The Afar is an African tribe which largely resides in the Horn of Africa. They are also called the Danakil and Adal ethnic groups. The Afar region cuts across Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea. The Afar tribe is made up of nomadic people and they speak the Afar language. They live in independent small kingdoms, each ruled by its own Sultan.
The Afar people are known as the toughest people in the world. For ages, they have lived in a place called the Magma chamber. This is a part of the earth that is super hot and constantly witnesses volcanic eruptions. There is a random tendency that the land in the location could cleave open at any time. Yet, these set of African people have lived, survived and are still surviving there.
To their rescue, however, is the salt deposits from receding lakes in the Afar region. The salt there helps to keep volcanic eruptions in check. Even at that, there is a chance the salt will diminish at some point. Noting this fact, these proudly African people insist on dwelling in this harsh place that they have accepted as their home. Whether there is an earthquake coming sooner or later, the Afar tribe is not budging.
The Afar people are believed to have existed from the 13th-century. Very unique is their traditional hairstyles – the dayta hairstyle. The hairdo is styled and maintained by a butter application. The Afar tribe takes root in the cultural heritage of Afro-Asiatic Muslims.
In Ethiopia for instance, they number about 1,276,867 people, of which 105,551 of them are urban inhabitants. With Climate change, the Afar herdsmen face several sensitive challenges. In Djibouti too, they face a scorching environment and drought. Consequently, they lose some livestock.
In the same way, the harshness of the Afar region can translate into good. It is a great place to derive geothermal energy.
Although they are one of the poorest in the world and among the most fragile region, Afar women look incredibly phenomenal. They are beautiful and most of them are dark-skinned and have stunning long black hair which they simply groom by braiding them in straight lines. The married Afar women wear hair scarfs to cover their hair but the singles are allowed to flaunt their braids.
The women don’t make any effort to glam up their skins yet they have this awesome natural glow that can easily be noticed. Since they are basically Muslims, Afar women don’t dress edgy. While some of them go bare-breasted (something we don’t think is typical of Muslims) with just collar neck pieces for adornments and as a way of displaying their wealth, a majority of them cover up their whole body leaving out just their faces for the world.
At first glance, the women look fragile but surprisingly, they are among the strongest in the world, given the inhospitable conditions they have to survive in.
First, they have to endure the harsh weather conditions with no roof over their heads to protect them from the harshness of the sun. This is because they live in oval-shaped camps usually like wanderers. The camps are created with horn barricades to keep wild animals and rivalry tribes or the enemy off. The huts also known as ari are built with palm mats.
Secondly, the women are also tasked with the responsibility of setting up the camps which they can easily carry on camels during relocation.
Additionally, Afar women are the ones with the responsibility of milking the goats and making liquid butter from the animals. Apart from that, Afar women run the homes and are the musicians of the tribe.
The frightening thing is that these women also have to endure beatings from their husbands. An afar man could flog his wife primarily for losing a goat or failing to get the meal ready before he comes home. Sadly, in Afar tradition, no one is supposed to interfere when a husband is beating up his wife for doing something wrong.
People here have to make some demanding efforts to access sustainable food due to some environmental concerns. Similarly, getting potable water is a challenge as they don’t have painless access to clean water. However, meat and milk are a staple in Afar people’s food menu. They also use milk as a vital ingredient for entertaining guests. In fact, giving a guest a cup of warm milk means that the guest is safe in your house as the milk implies that the host will give him or her immediate protection. Where the person gets killed eventually while still in the house of the host, his or her death will be avenged as if they were a member of the family.
Afar Tradition and Culture
In Afar, people prefer to marry their first cousins which is common among Semitic people. But they follow the father’s clan instead of the mother’s clan. Despite the close relationship in marriage, divorce rates remain high.
Another strange tradition here is the stitching of the female vulva (infibulation). This type of circumcision is also carried out in some parts of Bantu and Cushite communities. In the same way, boys go through the process to be able to control their sexual urge.
Additionally, Afar people use camels as their basic means of transportation but hardly ride them. Instead, they prefer to use them to carry their loads.
Challenges the people face
Covering the challenges of this tribe will take almost forever for its massive scope. But as mentioned earlier, a majority of Afar men are usually graziers, raising sheep, cows and goats in the desert while others mine salt and sell in neighbouring towns. Some of them who live close to the Red Sea depend on fishing as their main source of livelihood. This is an indication of the little or no development and education they have seen so far.
Afar women are more prone to problems associated with women’s health when compared to some other communities. Generally, the people face a persistent potential of severe drought or flooding with growing presence of infectious diseases like HIV.
The government has tried to get the people of Afar to settle in one place but has seen no success in that venture. While some still live in Aussa Oasis, some of them have gained access to modern economies. Those who have embraced modern ways of life are doing their best to bring basic awareness to the community. But we feel more should be done to get them more informed.