Top 10 Interesting Facts About Eritrea

Aerial view to Asmara, capital of Eritrea.
Aerial view to Asmara, capital of Eritrea.

Eritrea is a sovereign nation that is situated in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea is surrounded by the Red Sea to the eastern and northeastern side, Djibouti to the southeastern side, Ethiopia to the South, and Sudan to the west. It is the ninety-ninth largest country on the planet which has a total area of about 45,406sq miles, and it includes part of the Hanish Islands and the Dahlak Archipelago. It is a multi-ethnic nation and hosts a population of about 5 million people. Eritrea is a member of the UN, African Union and an observer at the Arab League together with India, Venezuela, and Brazil. Some of the most interesting facts about Eritrea include:

Eritrea has never held a presidential or national election since independence

Eritrea is a one-party state which gained its independence in 1993. Eritrea has never held regional or local elections since 2004 and national and presidential elections since 1993. Eritrea has had only one president since 1993. President Afwerki Isaias has always expressed his disdain for western-style democracy. The president stated in an interview with Al Jazeera in 2008 that his country will wait for about 4 decades before holding an election. The 75 representatives to the national assembly were elected in 1993 while the rest were appointed.

Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea, is also referred to as New Rome or Italy’s African City

Asmara is referred to as ‘’New Rome’’ because a considerable percentage of the older buildings in Asmara have Italian architecture. After Benito Mussolini took over Eritrea, he tried to convert Asmara to Little Rome. Therefore he built numerous monumental structures with exquisite Italian architecture. The distinctive Italian touch in the city is the effect of Eritrea being colonized by the Italians for a very long time. Currently, over 400 structures have an Italian architectural look including Cinema capitol, Keren Casa-del Fascio, Orthodox cathedral, and the villa in Decemhare among others. Some shops still use Italian names like FerramentaPasticceria moderma, and Bar Vittoria, among others.

Eritrea is home to one of the oldest port cities in Africa

The port city of Adulis is one of the ancient African cities that was established during the time of the Aksumite Kingdom (100AD to 940AD) in Eritrea. Adulis was situated in Zula Gulf along the Red Sea, and approximately 25miles from Massawa. Adulis was one of Aksumite kingdom’s metropolitan cities. The control of this port allowed the Aksumite kingdom to be a leading power in the Red Sea. The ruins of Adulis are found in the present-day city of Zula. Adulis was part of Aksumite and D’mt empires. The Roman merchants used the port during the second and third centuries AD.

Eritrea has no official language

Eritrea is a multilingual state, and its constitution confirms that all languages are equal in the country. Tigrinya is the De facto language of Eritrea which had over 2,540,000speakers in 2006. Tigrinya is widely spoken in the central and southern parts of the country. Other Eritrean national languages include Tig, Nara, Saho, Kunama, Bilen, Beja, Afar, and Arabic. English together with Tigrinya are the de facto working languages, while the government does not recognize Italian (their previous colonial language).

Eritrea was part of the ancient kingdom of Aksum

The kingdom of Axum was an ancient kingdom that was centered in the present-day Tigray Region, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. The kingdom existed between 100AD and 940AD, and its polity was centered in Axum city. Aksum was the leading player in the trade route between Ancient India and the Roman Empire. Aksum is believed to be the home of the Queen-of-Sheba and the resting place of the Ark-of-the-Covenant.

The name of the Eritrean capital city ‘’Asmara’’ means ‘’they made them unite’’

Initially, there were 4clans in the present-day Asmara area: the Gheza Serenser, Gheza Shelele, Gheza Gurton, and the Gheza Asmae. These clans were always being attacked by the communities from the low lands and the leader of the Seger-mereb melash. Therefore the women of these clans decided to unite against their common enemies and preserve their peace. The men agreed thus their name ‘’Arbate Asmara’’. Arbate Asmara is a Tigrinya name which means the ‘’4 made them unite’’.

The name ‘’Eritrea’’ is derived from the Red Sea’s ancient name

The country’s name is based on the Red Sea’s Greek name, and it was first adopted in 1890 when the Italian Eritrea was established. The country’s name is associated with the region's past name Erythrais which relates to the Red Sea’s ancient Greek name Erythraean Sea. The name persisted during the subsequent Ethiopian and British occupation. The name Eritrea was reaffirmed by the country’s independence referendum of 1993.

The highest point in Eritrea is Emba Soira

Emba Soira is the highest mountain in the Eritrea which is about 9,902ft high. Emba Soira is part of the Eritrean highlands, and it is situated on the southeastern side of Debub. The mountain can be accessed using a paved road from Senate city, 83.9miles south of Asmara.

One of the world’s oldest hominids was discovered in Eritrea

A million years old skull with traits associated with both the Homo Sapien and Homo erectus was found in the Afar region in Eritrea. The skull provides a connection between the earliest anatomically modern human beings and the hominids. Before this discovery, the oldest fossil with modern human traits was the 600,000years old, which was excavated in Bodo Ethiopia. The skull was discovered by Ernesto Abbate and an international group of Paleoanthropologists. The almost complete skull, with 2incisors and 2pelvic fragments, were recovered from the ancient river and lake sediments deposited in the volcanic Northern Danakil formation.

Over 30% of the Eritrean freedom fighters were women

The women played an active role in the country’s war of independence, with over 30% of the members of the Eritrean freedom fighters being women. This group had the highest percentage of women than all the other liberation movements on the planet. The independence war was against the Ethiopian forces. The annexation of Eritrea by Ethiopia resulted in the country’s national language being changed to Amharic.


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