Cuisine, art and history celebrated at the annual Somali Culture Festival

COLUMBUS – The 2nd annual Somali Culture Festival is slated for Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Northland Performing Arts Center. Columbus’ exploding international population means a melting pot of cultures welcomes visitors with exotic cuisines, arts and traditions. Underscoring the celebrated diversity of Ohio’s capital city, some 60,000 Somali people now call Columbus home, creating the second-largest concentration of Somali immigrants in the United States. The festival is designed to celebrate the city’s openness to immigrants and allow visitors and locals alike to experience the uniqueness of Somali culture through its food, art and history.

Colorful presentations of historical artifacts, Dhaanto and Goobile dances, Riwaayad skits and a fashion show will take place, alongside the artistry of two of Somalia’s most celebrated performers, Abdiwali Sayidka and Ahmed Rasta. Somali cuisine varies regionally and is a fusion of different traditions, including East African, Arab, Turkish and Italian influences. Festival tickets are available at the door for $15 or online here.

The festival is hosted by the Our Helpers, a Columbus nonprofit working to help new Americans overcome social and economic obstacles through advocacy, job placement and connection to community resources. Since 2012, it has helped thousands of immigrants break down language and cultural barriers in order to become self-sufficient members of the local economy and part of a cohesive area community. More than 500 independent Somali-owned businesses contribute to Columbus’ diverse local culture, including retail shops, restaurants and specialized trades.

The city offers a host of other ways travelers can experience Somali culture. Visitors of all faiths are invited to visit the Abubakar Assidiq Islamic Center, one of the largest mosques in the region. An exhibit filled with traditional Somali garb, artifacts, housewares, instruments and accessories is available at the HUB, a community development corporation.

Columbus visitors can step into a true African market with a trip to Global Mall, where dozens of stalls are filled with of traditional clothing, everyday necessities and even a Somali café, the social and cultural center of the community. In addition, more than 15 Somali restaurants dot the neighborhood, serving authentic fare, including camel, goat and sambusa, as well as other vegetarian specialties. One favorite restaurant, Hoyo’s Kitchen (“Hoyo” is Somali for “mom”), will cater food for the Nov. 17 Somali Culture Festival. The casual eatery is a favorite among visitors and locals, serving authentic but approachable Somali cuisine in a friendly atmosphere that’s welcoming to first-timers.

Columbus points to its large immigrant population as a source of pride, strength and cultural diversity that enhances life for both visitors and locals. In recognition of the many contributions of the city’s immigrant population, Columbus mayor Andrew Ginther was among the country’s first mayors to announce a continued city-wide commitment to welcoming refugees in Columbus, regardless of immigration status.

“Our immigrant population is part of the fabric of what makes Columbus so vibrant,” Mayor Ginther said in a press release. “They are our neighbors. We must not turn our backs on them, now or ever.”

Columbus has grown as a safe haven for refugees. According to recent data, foreign-born residents make up 9.3% of the city’s population. The local refugee community supports an estimated 21,000 jobs in Columbus and contributes $258 million in local and state income, property and sales taxes.

Columbus is a city unlike any other. Vibrant and alive, Ohio’s capital is known for its open attitude, smart style and entrepreneurial spirit. Columbus' blend of neighborhoods, dynamic nightlife, noteworthy music scene, arts and culinary experiences, events, attractions and accommodations are all made unforgettable by the diversity of its outgoing locals who warmly welcome visitors. Free travel guides, maps, online booking and detailed information are available at or 866.397.2657 (866.EXP.COLS). Visitor information is also available on Facebook:,, Twitter: @ExpCols and Pinterest.