Interesting facts about Eritrea


 The name ‘Nara’ means “Sky heaven” 

The Nara name means “sky, heaven”. Their language is called “Nara
Bana”, meaning “Nara talk.” (1976, Marvin Lionel Bender, p.599)

The name “Beni-Amir” means “Sons of Amir”

The Beni-Amir are either regarded as a separate ethnic group or as the largest clan within the Tigre ethnic group. Their clan name of Beni Amir means “Sons of Amir” (2003, Favali, Pateman, p.28)

The name ‘Kunama’ means “natural”

The term Kunama means natural” ( 2001, Istituto italiano per l’Africa, p.575). Among the Kunama if an individual misbehaves, often people would utter that the person is not behaving the “Kunama way” (i. e, the natural way). Similarly if you request drinking water from a woman who also has beer, the woman would ask you bia Kunama benube aifa? The meaning of this stement is “do you want natural water or beer?” In these two contexts the word Kunama is used to mean natural.” ( 2001, Istituto italiano per l’Africa, p.575)

The name Tigrinya means “Tigre language”

Tigre of Tigr-inya is the speaker, while the suffix -inya  in Tigrinya denotes to “language,” (1996, Kjetil Tronvoll, p.30)

The name Rashaida means “Refugee”

The Rashida means “refugee” in Arabic -(1996, Kjetil Tronvoll, p.27)

The name Blin (Bilen) is thought to derive from Saho, which means “Christians”

The meaning of the word ‘Bilin’ also is not known. Some version of the tradition holds that it is Saho word (belen) for Christian. In fact, ‘Belen’ in Saho means a Christian. (Kiflemariam Hamdé, ‘Absmará yunivarsiti, p.3)

The name Afar means “the free”

Afar, meaning “the free,” is the name the Danakil give themselves..” (1976, Georg Gerster, 49)

The name Saho means “nomad”

The term “Saho” means nomad (“Saa” means animals, “hoo” means  caretaker). This is essentially a linguistic classification, as they speak a common language, the Saho. (2010, Abdulkader Saleh Mohammad, p.111)

The name Dahlak islands means “Gates of Hell”

Do 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”. (Dahalik: Mysterious Tongue of the Dahlak Islands, by Hanna Azbaha )

The name of Eritrea’s town Mendefera means “No one dared”

Mendefera (literally meaning ‘No One Dared’) is a reference to the fierce resistance put up by the local people against Italian colonialisation.(2006, Phillips, Carillet, p. 337)

The name of Eritrea’s port city Massawa means “Shout loudly”

Most theories advanced seem to agree on the lingusitic roots of the word Massawa, which would be a Tigre word derived from the Ge’ez word Mesuwa’, meaning “cry, loud call.” According to one version, a fisherman from Dahlak, surpised by a storm, was thrown by the winds with his boat onto an uninhabited island that was situated very close to the mainland. Following his return to Dahlak, he described it as so small that if one shouted strong enough he could make himself heard on the other side of the island. From that point onward, the Daalakis who began to settle there called it “Massawa.” The other version relates that before the causeways connecting Massawa to mainland were built (1870), when traders came to the port their caravans, they reached Gherar on the mainland, and had to shout to the boatmen on Massawa Island to come and get them and their goods to the island-town. (2009, Jonathan Miran, p. 123)

The name of Eritrea’s capital Asmara means “United”

Asmara grew from four villages founded in the twelfth century AD. Originally, it is said, there were four clans living in the Asmara area on the Kebessa Plateau: the Gheza Gurtom, the Gheza Shelele, the Gheza Serenser and Gheza Asmae. Encouraged by their women, the men united the four clans and defeated the bandits who preyed on the area. After the victory, a new name was given to the place; Arbaete Asmara which literally means, in the Tigrinya language, “the four are united.” Eventually Arabaete was droppped and it has been called Asmara, though there is still a zone called Arbaete Asmara. (2007, Keith Fauscett, p. 121)

The word Asmara in Indonesia means “Love”

In Indonesia the word asmara means love – (1974, Sudarsono, p.44)

The name of Eritrea’s city Keren means “Rocky” in Blin and “Mountain” in Tigrinya.

the name ‘Keren’ derived from two Eritrean languages Bilen and Tigrigna. The word ‘Krna’ in Bilen means stony or rocky, and ‘keren’ in Tigrigna means mountain (2007, by Denison, Paice, p.189)

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 ranks second after Egypt in Africa for its rich archeological sites and historical places. (Dr. Yosief Libsekal, head of the Eritrean National Museum.)

There are Two Nigerian ethnic groups who live in Eritrea

The Hausa and Bargo Nigerian-Eritreans, who are collectively called the Tokharir, migrated to Eritrea almost a century ago. “…. the Tokharir, who arrived from Nigeria having made the pilgrimage to Mecca many centuries ago and did not have the means to get themselves home, so they stopped in Eritrea and eastern sudan and have remained there ever since. They are found in the western lowlands, especially around Tesseni, and in some areas around Keren.” (2007, Denison,Paice, p.37)

In the 1962 nations cup won by Ethiopia, 9 of the 11 starters of that team were Eritreans

Their names were: Lucian Vassalo, Tesfay Gebremedhin, Berhe Goitom (Patata), Etalo Vassalo, Kiflom Araya, Gilamichael Tesfamariam (wedi Mariano), Haile Tesfagaber, Tekle Kidane, Asmelash Berhe, Tsegay Tesfay, Negassi Gebremichael and Berhane Beyene were Eritreans who were part of the 1962 historic Ethiopian National team. (by Esseyas Fsehaye, Shabait, 2010)

Many Eritrean villages in the Eritrean highlands are named after Beja place-names

During the Beja kingdoms of Eritrea (8th – 14 century AD) the 9th century Arab geographer Al-Ya’qubi wrote of six Beja kingdoms located in what is today Eritrea. Beja place names are found throughout the central and northern highlands of Eritrea, suggesting widespread Beja interaction with other communities (2008, Schmidt, Curtis, Teka , p. 284)

Eritrea’s Dahlak Islanders were the first Muslim converts in the Horn of Africa

Based on direct archaeological evidence, the Dahlak Islands, off the coast of Eritrea, are the oldest Muslim coummunites in the horn Africa (2003, Timothy Insoll, P.49)

In Tigre and Tigrinya P-sounds occur only in foreign loan words

In Tigre and Tigrinya P occurs in foreign words. (1966, Tucker,Bryan, p. 595) According to Woldu (1985), /p/ does not exist in the phonology of Tigrinya, though schooled Tigrinya speakers have little difficulty in pronouncing and perceiving it. It is mostly used for Italian loanwords (pane, polizia, posta, etc.). (2008, Heine, Nurse, p.65)

Most Kunama believe in their traditional god named Anna

most Kunama remain pagans who believe in a supreme being called Anna.” (2004, Shinn, Ofcansky, Prouty, p.245)

The earliest written Tigrinya discovered dates to the 13th century in Logosadara, Eritrea

An especially interesting reference was made by the Italian scholar Carlo Conti Rossini in his introduction to Mauro da Leonessa’s Tigrinya Grammar, where he speaks of land contracts from Enda Abba Matta that show ‘indications from the 13th century that the Tigrinya language was already formed’. He also mentions an Eritrean monk called Yeshaq who between 1403 and 1450 is said to have written in Tigrinya. What exactly constituted these ‘indications’ and what any such early Tigrinya material might have been is not known.” (2008, Andrew Simpson, p. 227)

In the early 1940s, the British wanted to turn Eritrea into a Jewish colony

Early on the research department had added a new dimension to the Eritrean problem by suggesting that Britain support a Jewish settlement in Eritrea. The primary purpose of creating a Jewish colony in Eritrea was to divert Jewish immigration from Palestine and thereby to relax tensions in the British dominion in Palestine itself. In support of their recommendation, the authors of these findings argued that Eritrea had a suitable climate and sufficient unexploited land to be used for Jewish colonization. (1991, Okbazghi Yohannes, p. 64)

The oldest settled civilization in the horn of Africa is found in Eritrea

The remains of what is thought to be the oldest settled agricultural community in Africa have been discovered on the outskirts of the Eritrean capital, Asmara, the United Nations has said.” (5-22-2002, BBC )

Human ancestry migrated out of Africa north along Eritrea’s Red Sea coast

Bob walter discovered the oldest evidence of stone tools near a marine environment. Dating at 125,000 years old, the find suggest early human ancestry migrated out of Africa north along Eritrea’s red sea coast (July, 2000, GeoTimes)

Afar women usually don’t quest courtship with a man who hasn’t killed another man

Afars culture emphasizes a man’s strength and bravery, and prestige comes traditionally from killing one’s enemy. The strinkingly beautiful Afar women will usually not consider courtship with a man who has never killed another man. They hope for a husband who wears the iron bracelet indicating that he has killed ten men.” (2002, James Minahan, p.42)

Eritrea literally means “red”, and gets its name after the Red Sea

Sinus Erythraeus was the name the Greek settlers in Egypt (Ptolemaic dynasty) of the third century B.C labeled the body of water between the Arab peninsula and the African continent. Later the Romans adopted the same name, calling it Mare Erythraeum-Literary meaning the Red Sea. From This, “Eritrean sea” the country has got its name.” (1998, Kjetil Tronvoll, p.21)

Ancient Egyptian reference of an area called Amasu or Hamasu of the land of Punt may perhaps be an early reference to the Hamasien region of Eritrea

Remarking on this expeditions, Conti-Rossini suggests that the Egyptians might have used Utulit (Adulis) as a port of landing; that the neighboring area mentioned as Amasu or Hamasu, may perhaps be the Hamasien province of today’s Eritrea.” (Conti-Rossini, p. 87)

During Eritrea’s independence war, at least 3,500 well-trained Cuban troops fought alongside Ethiopians

In 1980, there were at least 3500 Cubans in Eritrea fighting alongside the Ethiopians.45 During the 1982 so-called red star mopping-up operations against the nationalists, a strong Cuban infantry battalion shored up the 120000 Ethiopian troops..” (1991, Okbazghi Yohannes, p. 256)

The ancestors of Tigre and Biher-Tigrinya people are thought to be the forerunners of the Beja People

Around 2,000 B.C. pastoral people from the deserts of Southern Egypt and northern Sudan entered the Barka Vally and northern highlands, pushing the first wave southwards. These people were the forerunners of the Beja tribes, who for many hundreds of years seem to have been the only independent pastoralists in Africa.” (1998, Roy Pateman. p.31)

In Pre-Islamic and Pre-Christian Eritrea, most Eritreans worshiped pantheon of gods derived from Yemen

Astar, Mahrem, Baher and Almaqh were the names of the God’s the ancestors of most Eritreans worshiped.
The Aksumites, prior to the coming of the Christianity, had a pantheon of gods, derived from South Arabia, which they equated in their inscriptions with the gods of the ancient Greeks. The principal early Aksumite deities thus comprised Astar, who corresponded to Zeus, the Greek King of the Gods; Mahrem, the equivalent of Ares, the Greek god of war, and Baher, who was equated with Poseidon, the Greek god of the Sea. Aksum, as we shall see, later adopted Christianity, which became the official state religion in the early fourth century, after which the old gods were forgotten.” (1991, Richard Pankhurst, p.24)

“Pre-Aksumite” inscriptions at Matara include one reference to the goddess Dât-Ba’dan who, as in South Arabia, may have been associated with the solar cult (Schneider 1965; deContenson 1981). Two other votic text inscriptions from Matara refer to the star deity, Athtar, and moon god, Almaqah, both commonly represented and presumably important deities in the southern Red Sea world of the 1st millennium BCE.” (Source)

The Kunama clan names Alaka and Shila mean Tigrinya and Tigre, respectively

The clan names alaka and shila mean Tigrinya and Tigre, respectively. Originally members of the alaka and shila clan must have come from the Tigrinya and Tigre ethnic groups” (2008, Gaim Kibreab, p.82)

In the 17th century A.D, Eritrea’s Medri-Bahri kingdom was described as having a democratic “Federal Republic” political process

In 1680, Medri-Bahri’s political process was described by the German scholar J. Ludolph as being a “Federal Republic“. This republic political process was found no where else in the horn of Africa and was distinct to the kingdom of Medri Bahri.

J. Ludolph, the Great German scholar whose studies on the East are known all over the world, described the Medri Bahri as a Federal Republic.”(1977, Forschung, P. 38)

The Red Sea is widening at the rate of about one-half inch per year and will one day become an ocean

About 34 million years ago the Red Sea began to open up. This rift is one of the youngest regions of continental breakup on Earth. The Red Sea is widening at the rate of about one-half inch per year. Eventually it will become an ocean. (1998, Alexander Hahn, p. 344)

There are 1,4000 known fish species living in Eritrea’s waters, and 17% of those fishes are found nowhere else

There are 1,4000 known fish species living in Eritrea’s waters, and 17% of those fishes are found nowhere else (EEJ, p.5). There are also 250 known coral species, in which 20% of those are found only in Eritrea’s Red Sea waters (EEJ, p.5).


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