Eritrea is a nation that has dealt with occupations, domestic strife, international conflicts, kingdoms and numerous groups of people. To this date, Eritrea still attempts to find peace, but due to government corruption, a paucity of human rights and no private media entities, the northeast African country is having a difficult time to accomplish their ultimate goal.
Similar to a lot of African countries, Eritrea maintains a rich history that was engulfed in religion, kingdoms and distinctive groups of individuals.
Archaeologists have discovered significant evidence of human presence beginning in the eighth millennium B.C. with Cushitic, Nilotic and Semitic peoples. By the sixth century B.C., Arabs roamed to present day Eritrea in the hopes of finding ivory and trading with India and Persia for slaves.
Eritrea later became part of the Semitic’s Axum kingdom, which spread from Sudan to Yemen. Majority of the inhabitants practiced Christianity and it was taught to traders. However, as the Persian Empire developed, Muslims demolished Axum and as centuries passed, it became an isolated region.
When the 16th century arrived, Eritrea surfaced as Abyssinia. This kingdom enveloped Ethiopia and was dominated by kings and the Christian Tigrinyans, although it continued to remain quite isolated in the region, including the lowlands’ Muslim communities.
Some of the languages of today originate from sixth century B.C., such as Ge’ez, that is still articulated by both Ethiopian and Eritrea Christian priests.
Researchers argue that for centuries, Eritrea can make links to many ancient empires, including the Egyptian, Ottoman and Sudanic Empires. Ethiopia, though, suggests that Eritrea had an important cultural impact on its customs and religious practices.
The culture of Eritrea is eclectic at best. Eritrea has been a place of international trade and occupation throughout its history. If one travels to the Eritrea capital of Asmara, it is quite distinguishable that its architecture and businesses derive from Italy.
Clothing varies across the country. Lowland women sport bright colors, while Tigrinya wear bright white. Arab and Rashaida wear customary veils that cover their faces.
Cycling and football (soccer) is the national pastime in regards to sport.
There are nine recognized ethnic groups in Eritrea: Tigrinya (55 percent), (Tigre 30 percent), Saho (four percent), Kunama (two percent), Rashaida (two percent), Bilen (two percent) and Afar, Beni Amir, Nera (five percent)
Tigrinya, Arabic and English are the official languages, while other parts of the country speak Tigre, Kunama, Afar and other Cushitic dialects.
Four dominant religions are practiced among its people: Coptic Christian, Muslim, Protestant and Roman Catholic.
Eritrea is one of the world’s poorest nations, but has a huge export base: copper, gold, oil and natural gas, zinc and many others.
As Eritrea’s culture is a conglomerate of many other cultures, its food is no different. Much of Eritrean cuisine is similar to Ethiopia and Sudan in the sense that most of its dishes consist of stews (tsebhi), usually chicken or beef, flatbread (injera) and paste (hilbet) made from legumes.
One of Eritrea’s most famous meals is the Kitcha fit-fit. It mixes shredded, oiled and spiced bread that is topped with yogurt and spices (berbere). Another dish is Taito served with Shiro and salad.
To accompany their food, Eritreans drink Suwa, a homebrewed beer that is made from barley, roast corn and other grain and touched with a bit of buckthorn leaf, Gesho.
Bordering the Red Sea, Eritrea maintains a total population of slightly less than six million. It consists of a total land mass of 117,600 sq km (45,505 sq mi) – 101,000 sq km (39,000 sq mi) is land and 16,600 sq km (6,400 sq mi) is water.
Located in northeast Africa and sharing a border with the nations of Ethiopia, Djibouti and Sudan, Eritrea is a small nation that is dominated by single-party rule.
Geographers compare the size of Eritrea to the size of the state of Pennsylvania.
For quite some time, Eritrea was an Italian colony until 1941 when the British occupied the country. It wasn’t until 1952 when the United Nations made the country autonomous and federated with Ethiopia.
Haile Selassie, Ethiopia’s emperor, annexed the nations thus beginning the 30-year violent struggle. Selassie’s Communist successor, Mengistu Haile Mariam, was later defeated by two groups that agreed to an alliance for the same goal, Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) and a coalition of Ethiopian opposition factions.
In a referendum that was supported by Ethiopia, Eritrea voted in a 1991 referendum for independence. Unfortunately, Eritrea’s strife did not end and further border disputes plagued the country for years.
From May 1998 to June 2000, the Eritrean-Ethiopian War took the lives of more than 70,000 people and cost hundreds of millions of dollars, although the two were one of the poorest nations in the world.
It was ruled by The Hague that Eritrea started the war by invading Ethiopia due to border disputes that occurred near the town of Badme.
The United Nations enforced a security zone that separates the two nations, but later withdrew because they were unable to complete its duty.
Due to its border issues, parts of Eritrea are unable to receive food aid and economic growth is not achieved because much of its populace is enlisted in the military, therefore, cannot enter the workforce.
Fighting still occurs. In 2008, the Djiboutian–Eritrean border conflict began after Eritrean forces were accused of entering Djiboutian land and digging holes on both sides of the border.
Two years later, Ethiopia and Eritrea fought again at their border after Ethiopian forces were accused of crossing the border. However, an Ethiopian spokesperson argued that the Eritrean government attempted to cover up their mess that resulted in an attack by Eritrean rebels in which 25 security forces were killed.
Eritrea is a provisional government and democratic system that is run by President Isaias Afewerki and the People’s Front of Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). There are no other parties permitted to run, although the 1997 Constitution allows for multiple parties.
The country does not hold national general elections, but they have been scheduled and then cancelled. Local elections persist.
It has been divided into six regions – Anseba, Central, Gash-Barka, Northern Red Sea, Southern Red Sea and South – and subdivided into districts.
Human Rights Watch considers Eritrea to maintain a poor human rights record.
The United States called Eritrea a “state sponsor of terrorism.” In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton alleged that Eritrea supplied weapons to al-Shabab, a Somali militant faction. The UN imposed sanctions and an arms embargo on Eritrea, with the support of the AU.
Eritrea experiences cool and wet weather in the highlands and a hot and dry strip close to the Red Sea coast – the hottest and driest place in Africa. It also goes through frequent droughts, locust swarms and rare earthquakes and volcanoes – its last volcano eruption occurred in the year 1861 when Dubbi was the state’s only active volcano until June of 2011 when Nabro activated.
Currently, the African nation suffers from soil erosion, deforestation, desertification and infrastructure corrosion due to domestic strife.
The government has become a party to many international environmental initiatives, including Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Ozone Layer Protection and Endangered Species.
Eritrea is enriched with fauna and flora. It consists of 96 species of mammals and 566 species of birds. Although the giraffe is extinct, Eritrea’s population of antelopes, elephants, leopards, lions and zebras flourish.
Close to the Red Sea, Eritrea maintains lobsters, shrimps and turtles.
Its plant life is composed of acacia, aloe vera, cactus, olive trees and prickly pear.