Djibouti, Afar old man

old man, Djibouti, Afar,
Old  Afar man in Djibouti town

Djibouti  located in the Horn of Africa.. Bordered by: Somalia in the southeast, Erithrea in the North, Red sea in the east, and Ethiopia to the west and south. 

Origin of the word Djibouti:  The Afar, which make up the majority of the population, named the area where Djibouti is now GABOD (plateau). The Arab navigators turned it into GABOUTI. With the French, the name became DJIBOUTI .

The Total Population of the country is: 780.000 people. Most of them live in Djibouti city (605,000).

Djibouti is a desert country.  Rainfall occurs for about 26 days in a year, between January and March. It drop in short periods and with heavy intensity, causing flash floods. It ranges from as low as 130 mm in the coastal regions, to the northern and mountainous portions of the country, where it is about 380 mm. 

This Man in the Photo, belongs to the AFAR Ethnic group.  ‘Afar’ in their language means ‘The Best’ or ‘First’.

The Afar people Numbering about 2.5 Million in four countries (Ethiopia- 1.5 m’, Djibouti 500,000, Eritrea 350,000, Somalia 150,000), All of the are Muslims.

The Afar Language is classified as a separate language in the Eastern Cushite group Linguists generally identify four distinct dialects of Afar: Northern, Central, Aussa and Baadu.

See more on Afar People here.


  • The earliest surviving written mention of the Afar is from the 13th century Arab writer Ibn-Said, who reported that they lived in the area south as Mandib and Zeila.

  • They are mentioned in Ethiopian records as helping emperor Amda Sion in his wars beyond Awash river.

  • 1577 Aussa Sultanate was created. Toward the end of 17th century it declined and came to an end. But, it was re-established on 1734, and was ruled by Mudaito Dynasty.

Political organization: The Afar maintain a loose confederation of four ‘sultanates‘: Aussa (also Asayita or Asaita) and Biru in Ethiopia, and Tajoura and Raheito [ One older source reports a fifth sultantate, Gobad] in Djibouti.

Each sultan is appointed by the people, but reportedly is chosen from alternating segments in each of the four sections of the Afar. The Sultan is the religious, as well as the political, leader of his clan of the Afar.

Culture: The Afar are traditionally pastoral, raising goats, sheep and cattle.

They are nomadic or semi-nomadic, moving from highland to lowlands with the seasons and rise and fall of the flood waters of the rivers. They carry their houses with them and reassemble them when they make temporary settlement.

Socially, they are divided into two main groups: the asaimara (‘reds’) , and the adoimara (‘whites’) who are a working class and are found in the Mabla Mt (northern part of Djibouti).

[It is thought the color designations came from the reddish soil deserts inland, toward the direction the newcomers came from, and the white saline coastal areas, where the Adoyahamara are still more numerous. The Reds remain socially dominant, and claim ownership of the lands, while the Whites tend to be the herders. Both classes are, however, distributed among all the clans of the tribe].

Circumcision: The Afar practice circumcision for both males and females. To circumcise the women, they sew together the vulva. Boys are circumcised during their coming of age when they become men.

Adulthood: Killing has been a strong value, but is diminishing in modern times. Likewise, warfare has been the primary context for much of the culture. A few decades ago, a man was not considered an adult until he had killed one man. His victim might be from a different people or from another Afar clan.

Marriage: Girls are eligible to be married once they reach 10 years of age, while boys can traditionally only marry after they’ve killed someone in battle. Marriages within Afar society are usually monogamous even though Islam allows men to have four wives and, when marriage partners are chosen, cousins are preferred.

Economy: economy depends on livestock, especially goats, some camels, and, more rarely, cattle.

They also mine and export salt. [There are some exceptions, such as fishermen in the coastal areas and agriculturalists in the Assau oasis.] Because of this lifestyle, their diet consists of mostly meat and dairy products.

The Afar men usually wear Jile, a famous curved knife.