Why are Somalis choosing to live in one of the coldest states in the U.S.? I had been asked this question many times.

The answer lies in Somali music and poetry. The lyrics are full of a fictional world: A world of clouds and thunder, rainy, cold and snowy – yet green, full of rivers, lakes, mountains and oceans.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth.

Ahmed Ali Igaal the Somali Bob Dylan, sings of thunder and rain quenching the thirst of the rivers and lakes, making the flowers bloom and the skies darken and the mountains peak. Doesn’t this sound like Maine or Minnesota? Definitely not what you see in Somalia.

There are Mainers who spend their winters in the warmer parts of this country, escaping the cold and snowy days. I wonder if American music that romanticizes warm, sunny and blue skies has anything to do with that?

Out of the thousands of Somali songs out there, I could not find one that romanticizes blue skies and warm weather. They have always been about cold, chilly and rainy days. During Maine winters I like to play music like Igaal, Sahra Ahmed, Maryan Mursal and Hibo Nuura, the Dylans and Elvis Presleys of Somalia. They were extremely popular in the 1970s and 1980s and sang songs before the outbreak of Somalia’s civil war that fantasized about a chilly, sort of snowy world. These celebrated musicians were the first to flee and seek asylum abroad. Many of them chose to live in the coldest places on earth, where their dreams came true. The Somali Bob Dylans and Elvis Presleys ended up in Minnesota, living the life they had only imagined in their music.

That music had a huge impact on how I perceived cold and chilly days during the hot and humid years of my life in Somalia. Severe droughts hit Somalia like snowstorms hit us here. The blazing sunshine turned the streets of Mogadishu ash white. I remember our small block house felt like bread ovens during the day. Many times, I walked miles praying for rain with everyone else in Mogadishu while we chanted “Allah bless us with rains,” but Allah never answered. When it rains here in Maine, I think Allah is just answering those prayers.

I have visited 29 states, including Texas, Florida, Arizona and Nevada, which are similar in many ways to Somalia: warm weather, open and blue skies, semi-desert landscapes. But you will not find as many Somalis there as in the coldest states such as Maine and Minnesota. Maine is home to thousands of Somalis like me, and Minnesota, which is as cold as Maine, if not colder, is home to the largest Somali community outside the continent of Africa.

Other Somali refugees settled in Ohio and Massachusetts and there is a thriving Somali community in Anchorage, Alaska. Those who did not move to the U.S. found their new homes in Quebec and Toronto and in Scandinavian countries such as Norway, Sweden and Denmark. There are over 100,000 Somalis living and thriving in those cold European countries and more than 100,000 living in the coldest parts of of the United States.

Maine may be colder than we had imagined in the music. Singers don’t mention coats, boots and thick socks in any of the Somali music, but it’s a lot better than the year-round humidity and warmth of Somalia. The Somali Bob Dylans and Elvis Presleys who live in Minnesota still create music that keeps us embracing cold and chilly days. And those we left behind are dreaming of what snow and cold feel like.

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