Recently by Rachel Pieh Jones:

Amina sits idle in the shade of her makeshift restaurant. A pot of boiling kidney beans near her toes and a cardboard case of fifteen brown eggs remind her of the work to be done, the work she can’t do yet. She counts the eggs again, tapping her henna-orange fingernail on the shit-and-feather encrusted shells, one by one. She arrived in the upper-class Hara Mus neighborhood of Djibouti City in the gray dawn haze before the construction workers appeared, before the first call to prayer, before the sun slinked through low clouds over the Gulf of Tadjourah.

Rachel Pieh Jones is a writer raised in the Christian west who now lives in the Muslim east. Her work has been published in the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post among others. Find out more at her… More…

   

There are 16 ways to form a sentence using the same six words in Somali. The man cuts his beard with a razor. His beard with a razor the man cuts. With a razor the man his beard cuts. With a razor cuts the man his beard. And on and on.

It doesn’t work in English.

Somali uses small changes, a ‘u’ at the end of a word instead of an ‘i.’ Waa, or waxaa instead of baa which affects the placement and stress and subject and object of words in the sentence but which means nothing by itself.

This makes Somali a challenging language to learn for non-native speakers.

Somali also has words specific to the life of camel-herding nomads, words with no direct translation into English. Words for the Ethiopian women… More…

   

I wanted to buy a bilaawe, a traditional Somali knife. The shopkeeper wanted me to buy a bowl with two figures carved into ebony. The woman leaned over the edge of the bowl, her back arched, her breasts high and pointed and firm. The man also leaned back and his penis arced up and over, into the woman.

“Buy this, my sister,” the vendor insisted. He cupped the bowl in his hands and shoved it into my face so I could no longer see the man with whom I’d been bargaining for the bilaawe. I blinked, uncertain at first of what was in front of me. Slowly it came into focus. The breasts, the penis, the Djiboutian man holding it. His cheek bulged with khat, green leaves lodged between his teeth.

My long, loose, modest… More…