Not only did Hamdi Ahmed have the chance to bake 150 cupcakes, a passion she hopes to one day turn into a business, but she also had the opportunity to share her culture at city hall in the inaugural Somali Cultural Festival.
“I love this opportunity that we have to display who we are,” said Ahmed, 28, a mother of two from Winnipeg. “(This event) shows you how diverse and close-knit Canada is at the same time.”
Ottawa’s first Somali festival, which Mayor Jim Watson proclaimed would be an annual event, drew a crowd of more than 75 people to Jean Pigott Place for food, outdoor activities, music, small vendors and even a fashion show.
“There was a demand in the community for an event like this,” said Bille Abdalla, one of the main organizers of the festival.
“We have a large Somali community in Ottawa that has made vast contributions to the city, and we never had the chance to celebrate that.”
The space inside city hall was filled with people who were curious to learn more about Somalian culture by visiting some of the tables that had traditional crafts, food and tea on them. Colourful carpets were being woven by hand at display tables.
“They want to remember their own culture from back home,” said Kaltoun Mussa, who is a social outreach worker for the Somali Centre for Family Services.
Not only were there crafts, art and small vendors, there was free food and tea, which was popular with the crowd. Mussa said that the traditional Somalian bread that was being given out was one of the healthiest and could paired with almost anything.
“It’s great and yummy!” said Jared Crome, 8, who was in town from Boston with his mother, Jennifer Robinson, visiting his grandmother, Barb Drummond.
“We did enjoy the food; it was absolutely delicious and everyone is so friendly,” Robinson said.
The family was on their way to La Machine when they came across the festival and decided to stay to learn more about Somalian culture.
By the time the opening ceremony began, Jean Pigott Place was full. Among the speakers were Algonquin elder Barbara Hill, Abdi Bille, who isvice-principal at De La Salle Public School, and Mohamoud Hagi-Aden from the Somali Centre for Family Services.