The Afar (Danakil) claim to be descendants of Ham (Noah's son). They are
located in the East African countries of Djibouti, Somalia, Ethiopia, and
Eritrea. They prefer to be known as the Afar, since the Arabic word "danakil" is
an offensive term to them. They are a proud people, emphasizing a man's strength
and bravery. Prestige comes, as it always has, from killing one's enemies.
The Afar consist of two subgroups: the Asaemara ("red ones"), who are the more
prestigious and powerful nobles living primarily in the area of Assayita; and
the Adaemara ("white ones"), who are the commoners living in the desert areas.
Those who live in the desert inhabit one of the most rugged regions in the
world, known as the Afar Plain or the Danakil Desert. One area, called the
Danakil Depression, consists of a vast plain of salt pans and active volcanoes.
Much of it lies 200 feet below sea level and has daily temperatures as high as
125 degrees F. The average yearly rainfall is less than seven inches.
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
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.
What are their beliefs?
Early in their history, the Afar were heavily influenced by the Islamic
religion; and today, Islam is still held in great esteem. The people do not eat
pork and rarely drink alcohol. Those who can afford to do so, make a pilgrimage
to Mecca. In addition, many pre-Islamic beliefs and customs are also prevalent
among the Afar. They believe that certain trees and groves have sacred powers.
They also have various religious rites such as anointing their bodies with ghee
(a type of butter). Spirits of the dead are believed to be very powerful, and a
"feast of the dead," called Rabena, is celebrated each year. They also give
annual offerings to the sea to ensure safety for their villages. Many people
wear protective leather amulets that contain herbs and verses from the Koran.
What are their needs?
Because the Afar are a proud, independent people, they have had a very turbulent
history. In recent times, the government has built houses with kitchens and
bathrooms-luxuries previously unknown to these nomads.
Only one large river, the Awash, flows through the Danakil Desert. However, it
dwindles into a series of lakes before ever reaching the sea. Consequently,
there is a great need for pure water sources for the Danakil and their herds. In
recent years, they have suffered because of famines and drought.
Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth long-term Christian laborers into
Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio to this tribe.
Pray that additional evangelistic tools will be made available to the Afar.
Pray that God will reveal Himself to these precious people through dreams and
Ask God to provide pure water sources for the Afar and their herds living in the
Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that have kept the
Danakil bound for many generations.
Ask the Lord to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil
through worship and intercession.
Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Afar church for the glory of His name!
The ancestors of the Afar settled farm land in the Ethiopian highlands some time
before AD 1000 and primarily raised livestock. Some time after this they began a
gradual transition to a more nomadic lifestyle and moved to the area they
currently occupy. Since then they have been involved in many conflicts with
bordering tribes and peoples.
The earliest surviving written mention of the Afar was in the
13th century by the Arab writer ibn Sa'id, who reported that they lived in the
area from around the port of Suakin as far south as Mandeb, near Zeila. They
are mentioned intermittently in Ethiopian records, first as helping Emperor Amda
Seyon in a campaign beyond the Awash River, then over a century later when they
assisted Emperor Baeda Maryam when he campaigned against their neighbors the
Dobea. In the late 17th century, the Aussa Sultanate had emerged, which
became the first amongst equals of the Afar rulers.
The legendary hostility of the Afar people must be viewed in a cultural
context. They are not more hostile towards strangers crossing their lands than
we would be when a stranger would pass through our garden gate and walk through
the garden without our permission.
A visitor to the Afar homelands will always find himself in tribal or family
territory. Routes and tracks cannot really be viewed as public walkways as they
always cross lands considered by the afar as their own. The fact of producing an
offical warrant from the government which allows you to travel through Afar
country is not always enough.
Tradition rules that the tribal chief is personally responsible for anything
that happens on his lands, including the safety of visitors. He will therefore
not like you crossing his territory without doing him homage and ask him
permission. Afar hospitality is an essential characteristic of their culture but
he who defies the traditional rules of this society may expect to raise trouble.
Oromo, also known as Afaan Oromoo, Oromiffa(a) (Ethiopic:
????), and sometimes in other languages by variant spellings of these names
(Oromic, Afan Oromo, etc.), is an language, and the most widely spoken of the
and neighboring peoples in Ethiopia and
. 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.