Hurre and Cambaro: A poetic story which has been listened to in almost every Somali household and eventually became a standard joke amongst the tribes of (Habarjeclo & Dhulbahante). This piece is for the love of peace!

By Muna Ahmed Omer (Mullaaxo)

The art of flirting and courtship takes many forms, each with its own fascinating cultural history and traditions. In the past Somali culture, men would flirt with ladies in various ways, and marriage came in different forms, including ‘Isasiin’; arranged marriage, ‘Dumaal’: Widowed marriage, ‘Xigsiisan’ ‘Dhabargaraac’ etc.

Somali people were and are still nomadic, which means the day is always busy for both men and women. Chores, including herding cattle, cooking, and water harvesting, were usually carried out during the day, which kept them busy from sunrise to sunset.


Although men and women occasionally met during the day, meeting at night was typical. Young men and women used to meet on special occasions like traditional weddings or ‘Gaaf’. Apart from those weddings, evening folklore dances were the most common social event young men and women would attend.

Hurre Walanwal And Cambaro The Famous Somali Folklore Dance Story
Photo by Abdishukri Haybe

Typically, folklore dances happen in the rainy season, and in general, they were a way to socialize, entertain, and get information. People used to gather and exchange information, socialize, and contemplate. Men frequently engage in folk dances as a means of social interaction and dating. There is a type of folk dance called ‘Dabraac’.

Dabraac means bonfire: this ritual starts when a group of young men decide to start a bonfire so that people from far away will see it and join them. There was also another way to start a folklore session; men would meet around a particular residence and begin the ritual there. In most cases, they would pick a residence because they knew girls lived there.

As these nights began, men usually started such nights by singing loudly so the women in the house could hear and join in. Because the young men knew that the ladies would not participate if the family was in the wrong place (due to grieving, illness, or loss), before they started singing or dancing, the young men would come up with creative ways to make sure the family was in a good mood. In this case, to make sure the family is in a good place, they would start singing those words loudly:

‘Waa dhegoo war kama dheregtide
Waa dhuloo wax jira ma ogide,
Reerku nabad ma soo galay?
‘Ears are eager for more news
And on earth, you don’t know what’s going on
Did the family arrive safely? (Is the family in good place)’

The young men, who are outside the house would then wait for the women to respond. If everything is okay, then the women of the home will usually answer with:

‘Cawdibilooy ballooy baydh
Cawo daranka yaasiin
Il sharle ba sharkeed lee
Shaydaan debedda loo xoor’
‘I seek protection from evil
And the shield of Surah Yasen
The evil eye owns the corrupt
Devil should be robed (Tied)’

In case men don’t hear back they usually continue singing hoping they will come out eventually. For example, they would say:

‘Miiganeey marti haddaad tahay
Reerkana maal u soo galay
Muska kaama eegeen’
‘Ooh, Miiganeey if you are guest
And my family receives a wealth
I wouldn’t sneak to see you over the fence’

Some men think the girl’s mother might have been turned down, so she won’t let the girls come out and dance with the young man. This is because of a few things, but mostly because she is a mother and wants to protect her daughters. In this case, they are still looking at the bright side of things. In this scenario, they’d sing and say:

‘Aamina ilwaad qurux
Way soo ordi lahayde
Aar baa hor yuurura’
‘Amina, the one who blesses the eye
She would come running
Yet, there is a Lioness sitting on her door (the mother)’

The women would eventually come out and join the young men. The folklore dances usually happen in a circle facing each other and leaving the middle spot for the dancing. The songs were mainly poetic and filled with amusement, riddles, and jokes about dating, life, and marriage. These songs are known as ‘Gole-kafuul’. Gole-kafuul means poems that are composed on the spot. Usually, everyone could not compose the verses, only a few men and women could compose songs, and those usually led the night’s dance while the others chanted and clapped.

The story of Hurre Walanwal and Cambaro is well-known in Somali society and has been widely discussed. It happened in the 1960s in a place near Buuhoodle City. This story occurred between Hurre Walanwal (Cismaan Ibraahim Warsame) and Cambaro Nuux Maxamed. Hurre was a nickname, and its meaning was dark-skinned. Hurre is the only surviving brother of Hadraawi, the great Somali poet. Hurre, as his nickname suggests, was a dark-skinned, short young man. He was twenty years old when they met. Cambaro, on the other hand, was a seventeen-year-old and stunningly beautiful, tall young lady.

Hurre and Cambaro met for the first time at a family wedding in Buuhoodle, Togdheer Region, Somaliland. The bride’s family was the Hurre’s, while the groom’s family was the Cambaro’s. Hurre claimed that on the night of the wedding, before he and his friends left home and joined the folklore dancing, they returned to the reception area where the bride was to determine if she was sufficiently attractive.

Hurre started singing first, and he started with songs of advice for the bride. Hurre was checking on the bride’s beauty to gain confidence on the playground because the poems exchanged at the playground might get heated, and he may lose the battle if the bride is not up to bar. Thankfully, the bride was beautiful, and Hurre and his companions confidently hit the dance floor that night. (Yusuf Shaacir, 2013)

These are a few excerpts from his lengthy sage counsel song:

‘Sheyga dibbedda kaa tagiyo
Maryahaaga daahiri
Dacwada kale waxay tahay
Dugsi weeye xooluhu
Kii lahaa darandeereele
Duunyadu yay kaa lumin e
Dul ivo hoosba u ogow’
‘Be aware of everything going outside
Purify your clothes
My will(testament) to you is
Livestock are shelter
Owning them needs caring
Don’t lose (miss) them
Know that in-depth (mesmerize that it)’

Eventually, Cambaro joined the dancing and began singing for the first time. That was their first encounter. Since they had never met before and he was leading the session, she partook and inquired about his identity and origin. Here is how she began her song:

‘Goortu waa habeenimo
Waana heel cayaareed
Halqina waa isku soo galay
Hore la isku garan maayee
Inankaaga heesaayoow
Horta aan is baranee
Haybtaada noo sheeg’
‘The darkness of night came
And its playground
All the crowd (halqi) come together
It’s tough to know who is who
Ooh, the one who is singing
Let’s get to know each other
Where does your lineage come?’

The session became increasingly intriguing. Once Cambaro completed her recital song, Hurre reacted with a second song that read, “I will tell you more about myself, but first invite me to your home and offer me a warm welcome.”

‘Hayb doon baddaad tahay
Hoygiina ina geeyo
Hararkaaga ii gogoloo
Hooyadaana iga qariyoo
Haasaawe ii qaboo
Igu haybso dabadeed’
‘If you want to know my lineage
Take me to your home
Invite me to your mattress
Hide me from your mother
Tell me sweet stories
Then ask me my lineage’
After this, people on the playground became interested. Because it was obviously wrong for a woman to invite a man into her home, and Hurre said this to tease her and see how she would react. This is how her response poem went:
‘Sidii hogol kaliileed
Oo ka hilaacday hawd sare
Inankani han waynaa
Sowdigaa hawada koray
Nimaan halawle maadhin iiyo
Baarqab madow hurinoo
La heshiinin aabbahay
Harar aan u dhigo daayee
Hadalbkaba ma anigaa u fura!
‘Like rain in the summertime
Rained in the highland of Hawd
Ooh boy how arrogant you are!
And think high of yourself (You climbed the air)
A man who doesn’t own guns
And black camels
Who didn’t ask my father’s hand
Forget about inviting to my harar (mattress)
I don’t open talking to him!’

Hurre then came back with another song:

‘Dadka himilo aan Jirin iyo
Ruux ku hammiya baa badane
Qof hadduu hawada Koray
Hor ilaahay waa adigee
Nimaan sheeko kaa helin
Hadalba idin dhex marin
Horena kuu aqoon jirin
Siduu kuugu hawl galay
Hantida kaaga soo dhuro
Faahfaahi hadaladoo
Bal hibooy dadka u sheeg?’
‘Some believe a dream that doesn’t exist
And hallucinate about that
If someone has high expectations
I swear to ALLAH, it is you
Without a proper relationship
And didn’t share any talk
Who didn’t know you before?
How he can be a detriment to you
And give wealth
Elucidate that
Ooh, Hibo enlighten that to the people?’

After that, there has been a significant amount of song exchange. To a great extent, a joke and a denial. Cambaro joked about what he would be doing here if he didn’t have a camel and only had sheep. Hure jokes that she is exceptionally elderly and that he will not marry her since she is ancient. Cambaro responded in the form of a song, stating that he cannot afford to marry her with sheep regardless of whether or not she is elderly. The following is a list of some of the songs that have been exchanged during the night.


‘Mar hadduu gondaha hoosiyo
Awr yaqaan gon qabashada
Guudaandir waa bahal
Gooradhigis lagama karo
Ragguna hadduu guddoonsado
In uu dumarka gaasiro
Oo gardarada ku talo galo
Geed xajiin leh uma waayo
Ama aan gu waynaadoo duumaale geel wado
Ama aan gobaysaniyo soo gaadho Waayeel
Ama gootan aan kacee
Mar haddaanad geel dhaqan
Oo gacantaadu madhan tahay
Halkani waa gar ciideed oo
Goosbuuca aad wadatiyo
Riyuhu inan ma gooyaan
Maxaa gadaha aan joogiyo
Kaaga xidhan ganka aan ahay
Ma kolbaad I guursanaysaa?
‘When someone goes down
And he is aggressive
Everything is a horror
and keen indignity to others
Men, if they accept
resentment of women
with known aggression
They would find low points
If I am too old and have been there for a long time
Or if grow with the older generation
Or if I am infirmity
If you don’t own camels
And you are a broke
This is a land of sand
This type of livestock
The goats you own
Are worthless to girls
My age doesn’t matter
You couldn’t marry me’


‘Inan yahay garaabiiliyo
Isma qariso geesadu
Rabbigay baa ku gaadhsiiyay e
Gedahaaga ku eekow miyaa
Noqotay geed xajiinle iyo cay.
Waa hagaagee gabantaay
Aniga gumaro xoolaad
Way ila wacan tahee
Adigaa kala guray?
‘Ooh girl, the wickedness
And the age of the person
Cannot be hidden
God, give you this age
Mentioning it is an insult
Hey, the young lady
For me all kinds of livestock are good
You are the one who offense some’


‘Inan yahow gun baad tahayna
Gole lagama odan karo
Hadal gobi ku haasawdoo
La gartana namaad odhan’?
‘Man, I can’t say you are a wicked boy
At this platform
You didn’t use graceful words
To beautify your argument’


‘Gabdhihii kula filka ahaa
Beri horaa la guursadoo
Geesh caruura yeesheen
Adna gabashi baad tahoo
Wakaa garayskii
Guudkaaga ku engegee
Ka kac goobta higileed
Haddii ay gunimo tahay
Waan ka gaabsan doonaa
Weligaaba galuubnow
Guriigiina taagnow
Kurtimada ku gaamuray oo
Ha ku guro gardhaaluhu
Adoo gegi habaas weyn
Iyo gaylaalsan buul caws
Wedku ha kuugu soo galo oo
Geerida ku dhawr ciil’
‘Your agemate girls
Married years ago
And had many kids
You are alone
The traditional clothes you are wearing,
get dried
Get up from this isolation
If this is cheekiness to you,
I will take a step back
Be there forever
Stay in your home
Be an old lady
Wait for nonsense
stay in a dusty place
Keep rolling in a bush house
The demise will come to you
Wait for death with annoyance (infuriation)’

These last few poems are well-known because they were recorded, can be found on audio cassettes, and have been listened to in almost every Somali household. The tale of Hurre and Cambaro is an extremely lengthy one. It did not occur all in one night, but it is reported that they were continuously meeting on the playground and challenging each other for years to come. Throughout that period, the tale spread throughout the region to the point where it became a standard joke amongst the two different tribes that the individuals were originally from (Habarjeclo and Dhulbahante).

In the middle of this chain of events, other people participated, and to this day, it is considered one of the most exciting stories among Somali people. Although there is no written record of this story yet, a wealth of information is available, most of which comprises recordings and interviews conducted by the poet Yusuf Shaacir. Yusuf can recall most of their series memory, and he also had the chance to personally meet Cambaro and Hurre.


– Yuusuf Shaacir. Baadigoob. August 25, 2018. Silsiladii Hure Walanwal iyo Cambaro dhexmartay oo dhamaystiran. Youtube:

About Muna Ahmed Omer (Mullaaxo)

Muna Ahmed Omer (Mullaaxo)Muna Ahmed is a bilingual writer, published Author, and Activist. Muna works with some other robust networks to promote literacy and advocate for reading, self-development, Gender Equality, and Cultural Identity among Somaliland Youth.

Twitter: @mullaaxo


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