Eritrean society is ethnically heterogeneous. An independent census has yet to be conducted, but the Tigrinya people and the Tigre people together make up about 80% of the population. These form the bulk of the country's predominantly Semitic-speaking population.
A wedding in Eritrea
The rest of the population is from other Afro-Asiatic groups such as the Saho, Hedareb, Afar, and Bilen. These Cushitic-speaking peoples are thought to be the oldest inhabitants of the Horn of Africa. There are a number of Nilotic peoples who are represented in Eritrea by the Kunama and Nara. Each ethnicity speaks a different native tongue but, typically, many of the minorities speak more than one language.
There exist minorities of Italian Eritreans (concentrated in Asmara) and Ethiopian Tigrayans. Neither is generally given citizenship unless through marriage or, more rarely, by having it conferred upon them by the State.
The most recent addition to the nationalities of Eritrea is the Rashaida. The Rashaida came to Eritrea in the 19th century from the Arabian Coast. The Rashaida intermarried with the Tigre and Beja clans, and are typically nomadic, and number approximately 61,000, less than 1% of the population
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