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Ethnic Groups of Djibouti

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Afar People of Djibouti

The Afar, or Denakil, are the second largest ethnic group in Djibouti. They speak version of Saho (known as Saho-Afar) which is one of the language groups of the Eastern Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. (Saho-Afar is distinct from the Eastern Cushitic language spoken by Djibouti's largest ethnic group, the Issa.)

The Afar are identified with sparsely populated areas to the north and west of the Gulf of Tadjoura (the indent in the coast of Djibouti). They are also found in neighboring Ethiopia – the combined territory across the two states is known as the Afar triangle. This region holds the Denakil Desert, the name by which the afar as sometimes known.

The Afar, a mostly nomadic people, are believed to have arrived in the region around 300 CE, crossing the Red Sea from the Arabian peninsula. They were collected in Sultanates, many of which still exist today in a largely ceremonial format.

Their nomadic existence was particularly dependent upon livestock: particularly goats, as well as camels and occasionally cattle. They were once split between an elite, land-owning Asaimara ('the Red Men') and the tenant herders or Adoimara ('the White Men').

The Afar are ostensibly Muslim, although rural Adar still hold to many traditional animist practices.

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