1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Afars

AFARS (Danakil), a tribe of African “Arabs” of Hamitic stock. They occupy the arid coast-lands between Abyssinia and the sea. They claim to be Arabs, but are more akin to the Galla and Somali. The tribe is roughly divisible into a pastoral and a coast-dwelling group. Their religion is chiefly fetish and tree-worship; many, nominally, profess Mahommedanism. They are distinguished by narrow straight noses, thin lips and small pointed chins; their cheekbones are not prominent. They are more scantily clothed than the Abyssinians or Galla, wearing, generally, nothing but a waist-cloth. Their women, when quite young, are pretty and graceful. Their huts are often tastefully decorated, the floors being spread with yellow mats, embroidered with red and violet designs. The Afars are divided into many sub-tribes, each having an hereditary sultan, whose power is, however, limited. They are desperate fighters and in 1875 successfully resisted an attempt to bring them under Egyptian rule. In 1883–1888, however, their most important sultan concluded treaties placing his country under Italian protection. The Afar region is now partly under Abyssinian and partly under Italian authority. The Afars are also found in considerable numbers in French Somaliland. They have a saying “Guns are only useful to frighten cowards.” They were formerly redoubtable pirates, but the descendants of these corsairs are now fishermen, and are the only sailors in the Red Sea who hunt the dugong.

See Fr. Scazamucci and E.H. Giglioli, Notizie sui Danakil (1884); P. Paulitschke, Ethnographic Nordost-Afrikas (2 vols., Berlin, 1893–1896); and Die geographische Erforschung der Adâl-Länder und Harârs in Ost-Afrika (Leipzig, 1884).