The Afar people also known as the Adali, Odali or Danakil (now considered offensive) inhabited the region of Ethiopia, Northern Djibouti and the entire Southern coast of Eritrea. They speak the Afar language and are part of the Cushitic branch of the Afroasiatic family.
They are mostly centered on clan families led by elders. Clans can be fluid and even include outsiders like the Issa clan. There are two main classes; the Asaimara (reds) and the Adoimara (whites). The Asaimara are the dominant class politically while the Adoimara are the working class and are found in the Mabla Mountains. They are organized in patrilineal kin groups.
They are mainly livestock holders; they rear mostly cattles and sometimes goats and other livestocks. Their diet majorly consists of meat and dairy, sometimes they supplement with agriculture.
These people are reputed for their martial prowess. The men traditionally carry the Jile; a famous curved knife and they have an extensive repertoire of battle songs. They once helped Emperor Amda Seyon in a campaign beyond the Awash River and also assisted Emperor Baeda Maryam when he campaigned against their neighbors the Dobe’a.
The male counterparts manage the herds and the household and are in charge of selling the livestocks with permission from their wives while the wife fetches water, grinds grain and prepares food in the house; they are also actively involved in the preparation of temporary shelters (Senan Ari) for newly married couples. The children assume prominent roles in herding and other related activities. You can barely see a man with children very present in the role of herding.
Their hairstyles are very unique; there are two distinctive hairstyles- Asdago and Dayta. The Asdago appears to be an afro, looks ashy because of the butter applied; the butter protects the hair from the very harsh sun there. The Dayta hairstyle appears curly and the curls are created with sticks or straws. The women usually carry intricate frizzed and braided styles.
The men dress in cotton Toga and the women wear their colorful beaded necklaces, heavy earrings and brass anklets. Many of the women cover their hair in public as it helps ward off the relentless sun.
There are three types of marriages; the inter clan marriages, the cross cousin marriage (absuma) and the leviratic marriage. Inter-clan marriage is the marriage between people from different clans. The cross cousin marriage is usually the strongest because they believe that when there is a conflict you will not inflict a lot of pain on “blood”. The leviratic marriage is known as the widow inheritance.
The betrothal for marriage engagement may begin during childhood, this is done following a nominal payment in cash. The actual marriage takes place much later. There is a transfer of bride wealth known as Alekum which costs 1000 birr or more. The wedding is held in the house of the bride’s family.
Dance is quite important to the people of this culture; it supports important moments in their lives. The Laale dance is performed exclusively by men, the Malabo is performed exclusively by the women while the Keeke is performed by both men and women.
Every adult is culturally obligated to serve as a news man; when two people meet each other on the road, they sit down and discuss what they have witnessed while coming. They talk about the economy and politics and exchange information. Even when two people that are in conflict pass, they must sit down and exchange information. One will say to the other “our dispute will be resolved under a tree by a mediator on any day allah pleases but for now let us tell each other what we saw on our way”. They mostly practice the islamic religion. Their culture is such a beautiful one.