The Horn of Africa might be the most conspicuous segment on the African map, but only a little is known about the region. Most people, in fact, know it as the region that’s always in a consistent warfare, or that region that’s overridden by drought and all sorts of adversities. To clear such miscalculated assumptions, read on!
Before the region came to be known as the Horn of Africa (abbreviated as HOA), it used to go by the name of Bilad al Barbar (literally translated to mean the Land of the Berbers). That’s because the region was anciently inhabited by the Eastern Barbaroi or Baribah (Berbers)—as referred to by the ancient Greek and the Medieval Arabs respectively. It later came to be referred to as the Horn of Africa by the pre-colonial British Immigrants who got the name from the horn-shape appearance of this land from the map of Africa.
Where is the Horn of Africa Located?
It’s a region that juts into the Arabian Sea, sideways along the Southern region of the Gulf-of-Aden. In short, if you look at the map of Africa, this is the easternmost flange on the map, protruding 100km into the Indian Ocean.
Countries in the Horn of Africa
The term the Horn of Africa, to begin with, denotes the peninsula in the North-eastern part of Africa, comprising four different countries: Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Eritrea.
Notwithstanding their similar geographic endowments, their linguistic and ethnic connection, as well as their evincing pattern of interrelationship, residents of this region are what anyone would term as diverse. To be specific, Djibouti alone has 10 different ethnic groups, Eritrea has 14, Somalia has 15, and lastly, there’s Ethiopia with 90 ethnic groups. However, despite their cultural differences, most of these groups speak Afro-Asiatic languages of either the Semitic or the Cushitic branch.
For Cushitic branches, there’s Oromo—spoken by the Ethiopian Oromo, and Somali—the language of the Somali people in Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Somalia. For the Semitic branch, there’s Amharic—spoken by the Ethiopian Amhara people, and Tigrinya—spoken by both the Ethiopian and Eritrean Tigrinya people. The remaining Afro-Asiatic languages for this region include Saho, Hadivya, Afar, Agaw, and Sidamo for the Cushitic branch, as well as Gurage, Tigre, Argobba, and Silt’e for the Semitic branch.
Scholars have suggested that this region is most likely the region the Ancient Egyptian referred to as Punt or NetJeru (meaning god’s land). The ancient Puntites, whose historical records indicate a close relationship with Pharaonic Egypt, are believed to have inhabited the region during the reign Queen Hatshepsut and Pharaoh Sahure.
Also noted is the D’mt kingdom, which apparently dominated Eritrea and the Northern part of Ethiopia during the 7th and 8th centuries BC. With its capital at Yeha, the kingdom introduced irrigation schemes, made iron weapons and tools, and also grew millet. Lastly, there’s the Aksum kingdom—also referred to as the Aksumite Empite—which apparently was a primeval state situated in the highlands of present-day Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Horn of Africa Facts
1. The four countries that make up the Horn of Africa have played a major role in developing a number of cultural and modern drifts in different fields including art, architecture, cuisine, music technology, literature, and theology—just to mention a few. But for one, Ethiopia is known for being the origin of Coffee, as well as the antique art used in Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity. Other than that, Ethiopians also introduced the first known use of Teff—in making a sort of flatbread that natives refer to as Injera–between 4000 to 1000 BCE.
The region is also acknowledged for producing tons of indigenous writing systems, with the most notable one being the Ge’ez. Actually, the Ge’ez—also known as Ethiopic—is an Abugida script that was initially devised to craft the Ge’ez language.
Another astounding cultural trait of the people from this region is their unique mode of music, commonly referred to as Qenet by the natives. It generally consists of four major models; bati major, tezeta bati, anchihoy and lastly, ambassel.
2. The residents of this region have for long been practicing either one of the 3 major Abrahamic faiths. But before these religions became prevalent in the land, the Ancient Axum could produce stelae and coins that bore the crescent-shaped symbols of Ashtar, the deity. This kingdom would later turn out to be one of the first states to embrace Christianity–during the 4th century CE after King Ezana II converted to Christianity.
Then shortly after the Hijra, Islam got introduced into the region from the Arabian Peninsula. This was after a number of persecuted Muslims fled to this region in the late 800s, where they were granted protection by King Ashama Ibn Abjar.
3. In 1869–during the opening of the Suez Canal–when every European nation was scrambling for a titbit of Africa, Italy Invaded Eritrea and successfully made it its colony on January 1st, 1890. But in 1896 when they tried to intrude other territories of the Horn, they were decisively stopped by the Ethiopian force, which was actually a force to be dreaded at that time. And in 1941, Commonwealth in conjunction with the newly formed Ethiopian Patriotic Resistance managed to expel the Italian force from Eritrea. This placed Eritrea under the British administration until 1951 when Ethiopia managed to federate it, under the prompting of United States in 1950 as per the UN resolution.
Present-Day Djibouti—from 1862 to 1894—used to be ruled by Somali and the Afar Sultans—local authorities that worked with France from 1883 to 1887 in a bid to set a footing in the region. This went on until 1894 when a permanent French government was established in Djibouti by Leonce Lagarde.
4. The economy of this region is dependent on a number of key exports; for instance, the economy of Ethiopia depends on coffee, which translates to about 80% its total exports. Then there’s the Economy of Somali that largely depends on livestock and banana—accounting for over 50% of its aggregate exports.
Also worth mentioning is the cross-border trade between the countries of this region, which apparently is undocumented and unofficial, notwithstanding an estimated revenue of $250 million it generates for the involved countries.
5. Apparently, Horn of Africa has over 220 different species of animals. Among them, we have the baboon, Hamadryas, Ammodile, Desert Warthog, the Somali Wild Ass, and the Somali Pygmy Gerbil. Those that are threatened by extinction include the silver dikdik, the dibatag, the Speke’s gazelle, and the beira.
6. The Horn of Africa has so far managed to produce a good number of world-renowned spots icons. Among them, we have long distance runners like Derartu Tulu (the first woman from Ethiopia to win an Olympic Gold Medal) and Kenenisa Bekele (the only woman to have won the 10, 000-meter Olympic twice). Another famous athlete from this region is Haile Gebrselassie, acclaimed in 1998 for being the “athlete of the year’ by IAAF (International Association of Athletes Federation).