NAIROBI, April 18 (Xinhua) -- By stitching together yarns of different colors held by up to 12 loops to form fine linen which can then be used to make different kinds of clothes, Mohamed Nur is not only earning a living through a centuries-old technology but is also keeping alive the culture of his people.
For over two decades, Nur, who is in his late 50s, has been making clothes for both the young and old in Mogadishu. But things are not as rosy as they were back in the day.
"Imported clothes have swarmed the market in the recent years and Somalis are embracing them," Nur told Xinhua during a recent interview in Mogadishu.
He revealed that he had perfected the art of keeping Somalis adorned in their traditional attire for years but was worried that the craft might be giving in to modernity's onslaught.
Men, women and children's clothes are on display at Nur's shop, offering customers a wide range of choices despite the difficult times.
A new trend, which is gradually and steadily picking up in Mogadishu as Somalis abroad seek to maintain their identity in foreign lands, indicates his business can still be salvaged.
Many of them now buy the clothes to wear them abroad, keeping alive Nur's business. "Somalis who are based in foreign countries are actually the mainstay of our business," Nur said.
"Many of them are trying to revive the traditions of our forefathers and like to dress like them," he added.
With a population of about 2 million, Somalis spread across the globe and Nur's business seemed to stare at a bright future.
Online shops and design outlets mainly in the UK run by Somali designers are giving the Somali traditional wear a global outlook, reinforcing Nur's bid for the promotion of traditional wear despite the change of times and globalization.
However, there are challenges. The big ones for Nur is that there are hardly any young people who are willing to take up the trade.
Stitching yarn in up to 12 loops to make a cloth could prove a daunting task for today's young people who can achieve a similar result with modern technology.
"I learnt this craft from my father and with several years of practice I am now well versed and can do this with a lot of confidence," said Nur.
"That was a time of glory when Somalis, both young and old, were proud to be clad in traditional attire," added the entrepreneur.
While people going abroad is a main source of customers for Nur, there are still many Somalis especially elderly ones whose loyalty cannot be overturned, despite the dramatic shift from traditional clothing to imported ones.
"I like the traditional wear because it's durable and more comfortable," 57-year-old Ismael Ahmed told Xinhua.
"Imported clothes don't last for long," he added. But Ahmed seems not to find company in his children who find the clothes old fashioned.
"I try to buy the clothes for my children but they don't like them. They tell me they are not old as me. The young generations does not understand the value and importance of these clothes," said Ahmed.
Nur can still find a few young customers nearby who attach some significance to his products.
"I like to wear these clothes on Friday but not on a daily basis. We need some awareness about the traditional wear among young people," said Abdullahi Dahir, a 24-year-old university student.
Nur's business is among the many other enterprises in Somalia, which survived the civil war of some two decades, and is a testimony that resilience pays off in the long run.
For that matter, passing the baton to a younger generation can be the ultimate insurance to Nur's family dream of securing place for the Somali traditional outfit in the modern era.