Doctors without Borders in Ethiopia: Among the Afar

By Nyla Jo Jones Hubbard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9. THE AFAR

The Afar tribe is not named after the Afar triangle which forms their homeland. It is the other way round. The Danakil Depression is called the Afar Triangle in honor of this tough people that are almost its only denizens. The Triangle comprises 58,000 square miles between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Oman at roughly 11.75 N latitude and 40.95 E longitude. It is unarguably one of the hottest places on earth. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the human population is “less than ten persons per kilometer and in some areas less than one person per kilometer,” with the “dominant ethnic groups being the nomadic pastoralists, the Afar, and a Somali clan, the Issas.”

I learned about the Issa fairly early in my mission as Fred told us that some of the Afar men from the crew building the living quarters had asked for time off to “go kill some Issa.” The Afar believed that members of the Issa tribe had stolen some camels. This was before Sheik Ahmed came to bridge the cultural divide and, since it did not immediately concern our mission, Fred was told to tell them that they could “have time off but NOT for the purpose of killing Issas.” We never heard, but I think it unlikely that any Issa were killed in the incident, especially since it was explained to the men that they would lose wages for every day they took off. I did see a small family of Issa near

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