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Habab

Habab, a powerful pastoral people, of northeast Abyssinia between the Bogos (Bilen) and Beni-Amer south and north, and north-west of Massowa. Their territory, which is now included in the Italian colony of Eritrea, occupies the strip of coastland between lat. 16 and 17 30' N. and the neighbouring plateau as far inland as the Falkat river separating them from the Beni-Amer; area 2,500 square miles, population 70,000 to 80,000. The Hababs appear to have been originally a southern branch of the Bejas, whom they still resemble in their physical appearance and nomad usages; but having later been brought under Abyssinian influences, probably during the flourishing period of the Axumite empire, they now speak a Geez dialect closely akin to that of the neighbouring kingdom of Tigre. They were also within recent times nominal Christians recognising the authority of the Abyssinian Abuna (Patriarch), but are now for the most part Mohammedans, like their Beni-Amer neighbours and kinsmen. Like all these north-eastern nomads, they have their winter and summer stations, camping from June to October on the Nakfa plateau (4,000 to 6,000 or 7,000 feet above the sea), and then descending with their numerous herds and flocks to the grazing-grounds of the Sahel ("coastlands"). Over their territory are scattered many curious monolithic monuments which have not yet been studied by archaeologists, and which they attribute to the Bet Maliyeh aborigines, many of whom still survive in the country. (W. Munziger, Gebiete der Beni-Amer und Habab in Petermann, 1872; Von Heuglin, Le Territoire des Beni-Amer et des Habab in Bull, de la Soc. Khediviale de Geographie, 1876.)

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