Customs and traditions
Customs and traditions vary between different
regions and people groups in Eritrea. There are cultural
divides mainly between Christian residents of the
highlands and Muslims in the lowlands.
At the same time, the Italian colonial era and the
long liberation war have helped to create a common
Eritrean identity that many are guarding. Despite the
difficult living conditions, many feel proud of their
Overview of the capital city of Eritrea, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
Culturally, Eritreans in the highlands have much in
common with the residents of the Ethiopian highlands.
The Lowland people share customs and traditions with
neighbors on the other side of the border with both
Ethiopia, Djibouti and Sudan. In general, education and
occupation give status, which creates a relatively large
opportunity for social mobility. Respect for the elderly
Eritreans only use first names. The second name that
looks like our last name is in fact the father's first
name. Whoever wants to be formal adds ato (sir)
before a man's first name and weizero (wife)
before a woman's name.
In a conversation you can conveniently inquire about
how the opposing party's family is doing. You can also
ask which village an Eritrean comes from - virtually
everyone identifies with a village even though they
never set foot there. Among those to avoid discussing at
all are the strained relations with Ethiopia.
When greeting you usually shake hands, especially in
the highlands, and at the same time say the greeting
salaam (peace). Sometimes you can easily touch the
counterparty's right shoulder during the handshake. War
veterans - and they are many - have a special way of
greeting: they hold each other's right hands and
disappoint each other with their shoulder three times.
It is considered proof of great friendship. Especially
in the cities, there are also hugs and light cheeks,
even between men and women. Muslims often kiss each
other's right hands.
Men and boys who are friends often perform hand in
hand. Eritreans are generally more used to close
physical contact than Westerners, and are often closer
to each other when they speak. However, seeing an
unknown person in the eyes can be seen as disrespectful.
Only the right hand is used for eating and gesturing. It
is considered unfair to point to a person. If you press
your fingers you show that you agree.
It is advantageous for a meeting to arrive in time,
although it may prove that you have to wait for the
Eritrean to meet. Foreigners are expected to be
punctual. It is important to greet everyone if you enter
a room, even if a meeting is already in progress.
Coffee ceremony and meals
A guest is always invited for coffee, which is served
according to a special ceremony and during conversation.
Raw coffee beans should be roasted over glowing charcoal
and then ground into mortar. Then the coffee is slowly
cooked before it is poured into minimal cups and served
with a lot of sugar. Popcorn is often served with coffee
- salty or sweet. The process of roasting, grinding,
brewing and enjoying takes over an hour. Whoever
politely declines coffee is offered tea instead.
Before a meal, a dish or mug of water is often worn
for hand washing. You wash both hands or just the right
hand. It is common for children and adults to eat
separately from each other, at least in the highlands.
At the start of the meal, the eldest man takes a piece
of bread, blesses it and then gives a piece to everyone
present. Eating is done from a common dish which is
placed on a low table. You use your right hand and take
food that is directly in front of yourself on the dish.
It is considered a kind gesture if you scoop up food and
put it in the mouth of someone else at the table.
The cuisine is varied and very similar to that in
Ethiopia. What you eat depends largely on the
availability of raw materials. If you have chicken,
goat, lamb or beef you can eat it, cooked with onions,
garlic, chili pepper and other spices. Shuro is
a spicy chickpea puree. Lens pots are also common. The
sour, pancake-like bread injera, which here is
also called taitah, is a common accessory to
spicy dishes. The strength comes from the hot spice mix
berber. Honey wine, tea, is a
common drink. The Italian heritage is reminiscent of
cities, where pasta is popular.
Eritreans belonging to the Orthodox Church do not eat
meat or milk products on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Western attire is common. Women and girls can also
wear pants. In the highlands, women often wear a white
cotton dress with woven edge, or blouse and skirt with
matching shawls. The men wear long-sleeved white shirt
that reaches to their knees, over white pants. Muslim
men wear a long shirt, jalabiya, and
embroidered headgear. The women have a piece of fabric,
the cap, which covers the dress.
In the office context, both men and women are
expected to have comprehensive clothing that does not
leave too much skin bare. At the same time, the clothing
style is not very strict, it often goes well without
jacket and tie.
Holidays and Holidays
The most important national holidays all relate to
the liberation war of 1962-1991. Most important is
Independence Day on May 24, when the March of Asmara
1991 is celebrated (see Modern History). For a whole
week you celebrate with music, entertainment and
festivities. On the day of the martyrs on June 20,
people who died in battle for the country are
remembered. The start of the liberation war is
celebrated on September 1, in remembrance of an attack
on the 1961 Ethiopian military.
Attention is paid to both Christian and Muslim
holidays. The Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter
and the thirteenth day, which here mainly celebrates the
baptism of Jesus. In September, Meskel falls, as the
Orthodox celebrate that Saint Helena in the 300s found
the true cross.
The Muslims celebrate the birthday of the Prophet id
al-fitr who ends the fasting month of Ramadan, as well
as the sacrificial feast id al-adha which celebrates
Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to God. The
Muslim weekends follow the lunar calendar and fall on
different dates from year to year.
New Year's Day on January 1 is a holiday, as is the
International Women's Day on March 8 and the Workers'
Day on May 1.
War through agents in Somalia
Full war breaks out in Somalia, where Eritrea, through the Islamist rebels,
is indirectly positioned against Ethiopia as formally and actively supporting
the transitional government.
Eritrea is accused of supporting Somali Islamists
A UN report states that Eritrea is one of seven countries that have provided
Islamic rebels (the so-called Islamic Courts, SSICC) in Somalia with weapons and
supplies. Eritrea denies.