Eritrea is one of the four countries from Horn of Africa having multi-ethnic population and Asmara as its capital. This multilingual country which is located along the Red Sea coast has several ethnic groups and each one of them has their own distinctive traditional clothing. Urban people in Eritrea have adopted the western clothing as you’ll find people wearing jeans and shirts in casual wear while in the offices with western suits. Traditional dress of Eritrea is however worn by some communities, still in their domestic affairs and also in cultural celebrations. On the whole, traditional dress of Eritrea is a bright colored garment and proudly worn as conventional attire by Eritreans.
Traditionally the women of Eritrea in villages mostly wear a hooded dress which is known as Zuria. This garment goes to the ankles, with a gauze hood around the head and shoulders. New dress designers in Eritrea are nowadays making Zuria in various styles and patterns as the popularity of the dress is still continued.
Habesha people are living in the Eritrean highlands for many centuries who are the founders of the great Abyssinian civilization in Africa. Habesha people in Eritrea are known for cattle herding and agriculture. Habesha women of Eritrea normally wear the Habisha Kamis which is ankle length attire and it is customarily made with chiffon which comes in white, grey or beige shades. In the wedding ceremonies or formal events, most of the Eritrean women also wear a shawl called a netela. Netela is actually a handmade cloth used to cover the head and shoulders. Some women also wear a similar form of cloth which is known as Gabi and it consists of four layers.
Kidan Habesha is a more cultural and festive garment both for the men and women in Eritrea which consists of shirts and trousers. It also includes a thin fabric which is wrapped over the shirts around the shoulders and chest. Kidan Habesha is preferred to be worn with intricately designed stick and white shoes.
The people living in the southern and the central parts of Eritrea mostly belong to Tigrinya ethnicity. They primarily live in a region of Eritrea known as the Kebessa. Traditional Tigray clothing is white, which is regarded as Christian, with little adornment. In the formal occasions, the traditional Tigary dress for women comprises of an ankle-length garment with long sleeves made with precious material. Tigrinyan men wear ankle-length pants that are tight from the knee to the ankle and baggy in the upper legs and hips. A fitted, long-sleeved shirt normally covers the upper body.
Rashaida or Rashaayda is a local tribe of Eritrea who dwell in Eritrea and South Sudan. In the mod of the nineteenth century, these people migrated from Saudi Arabia due to the tribal warfare. These people depend upon the cattle herding primarily breeding goats and sheep and pass a nomadic lifestyle. They still possess their own traditional lifestyle, custom and clothing which are unique in Africa. Rashaidas are thought to be related to the Bedouin of Saudi Arabia and are the only true nomadic people left in Eritrea. Rashaida people make up five percent of the population of Eritrea of about 5.75 million people.
Rashaida women are known for their unique dress code. There traditional outfits are normally black-and-red geometrically patterned garments along with their conventional veils that are called as Burqa. Burqa for a Rashaida woman is a long garments usually adorned with heavy embroidery of silver thread, beads and sometimes seed pearls. It is compulsory for the Rashaida woman to wear this costume since her childhood. Rashaida women are very conservative and normally cover their faces in public. The veil is removed only when they are alone with their husbands. The Eritrean Rashaida men wear their traditional outfits bedecked with swords and knives and popular for their folk dances. Rashaidas are largely Muslims and are considered as the Eritrean gypsies who live in isolated communities, preferring not to live with other tribes.
A small ethnic group of Africa which is known as Kunama people has the largest portion of its population in Eritrea. They are considered as the oldest nomadic ethnic group of Africa. Although some Kunamas still practice traditional beliefs but most of them have adopted Christianity and Islam. Like other nomads of Eritrea they also depend upon agriculture and animal husbandry. The famous dresses for Kunama people of Eirtrea include Ballada and Matalita for men and Adalkana which is usually worn by Kunama women of Eritrea. These outfits are specially prepared for the cultural Tuka-Satta and Galli-Gala festivals by the Kunama people.
Hairstyle is a feature that must be collaborated with the traditional clothing of Eritrea. Almost every ethnic community in Eritrea has its own unique hairstyle. Popular and traditional hairstyle in Eritrea includes; Albaso which usually consists of seven large braids that flow back till the end extends out like a fur coat. Gamme hairstyle is intended for adolescent girls who haven’t married. This hairstyle usually features braids being braided to the sides and backward. Tigre men, they style their hair in a fluffy crown like shape that have long ringlets hanging down on the sides. This type of hairstyle is known as the tiffa in the Hidareb language.
Traditional jewelry in Eritrea also plays a significant role in the country’s heritage as it represents the extraordinary handcrafted skill of the Eritrean goldsmiths and craftsmen. In the rural areas of Eritrea, making of handcrafted jewelry is also a primary source of earning. Each ethnic community in Eritrea has its own individual jewelry making art. Both Eritrean men and women are involved in this business. The historians have strong belief that the jewelry making tradition has a very long history since the first human in-habitation in Eritrea.
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