Explorer: Ottawa’s new Somalian culture museum is the first in Canada

Somalian bread is generally made out of four types of flour: plain, wheat, self-rising and sorghum. After it’s baked, it looks like the French crêpes. And it’s the kind of thing a Somalian mother would make early in the morning so that the kids would wake up to the fresh bread. It’s called Lahoh. Or […]
Photo: Arty Sarkisian
Kaltoun Moussa holding a wooden stick that Somalians use to grind the crops in the new Khayrhaye Museum. "The bottom part is making the grain well." They repeat this phrase like a song while using the grinder.

Somalian bread is generally made out of four types of flour: plain, wheat, self-rising and sorghum. After it’s baked, it looks like the French crêpes. And it’s the kind of thing a Somalian mother would make early in the morning so that the kids would wake up to the fresh bread.

It’s called Lahoh. Or Lahooh. Or Laxoox. Although absolutely untranslatable, this bread is the culture that you can taste at the newly established Museum of Somalian Culture in Ottawa.

Why you should go?

The Khayrhaye Museum is thought to be the first of its kind in Canada. It had its grand opening on Aug. 31 and was opened to the public on Sept. 21.

Everything in the museum was made in Somalia and shipped to Canada over the past six years.

The museum’s goal is to teach the Somalian youth in Canada about their heritage, and also to give other cultures the opportunity to learn and appreciate the Somalian way of life.

What should you do?

For now, the museum is small. But that makes the number of artifacts even more staggering.

The life-size traditional Somalian hut, rugs, musical instruments, clay jugs, wooden stools and a gigantic stone mortar that you might even get a chance to try out.

The museum has a lot to look at. But if you are planning to go there as a group, try calling in advance to let the museum know that you are coming. They might make some traditional Somalian treats special for you.

Who you might meet there?

Kaltoun Moussa is the main creator of the museum along with her son Hersi Osman.

Moussa came to Canada right after the start of the Civil War in Somalia, in 1991. For many years she has been working as a caregiver at senior homes in Ottawa thinking about this project that seemed too huge to ever come true.

Moussa wanted to dedicate the museum to her country as a whole and to her family in particular. “Khayrhaye” is an abbreviation of the names of her four sons, parents, husband, brother and her own. And also it’s a Somalian word meaning “all the good things.”

Kaltoun Moussa and two of her sons Younis Osman (on the left) and Hersi Osman (one the right).
Kaltoun Moussa and two of her sons Younis Osman (on the left) and Hersi Osman (on the right). Photo credit: Arty Sarkisian

Location

Rideau Community Hub on St. Laurent Boulevard.

Hours

The museum is open Monday, Thursday and Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Ticket Price

Adults – $15
Youths age 17 and under – $7

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