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Afar Woman


Afar Woman

Indigenous Tribes of the Danakil Desert

Picture of an Afar woman in the Senbete (Sembate) marketplace. The Afar (sometimes spelled Qafar) tribe is located in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti in the desert region of the Horn of Africa. The Afar people are found principally in the Danakil Desert and are therefore sometimes called the Danakil. However, the word Danakil generally refers to only the northern branch of the Afar tribe, while the southern Afars are often called the Adal (or Adel) since they are located in the former Adal Sultanate. The language spoken by the Afar people is in the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic linguistic family and is spoken by about 1.5 million people. The Afar language is related to Somali and Oromo. Being nomadic pastoralists, the Afar people raise cattle, goats, and sheep in the desert. They move their homes seasonally, living near the Awash River during the dry season and traveling to other areas during the rainy season. Afar women typically go topless, wearing a "sanafil" or waistcloth that is typically dyed brown or sometimes blue. A married Afar woman can be identified by her wearing the traditional indigo-dyed headdress or headscarf called a "shash" in the Afar language. The women in the above photograph is married as indicated by her wearing a "shash." Note also the red coloration of her face. This is from a red ochre dye that Afar women sometimes use.


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Photograph "1983_sembate0402.jpg" by Richard Franco and is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License - BY-NC-ND
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