192-Part Guide To The World: Eritrea


Official name: Eritrea, so named by 19th-century Italian colonialists who made the country their home until 1941.

Official name: Eritrea, so named by 19th-century Italian colonialists who made the country their home until 1941.

Language: There are so far no official languages in Eritrea but the two main working languages are Arabic and Tigrinya, with various other languages spoken, such as Afar, Bilien, Beja, Kunama, Nara, Saho and Tigre. English is commonly spoken as a foreign language, as is Italian.

Size: About 125,000 square kilometres. Approximately the size of England.

Population: Since independence there has not been a census in Eritrea. With tens of thousands killed in the war and 750,000 thought to have fled the country, a recent population estimate is 2.5 million, though some official estimates put it as high as 3.8 million (including some half a million refugees in Sudan).

National dish: Zigini, a speciality stew can be found all over the country along with various local specialities - often very spicy. Staple foods include kitcha, a thin wheat bread, and injera, a spongy pancake. The port of Massawa, lying to the east of capital Asmara, is renowned for its seafood.

Best monument: Ember EMI is an important pilgrimage site, and is famous for the mausoleums of Sheikh el Amin and Muhammad Ibn Ali.

Most famous citizen: The present president, Isaias Afewerki, who led the country to independence. Until recently hailed as a model reformist, "new" African leader, he is a cousin of the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi. In the past the cousins fought together to overthrow Colonial Mengistu, the Marxist Ethiopian military dictator. More recently the two have fought each other in Africa's biggest border war, damaging all hopes for an African "renaissance".

Best moment in history: May 24 is Liberation Day, when Eritrea celebrates the formal declaration of the country's independence in 1993. After Italian colonial rule ended with the defeat of Italy in the Second World War, Eritrea was federated and later annexed to Ethiopia.

Worst moment in history: More than 40 years of guerrilla fighting against Ethiopia preceded Eritrean independence, leaving 60,000 dead and the economy in a poor state. Border disputes re-emerged two years ago with the introduction of Ethiopia's new currency. The armed conflict, bombing raids and closed borders, have only recently been ended with the ceasefire that was signed on 18 June this year. UN peace keepers will now be deployed in a buffer zone along part of the 600-mile border between the countries.

Essential accessory: An up-to-date map, as war and reconstruction have brought many changes.

What not to do: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is, at present, advising people not to travel to Eritrea. But if you are going, take note that refusing to take coffee with an Eritrean is impolite. This beverage is considered something of a delicacy so if you're offered some, it's not a casual invitation. Be prepared for the coffee ceremony, which includes roasting the beans, to take an hour. And don't leave until you've drunk three cups.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Day In a Page

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore