Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Dankali (plural Danakil), a large nomad people of north-east Africa, whose domain comprises all the low-lying coastlands between Abyssinia and the Red Sea, and extending from the neighbourhood of Massawa southwards to the Strait of Babel-Mandeb and Tajura Bay, a total area of about 35,000 square miles. The Afars, as they call themselves, Dankali being their Arab name, are not negroes, despite their dark complexion, but are akin to their northern neighbours the Bejas, and to the Gallas and Somals on their southern frontier. Jointly with these and with some scattered groups in Abyssinia, they form the Eastern or Ethiopic Division of the Hamitic Family, which extend from about the equator along the seaboard north to Egypt. The Afars, like all nomad people, are divided into a great number of clans or family groups (wrongly called tribes), of whom over 150 have been enumerated, all regarding themselves as equally independent under their several "Ras," or secondary chiefs, while recognising the suzerainty of three great chiefs, or "Sultans," residing at Tajura, Aussa, and Rahhita. The best known tribal divisions going southwards are the Saho, Haddarem. Dahimela, Dumheito, Dodo Hurtu (Taltal), Dawaro, Modaito, and Adail, this last being the name commonly applied to the whole nation by the Abyssinians. In time of war the western tribes form a confederacy under the name of Debeni-Vehema, which has hitherto been strong enough to defend the national liberties from the Abyssinians pressing them on the west, and the Italians advancing from the sea coast. They are a fierce, warlike people, of splendid physique, tall, slim and agile, of a deep bronze or even black colour, with black, kinky hair, straight nose, and regular European features, which reminded Dr. Kirk of Flaxman's finest models. The national weapons are the spear, cutlass, and ox-hide shield, for which firearms have in recent years been largely substituted. The east tribes are all fanatical Mohammedans, those of the interior much more lax, some being even still pagans or else half Christians of the Abyssinian sect. They have developed no industries, their sole pursuit being stock-breeding (camels and cattle), and the escort of caravans between the coast and the foot of the Abyssinian plateau. All the Afar tribes have been included politically in the Italian colony of Eritrea. (See Dr. R. Kirk, Journey from Tajoorah to Ankober, Transactions of Bombay Geographical Society, vol. vi. p. 317; C. Harris, The Highlands of Ethiopia, London, 1844; W. Munziger, Journey through the Afar Country, Journal Royal Geographical Society, vol. xxxix.