EritreaEritrea is a country on the northeast coast of Africa.

Eritrea, a country in northeastern Africa. It is bounded by Sudan, the Red Sea, Djibouti, and Ethiopia. Eritrea has an area of 48,263 square miles (125,000 km 2), about the same as that of Mississippi.

Highlands stretch from the south-central part of the country northwest toward the border with Sudan. Elevations here average about 6,500 feet (2,000 m). To the west are plains, which are crossed by lowland river valleys. Along Eritrea's coast is a narrow strip of scrubland and desert. The climate is temperate in the higher elevations and hot in the lowlands: Droughts occur often.

Eritrea's economy, which is based mainly on agriculture, suffered as a result of civil war during 1961–91. About 80 per cent of the people are engaged in agriculture, most of them living at the subsistence level. The chief crops include lentils, wheat, and corn. The raising of livestock is important, especially in the highland areas. There is some coastal fishing. Manufacturing is concentrated largely in Asmara and Massawa. Products include textiles, cement, beverages, and processed foods. Salt and limestone are the chief minerals produced.

Many of Eritrea's roads were destroyed or badly damaged during the civil war. A railway links Asmara to the country's chief port at Massawa. Asmara has Eritrea's main airport.

Facts in brief about Eritrea
Capital: Asmara.
Principal language: Tigrinya.
Area: 45,406 mi2 (117,600 km2). Greatest distances—northwest-southeast, 510 mi (821 km); northeast-southwest, 290 mi (467 km). Coastline—620 mi (1,000 km).
Elevation: Highest—Mount Soira, 9,885 ft (3,013 m) above sea level. Lowest—Denakil Depression, about 360 ft (110 m) below sea level.
Population: Current estimate—4,886,000; density, 108 per mi2 (42 per km2); distribution, 81 percent rural, 19 percent urban. 1984 census—2,748,304.
Chief products: Agriculture—barley, dairy products, lentils, millet, sorghum, teff, wheat. Manufacturing—construction materials, leather goods, processed foods, salt.
Flag: Eritrea's flag, adopted in 1993, has a red triangle across the middle, bearing a yellow wreath and olive branch; a green triangle at the top; and a light blue triangle at the bottom.
Money: Basic unit—nakfa. One hundred cents equal one nakfa.
People and Government

The population of Eritrea is about 3,500,000; of Asmara, the capital, 358,100. Tigreans, a Semitic-speaking people, make up Eritrea's principal ethnic group. There are also various Cushitic-speaking peoples, mainly the Saho and the Afars. Most Eritreans are Muslims. Primary schooling begins at age six and lasts seven years; secondary schooling lasts six years. The leading institution of higher learning is the University of Eritrea at Asmara.

Pending adoption of a constitution, Eritrea is ruled by a provisional government. Executive authority is exercised by the Advisory Council, headed by a secretary-general. The legislative body is the Central Committee of the ruling party, Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF).