Saho people

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Total population
450,800 (2006 est.)
Regions with significant populations
Horn of Africa
 Eritrea 428,000
 Ethiopia 22,800
Related ethnic groups

The Saho sometimes called Soho,[2] are an ethnic group inhabiting the Horn of Africa. They are principally concentrated in Eritrea, with some also living in adjacent parts of Ethiopia. The Saho can be traced back to 500 BC, inhabiting their current area. They speak Saho as a mother tongue, which belongs to the Cushitic branch of the Afroasiatic family[3] and is closely related to Afar.


Saho women in traditional attire.

According to Ethnologue, there are approximately 271,180 total Saho speakers. Most are concentrated in Eritrea (235,000 speakers), with the remainder inhabiting Ethiopia (36,180 speakers). Within Eritrea, the Saho primarily reside in the Southern and Northern Red Sea regions.[4]

The Saho have a system of clans (11 at present), which are in turn divided into kinship groups. Clan loyalty is an important factor in Saho politics.


The Saho people speak the Saho language as a mother tongue. It belongs to the Saho-Afar dialect cluster of the Lowland East Cushitic languages, which are part of the Cushitic branch of the Afroasiatic family. The Saho language is quite similar to Afar.[4]

The Irob dialect is only spoken in Ethiopia.[4]


The Saho are predominantly Muslim. A few Christians, who are also known as the Irob, live in the Tigray region of Ethiopia and the Debub Region of Eritrea.[5]

Customary law[edit]

Saho ethnic flag

Regarding the customary law of the Saho, when there is an issue the Saho tend to call for a meeting or conference which they call '"rahbe". In such a meeting the Saho people discuss how to solve issues related to water, pasture or land, clan disputes and how to alleviate these problems. This is also discussed with neighboring tribes or ethnic groups and sub-clans to reach a consensus. [6]

A skilled representative is chosen for this meeting, this representative is called a "madarre". A madarre brings forth arguments to his audience and sub-clans or tribes who are involved and tries to win them over. This is discussed with clan or tribal wise men or elders, "ukal".

On smaller scale conflicts between 2 individuals, one of the 2 takes their grievances to the "ukal", they in turn appoint "shimagale" or mediators for the dispute[6]


1. Dabri-Mela (Dabrimela)

  • Alades Are
  • Labhalet Are

2. Assa-Awurta (Asaworta)

  • Fokroti Are
  • Lelish Are
  • Assa- Kare
  • Asa-Lesan
  • Sarma Are
  • Faqih Dik
  • Urus Abusa

3. Gaaso Arabic قعسو

  • Shum Abdalla Gaisha
  • Yofish Gaisha
  • Shum Ahmad Gaisha
  • Hassan Gaisha
  • Silyan Gaisha
  • Asa-Ushmaal
  • Oni - Maal
  • Salmunta
  • Gadafur(said to have Somali origins, from the Gadabursi clan)[7]

4. Dasamo

  • Abdallah Harak
  • Naefie Harak
  • Mosat Harak
  • Subakum Are
  • Daili Are
  • Kundes
  • Illaishe
  • Asa Bora

5. Faqat Harak

  • Faqih Abubakar
  • Faqih Omar
  • Faqih Ahmad

6. Silaita

  • Hakatti Are
  • Qomma Are
  • Zella Are
  • Halato
  • Abbarior

7. Idda (Ge'ez እዳ, Arabic إِدًّا, alternatively ادة or ادى), one of the earliest known Saho communities in Eritrea, also known as “Bado Ambalish” (Ge'ez ባዶ አምባልሽ, Arabic اصحاب الأرض, "owners of the land [Earth]") or "bearers of land".

8. Irob (Ge'ez: ኢሮብ ʾirōb, also spelled Erob), a Christian community in the highlands of the Tigray Region.

9. Torra (طروعه), Serrah Aria (سرح عرى) and Mussa Aria (موسى عرى)


  1. ^ Joireman, Sandra F. (1997). Institutional Change in the Horn of Africa: The Allocation of Property Rights and Implications for Development. Universal-Publishers. p. 1. ISBN 1581120001.
  2. ^ " - CBSi". Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  3. ^ Mohammad, Abdulkader Saleh (2013-01-01). The Saho of Eritrea: Ethnic Identity and National Consciousness. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 162. ISBN 9783643903327.
  4. ^ a b c "Saho". Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  5. ^ "". Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  6. ^ a b Qānūn Al-ʻurfī Li-muslimī Ākalaguzāī. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 26.
  7. ^ Mohammad, Abdulkader Saleh (2013-01-01). The Saho of Eritrea: Ethnic Identity and National Consciousness. LIT Verlag Münster. ISBN 9783643903327.

External links[edit]

  1. ^ [1], Ethiopian Government Portal