Facts on Afar Native Tribe People of Africa
Estimated at 5 million, Afar people known as DANKALI lives in Ethiopia predominantly Sunni Muslim and speak a Cushitic language. Colorful cultural afars are very hospitable, filled with humour and enjoy.
The Afar are a people of East Africa from about 4,276,867 of them in Ethiopia, 459,874 in Eritrea and 483,500 in Djibouti. Their number is estimated at 5 million and half people. They are predominantly Sunni Muslim faith and speak a Cushitic language, the Afar language. This people is also called dankali, named after the eponymous depression. The Afar peoples live in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti. Most members of this people group are nomadic animal herders, who live in a dry land where temperatures often rise to 125 degrees F. The Afar are Muslims, but their beliefs are far from pure. The Afar still worship sacred trees, a belief that predates their conversion to Islam. Only a handful of Afar worship Jesus.
History and location
Little is known of the actual specific history of the Afar people. The Afar claim a descent from Arabs, through a mythic Yemeni ancestor, though they differ racially, linguistically and culturally. A correspondent from Afar reports that the Yemeni association derives from some clans/tribes of the Afar with Yemeni origins who have been incorporated in to the Afar over the centuries, such as the Able and Adal.
This kind of cultural genealogical adoption is common among Semitic and Cushitic peoples, such as some Somali clans, who also claim Yemeni Arab descent. Genetic studies in the Horn of Africa and Arabian peninsula indicate long movement between Eastern Africa and Asia across the Red Sea. Oral histories and language affinities of many peoples likewise testify to this long history of human migration and its genetic, linguistic and and cultural exchange. Sometimes this reflects cultural ties from an earlier historical period or actual instances of intermarriage, perhaps for a defense alliance.This email correspondent points out that from an Afar point of view, the area now known as Yemen is considered a Cushitic country with aSemitic history. This is consistent with oral and legendary tradition, accounting for the association of the name “Cush” with Yemen as well as the Horn of Africa, yet the dominance of Semitic language forms in historical times.
Popular history gives some insight into the history in the two traditional divisions of the Afar. Tradition indicates that the Asayahamara (The Red Ones) are descended from a group originally invading from the Ethiopian Highlands at one time, who imposed their rule on the Adoyahmara (The White Ones).It is thought the color designations came from the reddish soil deserts inland, toward the direction the newcomers came from, and the white saline coastal areas, where the Adoyahamara are still more numerous. The Reds remain socially dominant, and claim ownership of the lands, while the Whites tend to be the herders. Both classes are, however, distributed among all the clans of the tribe.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Most of the Afar are nomads who herd sheep, goats, cattle, and camels. A man’s wealth is measured by the size of his herds. Not all of the Afar are herdsmen. Many of those who work in the Danakil Depression pry loose slabs of solid salt during the dry season, supplying ready-to-use salt in the form of crude blocks. Some of them live in apartment buildings in the country’s capitol city, Addis Ababa. They remain there year round and work in government jobs such as the Afar broadcasts of the Ethiopian radio station.
Although Muslims are permitted to have four wives, Afar marriages are usually monogamous. Girls may marry as early as age ten. Marriages between first cousins are preferred, particularly between a man and his father’s sister’s daughter. The night of the full moon is favored for a wedding ceremony, and the presence of someone able to read the Koran is required.
Meat and milk are the major components of the Afar diet. Milk is also an important social “offering.” For instance, when a guest is given fresh warm milk to drink, the host is implying that he will provide immediate protection for the guest. If a person is killed while under the protection of a Afar, his death must be avenged as if he were a member of the clan. The Afar live in camps surrounded by thorn barricades, which protect them from the attacks of wild animals or enemy tribesmen. Their oval-shaped huts, called ari, are made of palm mats and are easily moved.
Customs and traditions
They are nomadic or transhumanic (moving from highland to lowlands with the seasons and rise and fall of the flood waters of the rivers). They carry their houses with them and reassemble them when they make temporary settlement. Women run the home and settlement and set up the houses, which they carry on camels when they move. Women milk the goats and make butter or ghee. They are also the musicians in the tribe. Marriage preference is first cousin, as is also common among Semitic peoples. Descent and marriage, however, follow the father’s clan (“patrilocal”) rather than the mother’s (“matrilocal”). Divorce rates are high.
The women usually are bare-breasted, unusual for professed Muslim peoples. The Afar practice infibrilation, the sewing together of the female vulva, a type of female “circumcision,” practiced by other Cushite peoples, and some Bantu peoples. Similarly, boys are circumcised upon coming of age. A large proportion of them mine salt from the Danakil Depression, and trade this with the Yemenis across the strait, or with Ethiopians for grain. They raise mostly goats, but some sheep, which they need for the required Muslim celebration feasts. They use camels for pack animals, but do not ride them.
The Afar living near the Red Sea are more settled, and fish for a living, selling the fish. The governments have had little success in getting the Afar to settle into permanent settlements. Some do live in the towns around the Aussa oasis, and in major towns.
In the early 20th century, the new railroad introduced new economic avenues, notably markets for their meat, butter, milk and hides, putting more Afar in contact with urban economy and the politics of the countries in the region.
The Oromo, formerly called Galla are an indigenous African ethnic group found in Ethiopia and to a lesser extent Kenya. Oromo, also known as Afaan Oromoo, Oromiffa and sometimes in other languages by variant spellings of these names (Oromic, Afan Oromo, etc.), is an Afro-Asiatic language
The Afro-Asiatic languages constitute a language family with about 375 languages and more than 300 million speakers spread throughout North Africa, East Africa, the Sahel, and Southwest Asia.
The Cushitic languages are a subgroup of the Afro-Asiatic languages, named after the Biblical figure Cush by analogy with Semitic languages. It is spoken as a first language by approximately 25 million.
The Republic of Kenya is a country in East Africa. It is bordered by Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the east, Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west, and Sudan to the northwest, with the Indian Ocean running along the southeast border. Formerly, the language and people were often referred to by non-Oromos within Ethiopia as well as by Europeans as Galla, but this term is no longer recognized in a modern context.
Persecution for Christians
For centuries the Afar have had little chance to hear the Gospel. Recital of Qur’anic verses and fear of the spirits of the desert goes back generations for the Afar. But decades ago God already sent people from the Horn of Africa. Together with the few Afar believers, a radio work of high quality has been developed. The Gospel is now heard! During the last three years many in the Ethiopian church have begun praying fervently for the Afar. Some Afar have come to faith and are being trained and baptized. They often experience harsh persecution, but they are ready to suffer. In 2008 believing Afar sisters compiled an expanded radio series for women. Thanks to the devotion and love from these sisters nomadic women have the possibility of new life in Christ.
Religion and belief
They are Sunni Muslims by profession, but also follow many of the traditional animistic practices and concepts. In 2004, when first gathering information on the Afar, experts found no sources reporting any Christian believers among this people. In 2007, there were some reports of a few, but no firm details or statistics. Christian mission sources report that Afar Christians are now engaged in producing radio broadcasts in the Afar language. The format is storytelling following the sequence of Old Testament stories.