Afar: learn it at your own risk

If you do not mind the risk of your testicles being cut off, learn Afar and then visit the Afar delta in Ethiopia. Despite being one of the most dangerous regions in the world, the media still considers Afar to be a top tourist destination due to its beauty. Tourists cannot resist the temptation of the astonishing landscapes, most famous volcano, sandy desert and its salt lake. The Danakil depression is also where “Lucy” the Australopithecus Afarensis skeletal remains and other hominids were found. There are usually periodic attacks on foreigners from armed bandits or rebels such that police escort is a must for anyone who wants to tour the area. Local tour guides captivate tourists with legends of the past, where Afar men used to cut off the testicles of any foreign males entering the region.

The Afar people, also known as the Danakil, are an ethnic group that is primarily based in the Afar region of Ethiopia, northern Djibouti, Somalia and Southern Eritrea. The Afar, who are reputed for their martial prowess, emphasize bravery and strength, claim that they are the descendants of Ham (Noah’s son). Afar is a Cushitic language spoken by the Afars as their mother tongue. The language is believed to have 1.5 million speakers and is closely associated with the Saho language. It is one of the major languages recognized by the government of Eritrea. It is used in the national radio broadcasts. Though there are some schools that teach using the language, the primary language of instruction in most schools is Arabic.

Afar is written using Ge’ez or the Latin alphabet. The Afar alphabet is also referred to as Qafar Feera. It was created by two of its nationalists, Redo and Dimis, who published their works in the 1970s. Linguists in the Institut des Langues de Djibouti are working in close collaboration with the Ethiopian Afar Language Studies & Enrichment Center and officials in the Eritrea ministry of Education to come up with a standardized written version of Afar.

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