It's not their fault, or the fault of the host society. It's how things turn out to be. But I believe today's youngsters will have a better future.






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