Afar in Djibouti

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

The Afar (Danakil) claim to be descendants of Noah's son - Ham. They are located in the East African countries of Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. The Afar of Djibouti live either along the coastline bordering Ethiopia, or in a portion of the Danakil Desert that stretches across Ethiopia into Eritrea. Djibouti is sometimes called "a valley of hell" because it has one of the hottest, driest climates in the world.

The Danakil prefer to be known as the Afar, since the Arabic word danakil is an offensive term to them. The Afar consist of two sub-groups: the Asaemara ("red ones"), who are the more prestigious and powerful nobles living along the coast; and the Adaemara ("white ones"), who are the commoners living primarily in the mountains and the desert. The Danakil are a proud people, emphasizing a man's strength and bravery. Prestige comes from killing one's enemies.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Most of the Afar are nomads who herd sheep, goats, cattle, and camels. Some of the Asaemara living on the coast are fishermen. A man's wealth, however, is measured by the size of his herds. The women are responsible for tending the sheep, cows, and goats, and for looking after the camp. The men care for the camels and donkeys, and take down the camp when it is time to move.

Although some Muslims are permitted to have four wives, Afar marriages are usually monogamous. Girls may marry as early as age ten. Marriages between first cousins are preferred, particularly between a man and his father's sister's daughter. The night of the full moon is favored for a wedding ceremony, and the presence of someone able to read the Koran is required.

Meat and milk are the major components of the Afar diet. Milk is also an important social "offering". For instance, when a guest is given fresh warm milk to drink, the host is implying that he will provide immediate protection for the guest. If a person is killed while under the protection of an Afar, his death must be avenged as if he were a member of the clan.

The Afar live in camps surrounded by thorn barricades, which protect them from the attacks of wild animals or enemy tribesmen. Their oval-shaped huts, called ari, are made of palm mats and are easily moved. Market day is important to the Danakil. Some travel great distances to sell cattle, camels, goats, sheep, butter, and straw mats. In turn, they buy items such as coffee, sugar, matches, and soap.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Early in their history, the Afar were heavily influenced by the Islamic religion; and today, Islam is still held in great esteem. The people do not eat pork and rarely drink alcohol. Those who can afford to do so, make a pilgrimage to Mecca. In addition, many pre-Islamic beliefs and customs are also prevalent among the Danakil. They believe that certain trees and groves have sacred powers. They also have various religious rites such as anointing their bodies with ghee (a type of butter). Spirits of the dead are believed to be very powerful, and a "feast of the dead", called Rabena, is celebrated each year. They also give annual offerings to the sea to ensure safety for their villages. Many people wear protective leather amulets that contain herbs and verses from the Koran.

What Are Their Needs?

One of the most serious problems in Djibouti is drought. Unfortunately, there is a lack of industry and natural resources to combat the problem.

Currently, the region is also under much political pressure. Since Djibouti gained its independence in 1977, tension between the Somali and the Danakil has increased. The Somalians feel the loss of a missing colony; Djibouti contains a vital part of the railway line that links Ethiopia to the outside world. Hence, both want control of the region.

The few Afar who have converted to Christianity are isolated. They are also pressured by their relatives to return to Islam. They need the Holy Spirit's strength to hold onto their faith in Christ.

Prayer Points

* Scripture Prayers for the Afar in Djibouti.

* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth additional laborers into Djibouti.
* Pray that God will grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Afar.
* Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio to this tribe.
* Pray for the small number of Afar believers and ask God to give them opportunities to share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a strong Afar church for the glory of His name!

Profile Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center  

Additional Info
Global Prayer Digest: 2014-01-12
People Name General Afar
People Name in Country Afar
Pronunciation AH-far
Population this Country 295,000
Population all Countries 2,587,000
Total Countries 3
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
GSEC 3  (per
Pioneer Workers Needed 6
Alternate Names Adali; Danakil
People ID 11486
ROP3 Code 102419
Country Djibouti
Region Africa, East and Southern
Continent Africa
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Red Sea coast, Obock, Tadjoura, and Dikhil regions; Arta Region, area southwest of Ghoubet Kharab; Ali Sabieh Region southwest of regional capital.   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Country Djibouti
Region Africa, East and Southern
Continent Africa
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Red Sea coast, Obock, Tadjoura, and Dikhil regions; Arta Region, area southwest of Ghoubet Kharab; Ali Sabieh Region southwest of regional capital..   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Map of Afar in Djibouti Ethnolinguistic map or other map

Primary Language Afar (295,000 speakers)
Language Code aar   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Afar (295,000 speakers)
Language Code aar   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Afar

Primary Language:  Afar

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (1975-1986)
Bible-New Testament Yes  (1994)
Bible-Complete Yes  (2013)
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching (GRN)
Audio Recordings Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Afar
Film / Video Magdalena (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video The Prophets' Story
Text / Printed Matter Online Bible text (Scripture Earth)
Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.03 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
0.00 %
99.95 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
3.0 %
65.0 %
Other Christian
4.0 %
27.0 %
Roman Catholic
1.0 %
Photo Source Copyrighted © 2021  Kerry Olson  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.  
Profile Source Bethany World Prayer Center  
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Read more


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