Facts About Culture, Geography, and History of Eritrea
Eritrea is a small country in the horn of Africa bordering Ethiopia, Djibouti and the Red Sea. It has a rich cultural heritage dating thousands of years. We have compiled 12 interesting facts about Eritrea, which will help you gain some insight into this tiny country on the northeast coast of Africa.
12. Eritrea’s language is called “Nara Bana”, meaning “Nara talk” which derived from the word Nara name means “sky, heaven”.
Nara is a Nilo-Saharan group that migrated to Eritrea and intermarried with the local pygmy groups. They are among the first inhabitants of Eritrea. Their language is known as ‘Nara Bana’. They are settled along the border with Sudan and are about 1.5% of the Eritrean population which translates to slightly above 100,000 people.
11. As part of Eritrea’s cultural, visiting among friends and relatives is common without invitation.
Eritrean society is highly social and deeply integrated society. Thus, there is so much openness between friends and relatives such that every one among them is considered part of the home. As such, there is no need for special preparation to welcome one. This is why one can easily pop without much ado. You are welcomed, entertained and treated to what is available.
10. The Dahlak group of islands in Eritrea is world-renowned for their pearl production and is largely uninhabited.
Pearl is treasured in the traditional African society. It used to be a measure of value and a medium of exchange before modern forms of money came in. The Dahlak group has kept the tradition of pearl production, though it is no longer used as a medium of exchange.
Dahlak archipelago has great tourist attractions. It is a great place to go scuba diving, pearl fishing, and yacht cruising. On uninhabited islands, there are plenty of mangrove trees and salt bushes. There is also a large population of nested birds, coral reefs, and submerged shoals. Plenty of spectacular marine wildlife also exists. These include sharks, hermit crabs, dolphins, dugongs, shellfish, turtles, among so many other varieties of marine species.
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9. Isaias Afewerki has been Eritrea’s only president since independence to present.
Eritrea gained independence from its neighbor – Ethiopia – after a bloody and long-drawn civil war and war of independence. Isaias Afewerki fought along with Menes Zenawi to liberate Ethiopia from the iron-fist dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam. After successfully deposing Mengistu, Eritrea became independent with Isaias Efewerki as its first president while Meles Zenawi becomes president of Ethiopia.
However, it never took long before a fallout between Zenawi and Afewerki leading enmity between the two countries and light border war.
8. Due to the forbidding climate of the Dahlak islands, it is believed to have been derived from an Arabic word, ‘Dah’ala’, whose translation is the “gates of hell”.
Dahlak islands are hot. There are many types of creatures, some look scary though not harmful. At night there are plenty of green lights from the sea which are just but illuminations from some of the sea creatures. Some islands have a rugged terrain with rather weirdly shaped hanging landscapes. To those not accustomed, this might look like a scene from hell. Yet, it is just a depiction of uniquely spectacular beauty.
7. According to Tigriyan, the meaning of the capital of Eritrea, Asmara means “Made them United.”
Asmara is an ancient settlement dating back to as early as 800BC. In Tigrinya, it simply means “made them united”. This is attributed to it being a place where all Tigrinyan clans came to live together. Thus, Asmara is a place that ‘made them united’.
Asmara itself is the six highest capital in the world having been established at the tip of an escarpment which is located on the northwestern side of the Great Rift Valley and the Eritrean Highlands.
6. Asmara is also called the “Italy’s African City” or “New Rome”. Due to the distinctive Italian touch it exudes.
Most of the older Asmara buildings have the Italian architecture. This is one of the Italian colonial effects as Eritrea was for long colonized by Italians and Asmara made the capital city of Italian Eritrea in 1897. After seizing power in Italy, Benito Mussolini was determined to make Asmara the Piccolo Roma (Little Rome). He embarked on erecting monumental buildings with fine Italian architecture. Some of these buildings include The Fiat Tagliero Service Station, Cinema Capitol, the façade of Bar Zili, the Orthodox cathedral, Keren Casa del Fascio, Villa in Decemhare, and Shell Garage, among others.
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5. Eritrean women fighting alongside their men have been recorded as far back as 1810 A.D.
The role of Eritrean women in the struggle for independence has been long. Women picked up arms to help their counterparts fight off the Italians and later on the Ethiopians. This is mainly due to the Eritrean population being small yet it has been engaged in so many wars where hundreds of thousands of men were killed.
4. There are 14,000 known fish species living in Eritrea’s waters, and 17% of those fishes are found nowhere else.
Having a long Red Sea coastline with warm waters, Eritrea is an attraction zone for rare species of fish. The bulk of Eritrea’s fishing zones still hold unexploited potential. Fishing remains a great sporting activity, especially for tourists. You only need to hire a fishing boat and enjoy your activity as you enjoy viewing Eritrea’s scenic Red Sea coastline.
The most common endemic marine fish includes deep water dragonet, gobius fish, snailfish, tilefish, and stargazer fish. The most common freshwater fish include cyprinid Garra fish and Lake Abaeded fish.
3. Eritrea has 10 languages such as Tigrinya, Arabic, English, Saho, Bilen, Afar, Kunana, Nara, Tigre, and Hedareb.
Being a multi-ethnic nation, Eritrea has many languages. Constitutionally, there is no preference for one language over another. However, practically, Tigrinya is the most widely spoken local dialect.
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2. Over the years, Eritrea is one country in the world where elections have been regularly scheduled and canceled but none have actually ever been held.
Since Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia through a UN-supervised referendum, there has hardly been elections despite the first one having been scheduled in 1997 after the adoption of the Constitution that declared Eritrea as a multiparty democracy. War with Ethiopia was used as justification for postponing the first scheduled elections. Afterward, there have been mountains of excuses not to hold another one to date.
1. Eritrea after Egypt has the second highest archeological historical discoveries in Africa. The number of archeological sites in the country which was 45,000 previously has now increased to 80,000.
Eritrea is an ancient civilization dating back thousands of years ago. It is a land that had been inhabited by early humans for long. This informs its numerous archeological sites as proof of the early human habitation. It is considered the world’s archeological Eden.
Eritrea is a country with rich history and an old civilization dating back several thousand years ago. It has one of the ancient human habitats, evidenced by the high number of archeological sites that reaches almost 80,000. Its capital city Asmara has been branded by UN-Habitat as a world heritage site. Eritrea has great marine tourist sites, plenty of flora and fauna and scenic terrain. This is a place worth visiting to learn more about the hidden treasures of Africa.