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The Saho

who occupy Eastern foot hills of Akeleguzai and Semhar region of Eritrea are among the country’s longest-established peoples. For over three thousand years of their known history they have watched civilizations flourish and decay with their own lives. Unfortunately, no attempt has been made by Saho scholars or others to document the very rich history and culture Saho’s are endowed with. Therefore, sources regarding social structure, mode of life, history and culture of Saho are scarce.

The information provided on this web is a modest attempt to bridge this gap, initiated by interested Saho individuals, hoping it will attract those who are more knowledgeable and capable Saho and non-Saho individuals or groups to assist with efforts to document Saho history, heritage, and culture.

No official census has yet been made to determine Eritrea’s population. However, it is acknowledged that Saho are the third largest ethnic group in Eritrea. Many Saho observers estimate Saho population as being a little over 10% of Eritrea’s estimated 3.1 million inhabitants.
The overwhelming majority of Saho inhabit Eritrea but there are Saho tribes who reside along the border areas of Eritrea and Tigrai region of Ethiopia.

In Eritrea, Saho mainly dwell in the Eastern foothills of Akele-Saho (aka Akele-guzai) and Semhar occupying 60% or more of the landmass. Saho’s are also found intermingled amongst Tigrinia speaking populace in parts of Eritrea’s highland regions (Akeleguzai, Seraye and Hamasein). They also intermingle with Tigre speaking tribes in Lowland regions (Semhar and Barka) as well as with Afars to the East plains of Samoti and Wangabo.

Social Structure:
Social cohesion and organisation among Saho are achieved by lineage system that means Agnatic linage system. Lineage systems and territorial groups are generally defined according to rules of complementary opposition. These rules of complementary opposition form the basis for the entire structure of the society which is expressed in political terms between segments.

The family constitute elementary segments in the segmentary genealogical structure. This structure taken as a whole, defines the system of rights over the land, including particularly pasturage, to which each family may lay claim by reasons of its genealogical position.

The social organisation of Saho is based on kinship and decent. The sub-tribes are of as genealogical branches descended from a common ancestor. They are known as Kisho, Mela, or Are. Each sub-tribe is divided into numerous kinship groups known as Dik or Abusa, which usually bears the names of individuals, the founders of the lineage.

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