About Eritrea

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Eritrea -- Geography --

Official Name: State of Eritrea
Capital City: Asmara
Languages: Arabic, Tigre, Tigrinya, Afar, Beja, Blin, Saho, Kunama, Nara, English, Italian, Amharic
Currency: Nakfa (ERN)
Religions: Islam, Christianity
Population: 5,291,370
Land Area: 117,600 sq km
Landforms: The country is virtually bisected by one of the world's longest mountain ranges, the Great Rift Valley, with fertile lands to the west, descending to desert in the east. The land to the south, in the highlands, is slightly drier and cooler. The highest point of the country, Emba Soira, is located in the center of Eritrea, at 3,018 meters above sea level.
Land Division: 6 regions (zobas) - Central, Southern, Gash-Barka, Anseba, Northern Red Sea, Southern Red Sea

Eritrea -- History --

The oldest written reference to the territory now known as Eritrea is the chronicled expedition launched to the fabled Punt (or Ta Netjeru, meaning land of the Gods) by the Ancient Egyptians in the twenty-fifth century BC under Pharaoh Sahure. After D'mt's decline around the fifth century BC, the state of Aksum arose in much of Eritrea and the northern Ethiopian Highlands. It grew during the fourth century BC and came into prominence during the first century AD, minting its own coins by the third century, and converting in the fourth century to Christianity, thereby becoming the second official Christian state (after Armenia), and the first country to feature the cross on its coins.During the medieval period, contemporary with and following the gradual disintegration of the Aksumite state between the 9th and 10th centuries, several states as well as tribal and clan lands emerged in the area known today as Eritrea. Italy declared Eritrea a territory of Italy as of New Years Day 1890. The Kingdom of Italy ruled Eritrea from 1890 to 1941. Approximately 100,000 Italian colonists settled during the 1930s in the Colonia Primigenia (as Eritrea was called by the Italians, meaning they considered Eritrea their first and most important colony), mainly in Asmara. In the Peace Treaty of February 1947, Italy surrendered all her colonies, including Eritrea. Upon Eritrea's declaration of independence, the leader of the EPLF, Isaias Afewerki, became Eritrea's first Provisional President, and the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (later renamed the People's Front for Democracy and Justice, or PFDJ) created a government.

Eritrea -- Economy --

Like the economies of many other African nations, the economy is largely based on subsistence agriculture, with 80% of the population involved in farming and herding. Drought has often created trouble in the farming areas. The Eritrean-Ethiopian War severely hurt Eritrea's economy. GDP growth in 1999 fell to less than 1%, and GDP decreased by 8.2% in 2000. In May 2000, Ethiopian offensive into southern Eritrea caused some $600 million in property damage and loss, including losses of $225 million in livestock and 55,000 homes. The attack prevented planting of crops in Eritrea's most productive region, causing food production to drop by 62%.Even during the war, Eritrea developed its transportation infrastructure, asphalting new roads, improving its ports, and repairing war-damaged roads and bridges as a part of the Warsay Yika'alo Program. The most significant of these projects was the building of a coastal highway of more than 500 km connecting Massawa with Asseb as well as the rehabilitation of the Eritrean Railway. The rail line now runs between the Port of Massawa and the capital Asmara. Eritrea's economic future remains mixed. The cessation of Ethiopian trade, which mainly used Eritrean ports before the war, leaves Eritrea witha large economic hole to fill. Eritrea's economic future depends upon its ability to master fundamental social problems like illiteracy, and low skills. As of May 6, 2008 Eritrea is the most expensive place in the world to buy fuel. At $9.58 per gallon, gasoline is 85? a gallon higher than in the next most expensive country, Norway.

Eritrea -- Culture --

The Eritrean region has traditionally been a nexus for trade throughout the world. Because of this, the influence of diverse cultures can be seen throughout Eritrea. Today, the most obvious influences in the capital, Asmara, are those of Italy. Throughout Asmara, there are small cafes serving beverages common to Italy. In Asmara, there is a clear merging of the Italian colonial influence with the traditional Tigrinya lifestyle. In the villages of Eritrea, these changes never took hold. Traditional Eritrean dress is quite varied, with the women of most lowland ethnicities traditionally dressing in brightly colored clothes, while the Tigrinya traditionally dress in bright white costumes. Of the Muslim ethnicities, only the Arab or Rashaida tribeswomen maintain a tradition of covering their faces. Popular sports in Eritrea are football and bicycle racing. In recent years Eritrean athletes have seen increasing success in the international arena. Almost unique on the African continent, is the Tour of Eritrea, whose first race was created by the Italians in 1946. The Tour is a bicycle race from the hot desert beaches of Massawa, up the winding mountain highway with its precipitous valleys and cliffs to the capital Asmara. From there, it continues downwards onto the western plains of the Gash-Barka Zone, only to return back to Asmara from the south. This is, by far, the most popular sport in Eritrea.

Eritrea -- Political system, law and government --

Eritrea is a authoritarian single-party state, run by the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). Other political groups are not allowed to organise, although the non-implemented Constitution of 1997 provides for the existence of multi-party politics. The National Assembly has 150 seats, of which 75 are occupied by the PFDJ. National elections have been periodically scheduled and cancelled; none have ever been held in the country. Independent local sources of political information on Eritrean domestic politics are scarce; in September 2001 the government closed down all of the nation's privately owned print media, and outspoken critics of the government have been arrested and held without trial, according to various international observers, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. In 2004 the U.S. State Department declared Eritrea a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its record of religious persecution. Eritrea is a full member of the African Union (AU), the successor of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). But it has withdrawn its representative to the AU in protest of the AU's alleged lack of leadership in facilitating the implementation of a binding border decision demarcating the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

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