This region was the
stronghold of Eritrean struggle, good hiding place with
its huge mountains and valleys. It has been a stronghold
for many others much earlier, notably the 44 monastries
in the mountain peaks of third century, of Bet Ma’ala.
It was the travellers route of ancient time, as Queen
In 523-524 A.D. the
remaints of the christian martyrs of Najran in Yemen
came to Sahel, still known as Hagere Nagran, helped by
Negus Kaleb. A swedish translation from a book found by
R Sundstrom when he found this book in Debre Sina, 1910
”The Martyrs in Nagran” The Beja tribes grew and fell in
In the medivial
times, the inhabitants were nomads moving for pasture.
There were battles, fights and raids from the south that
new tribes began to migrate to the Sahel. Some decades
ago, the tribes living there are supposedly 24, like the
Asgede, Degdege, Zager, Asfeda, Almeda Shiho, Harabes,
Zaul, Tsaura, Aderke, Dob’at, Aflanda, Reshaida, Belew,
etc. Their main kin live in Barka and Kebesa. The Asgede,
a powerful group came up there from Adi Nefas, but
originally of Tsena Degle of Akele Guzai. The historian
Conti Rossini states it was in 1500, also Crawford, that
Asgede came amongst the Habab. Alberto Pollera in his
book "Le popolazioni dell’Eritrea" 1935 states that
Asgede’s father Be’imnet was a noble of Tsena Degle. An
extensive history on the Habab is written by Anthony
D’Avrey 1996, ”Lords of the Red Sea” It is a common
story by the Tsena Degle elders I had talked to.
Before the coming of
the Asgede, there was a merciless man of Dob’at called
Tegez. He polished his famous sword with human marow. He
killed so many that at last he came to his sister and
wanted to kill one of her sons, to polish his sword. His
sister ’s dead husband was Mohammed Almeday. She begged
him to spare her children saying this is my fence
Hasuray, this is my Axe, Agdubay, my washing cup, Regbet,
Tsauray, names they still bear as tribes. Two of her
sons were present and when their uncle lied down to
rest, one said ”Uncle, what magificent sword, can I try
it?” And with it, he stabbed the cruel uncle, swearing ”Ab
Regeb” (I stabbed him). His younger brother took out the
sword swearing ”Ab Selab” (I slay). The mortally wounded
uncle told them to bury him and then tell the people
else they would be killed for revenge. And they did so.
In summer 1998, I
talked to several boys drawing water, in Afabet-Nakfa
road. Knowing their answer, I asked them of their Kebila-tribe.
They answered without hesitation ”Asfeda, Almeda, Asgede,
In 17th century, The
powerful Fung rulers of Sennar (Sudan) waged war against
the Belew of Barka (a long story) to help Amr, later
known as Beni Amer. The Belew were forced to flee
eastwards settling in Senhit, Hamassien, but mostly to
Semhar and Serae.
The father of the
tribes of Mensa’, Marya Tselim and Maria Keyeh of Senhit,
Hazo and Tora’ of Akele Guzai came from Arabia, through
Yemen and they still remember the kinship.
The Tewke of Blein,
the Asawerta and Betjuk amongst others originate from
In 1950s, there was a
large feast by the Zauls of all over Eritrea in Edaga
Hamus, Asmera. They gathered from 17 villages from Serae,
with representatives, 12 from Akele Guzai, 18 from
Hamassien, and 6 of Senhit. I was lucky to get the print
of 1946 Eth Cal. With the names of villages and the
representatives. The keeper of treasury was Blata Osman
Abera Hagos of Asmera.
In 1992-3, I went to
Zaul village and was surprised that they received me as
their kin and was presented to several ”uncles”, after 8
In about 1973, a
young truck driver accidently killed a man in Keren. He
was caught and the people asked him of his tribe. He
said Serae. They asked him which tribe and he said Zaul.
Immediately the Zauls sent word and gathered and
contributed Gar money to the victim, apart from the law,
and that was the last time the Zauls had contact with
each other, as the Derg time was disturbed times and
people fled away.
There are many
stories relating all Eritreans together. I have learnt
to connect myself to many villages I visited, to get
stories from the elders. They always ask ”Who are you?”
meaning which tribe. And there is so much connection
most can find kins everywhere.