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Eritrea, Africa
Hagärä Ertra
State of Eritrea


Quick Facts About the Country
Capital - Asmara
Government - transitional; single-party democracy 
Currency - nakfa (ERN)
Area - 121,320 sq km
Population - 4,786,994 (July 2006 est.) 
Language - Afar, Amharic, Arabic, Tigre and Kunama, Tigrinya, other Cushitic languages
Religion - Muslim, Coptic Christian, Roman Catholic, Protestant
Calling Code +291
Internet TLD .er 
Time Zone  UTC +3

Country Background
The State of Eritrea is a country in Northern east Africa. The name is derived from the Latin word for Red Sea, Mare Erythraeum. The country is bordered by the Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast. The east and northeast of the country have an extensive coastline with the Red Sea across which lie Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Eritrea also includes the Dahlak Archipelago and several of the Hanish Islands.

Modern Eritrea was consolidated into a colony by the Italian government on January 1, 1890. Contemporary Eritrea gained its Independence from Ethiopia after a thirty year war which began on September 1, 1961 ending on May 29, 1991. The peoples of Eritrea share a long and complex history with neighboring peoples.

Eritrea is officially a parliamentary democracy consisting of six regions and defines itself as a multilingual and multicultural nation. The two dominant religions are Orthodox Christianity and Sunni Islam; there are nine nationalities, each with a different language. There is no official language in Eritrea, rather it has three working languages, Tigrinya, Arabic, and English, and Italian is still sometimes spoken as a commercial language. Eritrea is also a mineral rich country with large deposits of gold, silver and copper.
(Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)

Weather and Climate
The narrow coastal plain receives little rainfall and is extremely hot. The Denakil Depression in the southeast falls below sea level and has been the site of some of the highest temperatures recorded on earth.

To the west, the coastal plain rises sharply to the highland plateau, where altitudes range from 1,830 to 2,440 m (6,000 to 8,000 ft) above sea level and annual rainfall is significantly higher than at the coast. The hill country north and west of the core plateau ranges from about 760 to 1,370 m (about 2,500 to 4,500 ft) above sea level, and it generally receives less rainfall than the plateau. The broad plains lie to the west of the Baraka River and north of the Setit River.
(Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003 and Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)

Major Travel and Tourism Info (Country Travel Guide)
Eritrea 101 (Basics)
Eritrea was awarded to Ethiopia in 1952 as part of a federation. Ethiopia's annexation of Eritrea as a province 10 years later sparked a 30-year struggle for independence that ended in 1991 with Eritrean rebels defeating governmental forces; independence was overwhelmingly approved in a 1993 referendum. A two-and-a-half-year border war with Ethiopia that erupted in 1998 ended under UN auspices in December 2000. Eritrea currently hosts a UN peacekeeping operation that is monitoring a 25 km-wide Temporary Security Zone on the border with Ethiopia. An international commission, organized to resolve the border dispute, posted its findings in 2002 but final demarcation is on hold due to Ethiopian objections.

Southern Red Sea
Northern Red Sea

Asmara (Asmera)
Assab (Aseb)
Massawa (Mits'iwa)

At the head of Ethiopian north-south trending highlands, descending on the east to a coastal desert plain, on the northwest to hilly terrain and on the southwest to flat-to-rolling plains. Eritrea retained the entire coastline of Ethiopia along the Red Sea upon declaring independence from Ethiopia in 1993.

Traveling by plane
A number of airlines make a number of flights to the capital Asmara. Eritrean Airlines is the major airline flying to Eritrea at this time. The airline flies to a number of destination in Africa, Europe and Asia. The service is well rated.

By boat
Ports and harbors: Assab (Aseb), Massawa (Mits'iwa)
(Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)

History in Brief: Summary
Pre-colonial and Colonial Period
The earliest food-producing inhabitants of Eritrea are thought to have moved from the Nile valley into the Mereb-Setit lowlands in about 4000 bc. Over the next several thousand years, Eritrea experienced migrations of Nilotic, Cushitic, and Semitic-speaking peoples into what became one of the earliest regions of crop and livestock domestication in Africa.

From as early as 3000 bc, Eritrea was involved in trade on the Red Sea. In the 4th century ad Eritrea was a part of the ancient Ethiopian kingdom of Aksum. It flourished as a semi-independent state under nominal Ethiopian sovereignty until it was annexed in the 16th century by the expanding Ottoman Empire.

Eritrea was established as an Italian colony on January 1, 1890. Italian rule lasted until World War II (1939-1945) when British forces conquered the territory. British military administration lasted from 1941 until 1952 when the United Nations decided to federate Eritrea with Ethiopia as a compromise between Ethiopian claims for annexation and Eritrean demands for independence. Once in control, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie moved to end Eritrean autonomy, and by 1962 Eritrea was transformed into an Ethiopian province.

War for Independence
The dissolution of federation called forth a militant nationalist resistance from a people subjected to continued colonial domination. The Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), founded in 1958, had proclaimed an armed struggle in September 1961 in favor of independence from Ethiopian control.

The war with Ethiopia proved long and destructive. Since 1970, much of Eritrea has experienced famine conditions on several occasions, the result of drought and the disruption of war. Organizational and ideological differences produced splits and civil strife within the ELF, culminating in the late 1970s with the emergence of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) as a disciplined and effective military challenge to the Ethiopian government.

Following the Ethiopian revolution of 1974, its new regime continued attempts to defeat the EPLF militarily, now with Soviet and Cuban assistance. Nevertheless, Ethiopian forces controlled only the main urban centers, and from 1980 the EPLF increasingly gained the upper hand.

In 1990 the EPLF captured Massawa, and in the following year it took control of Asmara. Accepted internationally as a provisional government, the EPLF agreed to hold a referendum on independence that was also approved by the new Ethiopian government. The referendum in April 1993 provided a virtually unanimous vote in favor of independence. On May 28, 1993, the United Nations formally admitted Eritrea to its membership.

Independent Eritrea
Since independence Eritrea has frequently been at odds with neighboring Sudan. Shortly after independence Eritrea accused Sudan of supporting radical Islamic groups in Eritrea, and Sudan accused Eritrea of harboring Sudanese rebel groups.

In late 1994 Eritrea claimed Sudan was training terrorists to overthrow the Eritrean government, while Sudan made the first of a series of accusations that Sudanese rebels, assisted by the Eritrean army, were invading Sudan from Eritrea. The two countries severed diplomatic relations in December 1994.

In December 1995 Eritrea invaded the Yemeni-held island of Ḩānīsh al Kabīr (Greater Hanish Island), claiming ownership of the strategically located Hanish Islands at the southern mouth of the Red Sea. After a brief skirmish, in 1996 the two countries agreed to submit the question of ownership of the islands to international arbitration. In 1998 the arbitration panel awarded the Hanish Islands to Yemen, and Eritrea withdrew its forces.

In mid-1998 clashes broke out between Eritrea and former ally Ethiopia along the countries’ border, each country accusing the other of seizing territory. Hundreds of thousands of Eritrean and Ethiopian troops were sent to the border, which had not been precisely delineated when Eritrea became independent from Ethiopia in 1993.

By early 1999 the dispute had become a bitter war. Tens of thousands of soldiers were killed in the fighting before the countries declared a ceasefire in June 2000. During and after the war, the Ethiopian Government expelled Eritreans and those of Eritrean heritage from Ethiopia.

The Eritrean-Ethiopian War ended in 2000 with a negotiated agreement known as the Algiers Agreement, which assigned an independent, UN-associated boundary commission known as the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) with the task of delimiting and demarcating the boundary. The EEBC issued a final border ruling in April 2002, but the border demarcation and delineation remains a problem today.

In spite of initially promising economic and political strides, the Eritrean government cracked down on the free press and on opposition in 2001 when questions about the conduct of the war were raised. The government also failed to implement the new constitution and to hold long-promised elections. Later, the government of Eritrea enforced the Italian colonial practice of requiring government approval of all practiced religions.
(Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003 and Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)

Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003
The World Factbook 2006
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc

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