North America’s only museum of Somali culture and artifacts is set for a grand opening this weekend in Minneapolis.

Mogadishu used to have the world’s only Somali Cultural History Museum, but its contents have been scattered across the globe during the upheaval of civil conflict over the past two decades.

Now the first Somali Artifact and Culture Museum in North America is opening on Saturday at 1516 E. Lake St.

With Minnesota the home of the country’s largest Somali community, it seemed fitting to establish a museum in the Twin Cities.

The museum is the vision of restaurant owner Osman Ali, the museum’s founder and chief collector.

Ali has been collecting artifacts for years, and now boasts a collection of more than 700 pieces, including such things as traditional shoes, a camel’s milking jar and a durbaan, or drum.

He stored most of the collection in the basement of the Bright Moon Cafe at Cedar Avenue S. and E. Lake Street until the space for the museum was ready. The museum is a Lake Street storefront.

Ali got the idea for the museum when he returned to his native Somalia in 2009 to visit his ailing father. He had planned to bring back just a few items for his restaurant and his home.

But after talking with his younger relatives in Somalia, he discovered that they did not know much about the traditional nomadic culture and way of life.

Ali envisions a museum where parents and teachers can bring groups of children to learn about Somalia and where those who know little about their war-torn country can reclaim their heritage.

As it gets going, the goal is to be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. They are still trying to enlist volunteers, so it will be best to call ahead before a visit. Eventually its hoped the museum will be open Monday through Saturday with varying admission prices.

It will open its doors officially on Saturday by holding a reception from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. All are welcome to attend at no charge.