Somalia-on-the-Potomac has moved indoors.
Starting in the early 1980s, the 7-Eleven store at Columbia Road and Wyoming Avenue in Northwest Washington was an important gathering place for many of the estimated 3,000 Somalian immigrants who live in the Washington area.
It served as a kind of post office, with Somalis gathering there to send packages and mail home with other Somalis who were visiting their homeland. Somalian cabdrivers with car trouble knew that they could call the pay phones in front of the store at almost any hour and find a fellow Somali who would help them.
When a Somalian cabdriver was shot to death last April, dozens of Somalis gathered at the store to exchange information, and raised $20,000 for the family of the slain man.
In recent months, the gathering place has shifted to an Adams-Morgan restaurant.
Dozens of Somalis gathered at the restaurant last week to exchange information about fighting in their home country and the efforts of rebels to overthrow the government of Mohamed Siad Barre. The restaurant also was where several Somalis planned last Wednesday's quiet protest at the Somalian Embassy.
On Monday nights, Somalian singers and comics perform at the restaurant in their native language. Many area Somalis now know the number of the pay telephone in the eatery by heart.
There is still talk of getting a formal community center for area Somalis. "The community needs a place to gather," said Hagi Ibrahim, who said he is among a group of Somalis trying to find a suitable place.