The shepherd and nomadic people of the Afar

Nature has divided our little blue planet into different continents – whether there are five or seven is open to debate. Africa is definitely one of the largest parts of the world. Ethiopia is one of the 55 African states currently located in the north-east of the continent on the so-called “Horn of Africa”. There are almost 100 different ethnic groups within Ethiopia. One of these is the Afar and their language of the same name.

The Afar make up just over two percent of the total population of Ethiopia, but their fate is exemplary for many of the countless ethnic groups in Ethiopia and Africa as a whole. The Afar were divided into several “nation states” by the arbitrary drawing of borders by the colonial powers without consideration for their settlement area and their nomadic way of life. The effects are still being felt today, as the recently ended civil war has once again made clear.

The pastoral and nomadic Afar people still live mainly from livestock farming. Most of them own a few goats, which are then herded together in large flocks by shepherd boys and girls. Cows, some with meter-long horns, also serve as milk suppliers for the Afar. Those who are a little wealthier keep camels (dromedaries), which in turn are very useful for transporting the belongings of these nomads from A to B.
The round huts of the Afar are an interesting construction made of bent branches covered with several layers of fabric and tarpaulin. If necessary, these tents can be quickly dismantled and transported.

As the Afar do not farm, their diet is rather one-sided. It consists mainly of goat, cow and camel milk.🥛 Meat is also available from time to time, but a goat is expensive (€20 to €30). Injera (pancake flatbread) with shiro (chickpea stew) is also eaten several times a day in the villages and towns.

We are truly enchanted by the beauty of these people. Mostly snow-white teeth, sometimes sharpened to a point and cleaned with wooden sticks. Women and girls with beautiful dresses and braided hairstyles. Young men with round Afro hairstyles, which are extensively groomed with the comb hidden in the hairstyle. The men also wear beautiful wrap-around skirts and what was once the scimitar on the waist belt is now the AK47 (Kalashnikov) on the leather belt around the neck. Not just a weapon to defend the clan and the herd, but rather a status symbol of the young man: AK47 instead of iPhone14.

If you would like to find out more about the Afar and our encounter with them, you can read the report on Bruno’s homepage:

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