A map of Eritrea Eritrea is one of Africa’s youngest countries: it became independent from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year-long civil war. Today, relations between the two countries are still tense. Much of central Eritrea is made up by the Eritrean Highlands, which stretch northwards to the Sudanese border. High in these mountains, the climate is cool and temperate. Some of their slopes are covered by forests; others are used for farming. To the west, the land slopes down to flat, dry grasslands, while in the east, lowlands runs alongside the Red Sea. This hot coastal region is covered by sand or gravel; in the southeast, the land is so arid it is regarded as desert. Offshore, lie a group of 126 tiny islands called the Dahlak Archipelago. Since Roman times, they have been famous for pearls.
Most Eritreans belong to one of two large ethnic groups, the Tigre and Tigrinya. Together, they make up over three-quarters of the population; their ancestors were some of the earliest people to live in the region. There are seven other ethnic groups, including the Saho and Kunama. Although they each have their own language, nearly all Eritreans speak and understand Tigrinya.
Eritrea’s name comes from the ancient Greek name for the Red Sea: Erythra Thalassa.
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