Eritrea Massawa

Massawa, Eritrea: The Pearl of the Red Sea

Eritrea Travel: Massawa, Dahlak Islands – the Pearl of the Red Sea. Asmara, Africa’s Beautiful Modernist City. Eritrea is located in NE. Africa. (Africa Travel)

Eritrea, country of theHorn of Africa, located on the Red Sea. Eritrea’s coastal location has long been important in its history and culture—a fact reflected in its name, which is an Italianized version of Mare Erythraeum, Latin for “Red Sea.” The Red Sea was the route by which Christianity and Islam reached the area, and it was an important trade route that such powers as Turkey, Egypt, and Italy hoped to dominate by seizing control of ports on the Eritrean coast. Those ports promised access to the gold, coffee, and slaves sold by traders in the Ethiopian highlands to the south, and, in the second half of the 20th century, Ethiopia became the power from which the Eritrean people had to free themselves in order to create their own state.

In 1993, after a war of independence that lasted nearly three decades, Eritrea became a sovereign country. During the long struggle, the people of Eritrea managed to forge a common national consciousness, but, with peace established, they faced the task of overcoming their ethnic and religious differences in order to raise the country from a poverty made worse by years of drought, neglect, and war. Eritrea’s capital and largest city is Asmara (Asmera).

Land

Eritrea’s coastline, forming the northeastern edge of the country, extends for roughly 600 miles (1,000 km) from Cape Kasar, in the north, to the Strait of Mandeb, separating the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden in the south. The country is bounded to the southeast by Djibouti, to the south by Ethiopia, and to the west by Sudan..

Eritrea

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Relief

Eritrea’s land is highly variegated. Running on a north-south axis through the middle of the country are the central highlands, a narrow strip of country some 6,500 feet (2,000 metres) above sea level that represents the northern reaches of the Ethiopian Plateau. The highest point is Mount Soira, at 9,885 feet (3,013 metres). Geologically, the plateau consists of a foundation of crystalline rock (e.g., granite, gneiss, and mica schist) that is overlain by sedimentary rock (limestone and sandstone) and capped by basalt (rock of volcanic origin). The upper layers have been highly dissected by deep gorges and river channels, forming small, steep-sided, flat-topped tablelands known as ambas. Encouraged by the steady expansion of cultivation, soil erosion on the plateau has left few wooded areas.


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In the north of Eritrea the highlands narrow and then end in a system of hills, where erosion has cut down to the basement rock. To the east the plateau drops abruptly into a coastal plain. North of the Gulf of Zula, the plain is only 10 to 50 miles (15 to 80 km) wide, but to the south it widens to include the Danakil Plain. This barren region contains a depression known as the Kobar Sink (more than 300 feet [90 metres] below sea level), the northern end of which extends into Eritrea. The coastal plain and the Danakil Plain are part of the East African Rift System and are sharply delimited on the west by the eastern escarpment of the plateau, which, although deeply eroded, presents a formidable obstacle to travelers from the coast.

The western flank of the central highlands is a broken and undulating plain that slopes gradually toward the border with Sudan. It lies at an average elevation of 1,500 feet (460 metres). The vegetation is mostly savanna, consisting of scattered trees, shrubs, and seasonal grasses.

Off the coast in the Red Sea is the Dahlak Archipelago, a group of more than 100 small coral and reef-fringed islands. Only a few of these islands have a permanent population.

Drainage

The Eritrean highlands are drained by four major rivers and numerous streams. Two of the rivers, the Gash and the Tekezē, flow westward into Sudan. The Tekezē River (also known as the Satit) is a major tributary of the Atbara River, which eventually joins the Nile. The Gash River reaches the Atbara only during flood season. As it crosses the western lowlands, the Tekezē forms part of Eritrea’s border with Ethiopia, while the upper course of the Gash, known as the Mereb River, forms the border on the plateau.

The other two major rivers that drain the highlands of Eritrea are the Baraka and the Anseba. Both of these rivers flow northward into a marshy area on the eastern coast of Sudan and do not reach the Red Sea. Several seasonal streams that flow eastward from the plateau reach the sea on the Eritrean coast.

Climate

Eritrea has a wide variety of climatic conditions, produced mainly by differences in elevation. The effects of elevation are seen most clearly in the wide range of temperatures experienced throughout the country. On the coast, Massawa (Mitsiwa) has one of the highest averages in the world (the mid-80s F [about 30 °C]), while Asmara, only 40 miles (65 km) away yet roughly 7,500 feet (2,300 metres) higher on the plateau, averages in the low 60s F (about 17 °C).

Mean annual rainfall on the plateau is about 16 to 20 inches (400 to 500 mm), while on the western plain it is less than 16 inches. In both the highlands and the western lowlands, rainfall comes in summer, carried on a southwesterly airstream. Toward the northeastern extremes of the plateau, the amount of precipitation decreases, and the length of the rainy season becomes shorter. The eastern edges of the plateau and, to a lesser extent, the coastal fringes receive much smaller quantities of rain from a northeasterly airstream that arrives in winter and spring. The interior regions of the Danakil Plain are practically rainless.

People

Ethnic groups and languages

Eritrea’s population consists of several ethnic groups, each with its own language and cultural tradition. In addition to the languages spoken by the various ethnic groups, Arabic and English are widely understood. Italian is occasionally used as well.

Eritrea: Ethnolinguistic composition

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Climate

The bulk of the people in the Eritrean highlands are Tigray. In Eritrea that group is sometimes called Tigrinya, though linguists of Semitic languages note that -nya is an Amharic suffix meaning “language of.” In any case, proper nomenclature for the people is fluid, given contemporary political sensitivities. The Tigray make up about half the country’s total population. They also occupy the adjacent Ethiopian region of Tigray. The Tigrinya language is one of two major indigenous languages in Eritrea.

Inhabiting the northernmost part of the Eritrean plateau, as well as lowlands to the east and west, are the Tigre people. The Tigre, who constitute nearly one-third of Eritrea’s population, speak the other major Eritrean language—Tigré. Tigré and Tigrinya are written in the same script and are both related to the ancient Semitic Geʿez language, but they are mutually unintelligible.

Also occupying the northern plateau are Bilin speakers, whose language belongs to the Cushitic family. The Rashaida are a group of Arabic-speaking nomads who traverse the northern hills. On the southern part of the coastal region live Afar nomads. The Afars—who also live across the borders in Djibouti and Ethiopia—are known to surrounding peoples as the Danakil, after the region that they inhabit. The coastal strip south of Massawa, as well as the eastern flanks of the plateau, are occupied by Saho pastoralists. In the western plain the dominant people are Beja pastoralists; Beja also live across the border in Sudan. Two small groups speaking Nilotic languages, the Kunama and the Nara, also live in the west.


National anthem of Eritrea


OFFICIAL NAME

State of Eritrea1

FORM OF GOVERNMENT

transitional regime2 with one interim legislative house ([transitional] National Assembly [1503])

HEAD OF STATE AND GOVERNMENT

President: Isaias Afwerki

CAPITAL

CAPITAL

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE

none4

OFFICIAL RELIGION

none

MONETARY UNIT

nakfa (Nfa)

POPULATION

(2018 est.) 5,188,000

POPULATION RANK

(2018) 118

POPULATION PROJECTION 2030

6,718,000

TOTAL AREA (SQ MI)

46,760

TOTAL AREA (SQ KM)

121,100

DENSITY: PERSONS PER SQ MI

(2018) 133

DENSITY: PERSONS PER SQ KM

(2018) 51.1

URBAN-RURAL POPULATION

Urban: (2018) 40.1%

Rural: (2018) 59.9%

LIFE EXPECTANCY AT BIRTH

Male: (2017) 62.7 years

Female: (2017) 67.8 years

LITERACY: PERCENTAGE OF POPULATION AGE 15 AND OVER LITERATE

Male: (2015) 73.8%

Female: (2010) 57.5%

GNI (U.S.$ ’000,000)

(2017) 5,365

GNI PER CAPITA (U.S.$)

(2017) 1,083


1The name in Tigrinya, the most widely spoken local language, is Hagere Iertra.

2New constitution ratified in May 1997 was not yet implemented in May 2016.

3All seats indirectly elected; last elections were held in 1994.

4The de facto “working” languages of government are Tigrinya, English, and Arabic.

Religion

Historically, religion has been a prominent symbol of ethnic identity in the Horn of Africa. Christianity was established in the 4th century CE on the coast and appeared soon afterward in the plateau, where it was embraced by the Ethiopian highlanders. Prior to Eritrea’s secession from Ethiopia in 1993, about half the population of Eritrea belonged to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, including nearly all the Tigrinya. After the country gained its independence, it appealed to the patriarch of the Coptic church for autocephaly, which was granted.

Eritrea: Religious affiliation

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About one-half of Eritrea’s population is Christian, with members of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church accounting for some two-fifths. The rest of the Christian population is primarily Roman Catholic with a small number of Protestants, stemming from the time of Italian colonial rule (1889–1941), when Roman Catholic and Protestant European missionaries introduced their own versions of Christianity into Eritrea. They had considerable success among the small Kunama group, and they also attracted a few townspeople with the offer of modern education.
Ethiopian Orthodox churches (St. Mary’s in background), Asmara, Eritrea.

Ethiopian Orthodox churches (St. Mary’s in background), Asmara, Eritrea.

Picturepoint, London

Following the rise of Islam in Arabia in the 7th century, Muslim power flowed over the Red Sea coast, forcing the Ethiopians to retreat deep into their mountain fastness. Islam displaced other creeds in the lowlands of the Horn, and it remains the faith of about one-half of the Eritrean population, including nearly all the people inhabiting the eastern coast and the western plain of Eritrea, as well as the northernmost part of the plateau. Thus, while Islam claims nearly all the pastoralists, Christianity is dominant among the cultivators. Muslims are also significantly represented in all towns of Eritrea, where they are prominent in trade. In the perennial competition between cultivators and pastoralists over land, water, control of trade, and access to ports, religion has played an ideological role, and it remains a potent political force.

Settlement patterns

The environment is a determining factor in the distribution of Eritrea’s population. Although the plateau represents only one-fourth of the total land area, it is home to approximately one-half of the population, most of them sedentary agriculturalists. The lowlands on the east and west support a population mainly of pastoralists, although most of them also cultivate crops when and where weather conditions permit. As a rule, pastoralists follow various patterns of movement set by the seasons. Only the Rashaida group in the northern hills is truly nomadic.

During the colonial period, Eritrea’s urban sector flourished with the establishment of Asmara as the capital city, Asseb (also spelled Assab or Aseb) as a new port on the Red Sea, and a host of smaller towns on the plateau. In addition, Massawa, an old and cosmopolitan port with strong links to Arabia, was expanded considerably. By the end of the colonial period, Eritrea had by far the largest proportion of urban residents in the Horn of Africa—approximately 15 percent of the population—although a large percentage of urban dwellers were Italian nationals who eventually left the country. Subsequently, a population drift from the countryside to the towns was largely offset by emigration of Eritreans abroad. By the early 21st century about two-fifths of the population was considered urban.

Eritrea: Urban-rural

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Demographic trends

The population of Eritrea is relatively young overall, with about two-fifths under the age of 15 and more than one-fourth between the ages of 15 and 29. Life expectancy is higher for women than men, and the average for both is in the mid-60s, lower than the global average. Eritrea’s population growth rate is slightly lower that the world average. Although the country’s birth rate is much higher than the world average and the death rate is about the same as the world average, Eritrea’s population growth rate is among the lowest in the world because it is also affected by the country’s net migration rate (more people emigrate from the country than immigrate to it). Many people have fled the country under the increasingly repressive regime of Pres. Isaias Afwerki, who has been in power since independence was granted to the country in 1993.

Eritrea: Age breakdown

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Economy

Agriculture

Agriculture is by far the most important sector of the country’s economy, providing a livelihood for about four-fifths of the population and accounting for a large portion of Eritrea’s exports. Small-scale cultivation and traditional pastoralism are the main forms of agricultural activity. These are not mutually exclusive occupations, since most cultivators also keep animals and most pastoralists cultivate grains when possible. Both cultivators and pastoralists produce primarily for their own subsistence, and only small surpluses are available for trade.

The area of cultivation is limited by climate, soil erosion, and the uneven surface of the plateau. Under Italian and Ethiopian rule, irrigated plantations produced vegetables, fruit, cotton, sisal, bananas, tobacco, and coffee for the growing urban markets, but this agricultural sector was disrupted by the long period of warfare leading to independence. Today staple grain products include sorghum, millet, and an indigenous cereal named teff (Eragrostis tef). Pulses, sesame seeds, vegetables, cotton, tobacco, and sisal also are produced. Among the livestock raised are sheep, cattle, goats, and camels.

Resources

Salt mining, based on deposits in the Kobar Sink, is a traditional activity in Eritrea; there is a salt works near the port of Massawa. Granite, gold, copper, zinc, potash, and basalt are also mined. Numerous other minerals have been identified, including feldspar, gypsum, asbestos, mica, and sulfur. The Bisha gold mine in western Eritrea began operation in 2011 as a joint venture between a private Canadian-based company and the Eritrean government. International human rights groups raised concerns about the welfare of workers at the mine, but the profitability of the Bisha project sparked a wave of foreign investment in the Eritrean mining sector. The proximity of the oil-rich Arabian Basin has occasionally raised expectations of discovering petroleum in Eritrea, but intermittent exploration since the days of Italian rule has failed to produce results.

Manufacturing

A generation of war damaged Eritrea’s modest manufacturing sector, which appeared during the Italian colonial period and provided many Eritrean workers with skills that later enabled them to find work abroad. Today, as it was in the colonial era, the sector is based largely on the processing of agricultural products; goods produced include food products, beer, tobacco products, textiles, and leather. Asmara is the main industrial centre, although light manufacturing enterprises are found in and around Massawa (which has a cement works), Keren, and other urban areas. A petroleum refinery in the Red Sea port of Asseb, built by the Soviet Union for Ethiopia, was closed in 1997.

Trade

Along with food and live animals, fish from the Red Sea constitute a significant percentage of the country’s exports. Principal imports include food, machinery, road vehicles, and chemicals and chemical products. Significant trade partners include China, India, and Saudi Arabia.

Eritrea: Major import sources

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Transportation

Asseb and Massawa are major ports of entry into Eritrea. About one-fifth of the country’s roads are paved. A railway was built by the Italians from Massawa to Asmara, Keren, and Akordat. There is an international airport in Asmara, and major airfields are located in Asseb and Massawa.