The Afar people also known as Adal, Adali, Oda’ali, Teltal and Dankali are Cushitic-nomadic people located in the East African countries of Djibouti, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. The Afar (Danakil) claim to be descendants of Ham (Noah's son). They prefer to be known as the Afar, since the Arabic word "danakil" is an offensive term to them. They are a proud people, emphasizing a man's strength and bravery. Prestige comes, as it always has, from killing one's enemies.
The Afar people are warrior tribe and are very good at using knives and daggers in a warfare. They love their culture and respects their laws. There is a proverb in Afar that says: (koo liih anii macinay kamol ayyo mogolla) which means "I accept you in my home as a brother but I do not accept that you put my authority questioned" and therefore the Afar have still not agreed to be humble, being crushed, therefore they are in conflict with the rest of ethnic groups.
One of the Afar's claims to fame is due to an anthropological find in the Afar Depression. In 1974, anthropologists discovered a new species' of man at Hadar in the Awash Valley in Ethiopia. This new species was termed Australopithecus afarensis ("afar ape-man"), and is believed to have walked around Eastern Africa between 2.9 to 3.8 million years ago. The body was found to be female and named Lucy. Lucy was able to walk upright on a human-like body but still retained a small ape-like head and primitive teeth.
The Afar principally reside in the Danakil Desert in the Afar Region of Ethiopia, as well as in Eritrea and Djibouti. They number 1,276,867 people in Ethiopia (or 1.73% of the total population), of whom 105,551 are urban inhabitants, according to the most recent census (2007). The Afar make up over a third of the population of Djibouti, and are one of the nine recognized ethnic divisions (kililoch) of Ethiopia.
The Afar consist of two subgroups: the Asaemara ("red ones"), who are the more prestigious and powerful nobles living primarily in the area of Assayita; and the Adaemara ("white ones"), who are the commoners living in the desert areas. Those who live in the desert inhabit one of the most rugged regions in the world, known as the Afar Plain or the Danakil Desert.
One area, called the Danakil Depression, consists of a vast plain of salt pans and active volcanoes. Much of it lies 200 feet below sea level and has daily temperatures as high as 125 degrees F. The average yearly rainfall is less than seven inches.
Afars speak the Afar language as a mother tongue. It is part of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family, and is spoken by ethnic Afars in the Afar Region of Ethiopia, as well as in southern Eritrea and northern Djibouti. However, since the Afar are traditionally nomadic herders, Afar speakers may be found further
Adal, Adali, Oda’ali, Teltal and Dankali are names traditionally given to the Afar by neighbouring people. The Amhara, Oromo and Somali respectively borrowed the names Adal, Adali and Oda’ali, which sounds the same as the ancestor of the dynasty and the son of Hadal Mahis, Ado’ali (Afar: white Ali).
Afar society has traditionally been organized into independent kingdoms, each ruled by its own Sultan.The earliest surviving written mention of the Afar is from the 13th century Arab writer Ibn Sa'id, who reported that they lived in the area around the port of Suakin, as far south as Mandeb, near Zeila. Similarly, due to historic commercial contacts between Arabian sailors and the Dankali clan located around Baylul, who ruled the Kingdom of Dankali (15th–17th century), Arabs gave the name Danakil to all the Afar across the Red Sea Coast. Teltal however is a derogatory name used by Tigrigna highlanders that derived from the Tigrigna word ‘Menteltal’, meaning hanging-down (of breast) in order to describe women of the lowland Afar as uncivilized because they did not cover their bodies from the waist up.
Despite all the names, the Afar invariably call themselves ‘Afar’, which has no meaning in the Afar language. Rainmondo Franchetti relates the word ‘Afar’ to the mythical Ophir the 11th, in the order of son of Joktan, son of Shem, son of Noah. Whereas the Afar rather believe themselves to be in the line of the generation of Kush, son of Ham, son of Noah, who were among ‘the first Kushites to move from their original home and settle in the Danakil Depression’ (Murdock 1959: 319).
Moreover many argued that the biblical land of Ophir, the land rich in Gold is located in India or South Arabia rather than being that of the Afarland in the African Horn. Didier Morin designates the name Afar as having a possible but forgotten link with the Omani group called Afar or lfar. AL-Shami argued that the name Afar might be drawn from the South Yemenis Ma’fara sub-clan of the Hameda tribe who were the traditional rulers of Ardel Huria territory in the east of Bab-el-Mandeb across the Afar coasts on the Red Sea.
BY: Kweku Darko Ankrah