RACES AND TRIBES OF ERITREA
Administration – ERITREA
Dr. S. F. NADEL
ASMARA 15th. January 1944
Dar Al – Mesira –
P. O. Box 195299
Beirut – Lebanon
Islam numbers 72,000 adherents on the Eritrean Plateau. It is represented by two ethnic bodies: first, the Mohammedan, Saho-speaking tribes which live as immigrants in the Plateau Divisions; secondly, the sect of the JIBERTI (the" ELECT"), which is settled in small groups throughout the country.
The JIBERTI are ethnically identical with the Coptic inhabitants of the Plateau, and speak their language, Tigrinya. They trace their conversion to one MOHAMMED EL NEGASH, a self-appointed disciple of the Prophet, of Abyssinian origin, said to have lived at the time of the Hejira. Mohammed EL NEGASH is buried in the Tigrai near ADDIGRAT, and his tomb has become a place of pilgrimage for all MOHAMMEDANS of JIBERTI persuasion.
Copts and Catholics rarely intermarry; Christians and MOHAMMEDANS HARDLY EVER; but apart from … The Copts and MOHAMMEDANS communities seems STATIC. Its said that, in the past, certain tribes were converted from COPTIC Christianity to ISLAM (e.g. the MINIFERI in the Akele-Guzai) while others exchanged Islam for Coptic Christianity: TODAY, LARGE-SCALE CONVERSIONS OF EITHER KIND NO LONGER HAPPEN.
Of Asmara little need be said except that its population numbers over 140,000, of which over 100,000 are non-Europeans of diverse descent and race. The majority of the native inhabitants of Asmara are Eritreans Copts (about 70,000), but there are also, many Eritrean MOHAMMEDANS, SAHO and JIBERTI origin (over 25,000), and a few Catholics of Ethiopian Rite (1900); there are finally, considerable sections of non-Eritrean descent, above all. Ethiopians, Sudanese and Yemeni Arabs. Their professions are of the great diversity typical of large towns.
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The district of Dekki Teshim includes two suburbs of Asmara Godaif and Gajjiret. The two most important villages in the rural part of the district are Addi Sogdo, the capital of the district, and Tsada Kristian. Dekki Teshim is a rich agricultural district, though it had to cede much of its fertile land to the township of Asmara.
Many of the people in the districts, too, seek their live hood in the town. With the exception of a few JIBERTI MOHAMMEDANS and a small group of Protestant convert of Swedish Mission, the population is COPTIC.
MINABE ZERAI. The majority of the people are Coptic Christians; there are also small groups of MOHAMMEDANS and CATHOLICS.
DEMBEZAN. The large majority of the people are Copts, though there is the usual admixture of MOHAMMEDANS and CATHOLICS.
AD TEKLEZAN. A Quarter of the population is MOHAMMEDAN, of JIBERTI persuasion; the rest are Copts, though there are a few CATHOLICS.
KARNESHIM. Karneshim North has a small Mohammedans minority.
ANSEBA. With exception of small Moslem minority, the people are Copts.
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In pre-Italian times, Adi Ugri was a small village, situated on the hill now occupied by Italian fort. In 1894, the modern town was founded, as a military and administrative centre, and the old village was moved to its present site. Adi Ugri is to day an important market town, with population of 2200, half COPT and half MOHAMMEDAN. Among the MOHAMMEDANS, there are men of JIBERTI extraction,
The main villages are ARREZA (the chief’s village). ADDEBAI, TSADA ADI, ADI AHSA, MELAD MANTE (with a MOHAMMEDANS POPULATION).
ZAID AKOLOM. A large and moderately fertile district, with a scattered population (5000). It has one large village, TUKUL. A few MOHAMMEDANS live in the small village of ADI KENTIB;
ANAGIR. The people number 2000 and are in roughly equal proportion COPTS and MOHAMMEDANS. The COPTS are of diverse descent, the MOHAMMEDANS are of JEBERTI and ASSAORTA extraction.
The district has only one large village, ABI ADI, which is ALL MOHAMMEDAN. This small but rich district formed in Ethiopian times the…
TSELLIMA. Borders on the LOGGO CHWA district in the HAMASIEN, and formed up to the time of the Italian occupation part of that Division and district. The people (numbering 12,000) claim common descent with those of LOGGO CHWA in the HAMASIEN and LOGGO SARDA in the Akele-Guzai, and also follow the law of logo Chwa. By religion, they are COPTS, but there is a considerable group of recently converted PROTESTANTS, and numerous JIBERTI MOHAMMEDANS of Tigrai extraction live in several villages. Many of these Mohammedans recently emigrated to Asmara and the west for lack of land. For though very fertile,
DOBUB. The population, 5000 strong, is of same descent as that of the district GUHCHA. The majority of the people are COPTS, there are also three MOHAMMEDAN villages peopled by JIBERTI and ASSAORTA.
DEMBELAS. The district lies in the dry and barren northwest corner of the corner of the country on the AGORDAT border. It is rich in livestock, but poor in agricultural land. Like the people of Liban, another district bordering on Agordat, the people of Dembelas cultivate across the frontier and claim resti rights in that area. The Population numbers 6,600 and is largely COPTIC; JIBERTI and ASSAORTA form a small MOHAMMEDAN minority. The main villages are Adi Tsetser (the residence of the Chief), Kennan Koba, and Mai Mefalis.
TERAIMNI. (Population1800) was gulti of GODEFELASSE, peopled by dependents of Enda Asgodom. Among them are a few MOHAMMEDANS, descendants of the people of SENAFE
MAI TSADA. This names comprised originally three territories, which are today independent districts the MAI TSADA. Enda AZMACH OGBIT and DEKKI BOKRI. The people in all three districts are akin, descended from ADKEME and MELEGA…. The majority of the people are COPTS; there is a MOHAMMEDANS minority as well as a group of Catholics of Ethiopian Rite.
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AILA. A small district, bordering on Kohain, with only six villages and a population of 1100. The majority are Copts, and there are a few JIBERTI MOHAMMEDANS
ADI CAIEH. (in vernacular ADD GHAYER), originally a small village, became the administrative centre and a modern township in 1892. With its foundation. TOKONDA lost its former importance, though it still remains the official residence of the Chief. Like all towns, ADI CAIEH has a heterogeneous population, composed of COPTS and CATHOLICS, MOHAMMEDANS of JIBERTI persuasion, ASSAORTA tribesmen and ARABS from YEMEN and HADRAMOUT.
METS’HE. The people of Mets’he are largely Copts, though there is a small Catholic settlement at BIRKITO, and a very old colony of JIBERTI MOHAMMEDAN at COATIT.
SAGANEITI. In Saganeiti there also a few JIBERTI MOHAMMEDANS.
ADI GULTI. The majority are Copts; The MOHAMMEDAN minority, of JIBERTI sect, has given the district its hereditary chiefs. The main settlements are BARAKIT (the residence of the chief). BIHAT, ADDI ATAL and EGRI MANDA:
COLONIA CATTOLICA. The population numbers only 700, and includes a few families of COPTS and MOHAMMEDANS, which live as "guest" in the CATHOLIC colony.
DEBBAR ISLAM. Another "autonomous village". It lies on the hill north of AKRAN, and its barren lands stretch to the west, to the ETHIOPIAN border. The population, 250 in number, is MOHAMMEDAN, of JIBERTI persuasion. IN THE TIME OF EMPEROR JOHN, THE PEOPLE WERE FORCED TO ADOPT COPTIC CHRISTIANITY, BUT AFTER THE ITALIAN OCCUPATION, THEY REVERTED TO OLD FAITH. AT THAT TIME, TOO, DEBBAR ISLAM ("HILL of the MOHAMMEDANS") was made autonomous under its own chief.