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ERITREA, AFRICA - TRAVEL & SAFARI GUIDE

Women Repairing Road on Hillside, Eritrea
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TRAVEL READING ON AFRICA:
Eritrea is a country in northern East Africa bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast. The east and northeast of the country have an extensive coastline on the Red Sea, directly across from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The Dahlak Archipelago and several of the Hanish Islands are part of Eritrea.  Eritrea was consolidated into a colony by the Italian government on January 1, 1890. The modern state of Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia following a thirty-year war which lasted from 1961 to 1991. Eritrea's constitution adopted in 1997 stipulates that the state is a presidential republic with a unicameral parliamentary democracy. The constitution, however, was never ratified.
Eritrea is a multilingual and multicultural country with two dominant religions (Sunni Islam and Oriental Orthodox Christianity) and nine ethnic groups. The country has no official language, but it has three working languages: Tigrinya, Arabic, and English.
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Boy Deacon on Duty at Meskal Festival Wearing Traditional Priestly Garb, Asmara, Eritrea
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Mosque of Nakfa Exterior, Nakfa, Eritrea
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Portrait of Girl Riding Home from Market Near Tessenei, Eritrea
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The history of the land that is now called Eritrea, in one way or another, is associated with its coastline on the Red Sea, which extends more than 1000 km. From across the seas came various invaders (and colonizers) such as the South Arabians hailing from the present-day Yemen area, the Ottoman Turks, the Portugese from Goa (India), the Egyptians, the British and, in the 19th century, the Italians. Over the centuries, invaders also came from the neighboring countries of Africa to the south (Ethiopia) and to the west (Sudan). However, present-day Eritrea was largely impacted by the Italian invaders in the 19th century.

In the period following the opening of the Suez canal in 1869, when European powers scrambled for territory in Africa and tried to establish coaling stations for their ships, Italy invaded and occupied Eritrea. On January 1, 1890 Eritrea offically became a colony of Italy. In 1936 it became a province of Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana), along with Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland. The British armed forces expelled those of Italy in 1941 and took over the administration of the country which had been set up by the Italians. The British continued to administer the territory under a UN Mandate until 1951 when Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia as per UN resolution 390(A) under the prompting of the United States adopted in December 1950; the resolution was adopted after a referendum to consult the people of Eritrea.

The strategic importance of Eritrea because of its Red Sea coastline and mineral resources was the main cause for the federation with Ethiopia, which was the first step in the annexing of Eritrea as its 14th province in 1962. This was the culmination of a gradual process of takeover by the Ethiopian authorities, a process which included a 1959 edict establishing the compulsory teaching of Amharic, the main language of Ethiopia, in all Eritrean schools. The lack of regard for the Eritrean population led to the formation of an independence movement in the early 1960s, which erupted into a 30-year war against successive Ethiopian governments that ended in 1991. Following a UN-supervised referendum in Eritrea (dubbed UNOVER) in which the Eritrean people overwhelmingly voted for independence, Eritrea declared its independence and gained international recognition in 1993.

English is used in the government's international communication and is the language of instruction in all formal education beyond the fifth grade.

Eritrea is a single-party state. Though its constitution, adopted in 1997, stipulates that the state is a presidential republic with a unicameral parliamentary democracy, it has yet to be implemented. According to the government, this is due to the prevailing border conflict with Ethiopia, which began in May 1998.


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