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Eritrea and Eretria

A misfit blaming me in your presence
It is a testimony that I am perfect

It’s a fact that Italy named our country Eritrea. Colonizers or their agents named other countries, including Aetopia. The Greeks called Africa as Libya—anything below it was Sudan or Aethopia. Some smart guy proposed to Minelik to name his occupied land Aethopia and he did, not God as some tradition claims—Abyssinia was its name before Minelik. Some countries change their names, for instance the western African Country that used to be called Upper Volta. The country had a charismatic leader…

Thomas Sankara

in 1983, at the age of 33, Thomas Sankara became president of Upper Volta. In 1984 he renamed country Burkina Fasso (Land of incorruptible people). Its people are known as Burkinabe and its capital city is Ouagadougou. Sankara was a mixture of Ghaddafi and Castro— he set on a nationwide literacy campaign, land redistribution for the benefit of peasants, massive construction drive, outlawing of FGM, forced marriage, and polygamy. In 1987, his close associate and friend, Blaise Campaore led a coup against Sankara was killed.

The Eritrea of East Africa

Mar Rosso, qyiH Bahri, AlbaHr AlAhmed, Mare Erythreum. Where did the name Red Sea come from?

The oldest recorded mention of the Sea (the Red Sea) comes from the biblical story of Prophet Mosses. With the will of God, he uses his staff the Yam Suphr (Yam means water in Hebrew and Tebedawyet /Hdareb) and the body of water parts allowing him and his people to cross to the Sinai. Then he makes a gesture, and the sea floods the path again drowning the pharaoh and his army that was chasing Moses. That story is almost identical in Jewish, Christian and Muslim books. And there are theories about why it is called Red Sea. One says, when the reeds that grow on the banks decay, they give the water a clayish/reddish color. The most believed story claims Eritrea was named after Mare Erythraeum, the Latin name of Red Sea. It’s tempting to surmise it is a translation of Yam Suphr or an adaptation of Mare Erythraeum, and conclude Eritrea is named after that. I believed that theory until I discovered a different origin for the name in Greece.

The body of water south of Arabia, east of Africa, and west of India was called Mare Erythraeum. In addition, what is now the Red Sea was considered a gulf until the Sues canal was opened. I think it’s far-fetched, though convenient, to believe the colony was named Eritrea after Mare Erythreaeum… a story that is commonly accepted as a fact not a legend. And I think the Italians were inspired by another Eretria when they named their new colony Eritrea.

The Other Eretria

Eretria is a coastal town about 100 kms north of Athens across a gulf. It was an important city in ancient Greece, and it took part in the Spartan war of the Trojan horse fame. Both Romans and Persians who fought many years over it.

About 500 years BC the two forces fought an important battle over it until a storm destroyed the naval forces of the Persian Darrius. Under the command of his nephew, Darius assembled another military campaign to control the city. According to the Greek writer Herodotus, the Eretians fought a six-day battle but then the city fell because two treasonous Eretrians, who opened the city gates for the Persian army to enter and the Persian army who wanted to avenge past defeats entered the city and did what Abiy Ahmed’s troops are doing to Tigray. They destroyed Eretria, its religious places, and enslaved its people and settled in some other place. The conflict over Eritrea continued and the Romans and Macedonians fought over it. Finally, Eretrians were given a symbolic independence under the Romans.

Herodotus says the Eritreans were divided into three: one group wanted to surrender to the Persians, another group wanted to flee to the hills above Eretria, whilst the third group wanted to fight. The Greek Eretria was a walled city, with masonry walls to prevent aggressors from entering the city. But the PFDJ’s Eritrea is a walled country not to ward off enemies, but to keep Eritreans inside, in an open-air prison.

I think the Italians were remembering the Greek Eretria and not the Mare Erythreaum when they named their new colony Eritrea. The colonizers were thinking of Roman war glories in ancient Eretria of Greece when they replicated the name and baptized our country Eritrea. It’s a theory but we now have qey-bahrachin aggressors emboldened by the banner holders of the old Andenet political strain.

The Shameless Fascists

Did you see all the hidden Andenet sentiments come out in all its ugliness? All these people who were shaming Eritreans for carrying the symbol of Eritreanism, the blue flag, now all wrapped in Haile Selassie’s flag? What do you make of that? PFDJ Ambassadors running to the Ethiopian embassies to coordinate their sinister designs as if they didn’t waste decades alienating their own compatriots?

Did you see the clowns dancing and celebrating, salivating! Eritreans opposing Isaias and his tyrannical rule are considered their enemies, but aggressors salivating qey bahrachin are welcome. This is what I have been warning for years but still, the result is all the same—unnecessary gambling, and an invitation to more bloodshed and violence. These dummies have no clue they are exposing the region to great risks.

I remembered Dr. Eugene Scott.

When I first came to the USA for a visit in the nineteen-eighties, it took me days to adjust my sleeping time and stayed up through most of the night. I spent hours watching television, endless sales shows, televangelists, and others. One preacher attracted my attention because his style was shocking. I was new to the culture and thought to myself, Americans cannot be this stupid!

My feeling about Americans was confused. I tried to justify it to myself, they are believers, they are too generous. But why on earth would I give money to someone who disrespects me? He has hypnotized the audience.

This preacher got bolder and disrespectful to his audience by the day—Americans are too afraid or too obedient to their religious leaders. He would scream, ‘I said I wanted half a million this is $100, 000 short, what is wrong with you people! C’mon, I need the $1000 pledges…go on.’ Even after getting what he wanted, he didn’t thank the givers—it was as if they owed him the money, That, was my first shocking experience in the USA.

In a way he is like Isaias Afwerki who never thanks his enablers, and they obey any of his marching orders.


knowingly or unknowingly some people think the Eritrean resources belong to the PFDJ. True, it controls everything by the power of the gun. And that gun is supposed to serve and protect the people. Members of the security forces are our children, our brothers, our friends, and elders.

And given the right support system, and common mission to reign over injustice, they need support and encouraged to work to spread security and freedom across the land. A clique of a handful of people and their selfish enablers must be stopped from fragmenting the people. If there was some semblance rule of law and democracy in Eritrea, we wouldn’t be where we are. We could have dealt with our problem under the roof of a parliament, a conscious freedom of the press, and an independent court system, with an elected executive branch. The absence of that normalcy for thirty years that created an abomination against the government despite our costly struggle and noble ideals as a nation to achieve a government that we choose. And the day to realize that is getting closer, let’s work diligently. Eritrea is exposed to risks from within and from without—no one should be missing during the heavy lifting and no one should be prevented from reaping the harvest of freedom–all citizens should are equal beneficiaries.

About Saleh "Gadi" Johar

Born and raised in Keren, Eritrea, now a US citizen residing in California, Mr. Saleh “Gadi” Johar is founder and publisher of Author of Miriam was Here, Of Kings and Bandits, and Simply Echoes. Saleh is acclaimed for his wealth of experience and knowledge in the history and politics of the Horn of Africa. A prominent public speaker and a researcher specializing on the Horn of Africa, he has given many distinguished lectures and participated in numerous seminars and conferences around the world. Activism was founded by Saleh “Gadi” Johar and is administered by the Awate Team and a group of volunteers who serve as the website’s advisory committee. The mission of is to provide Eritreans and friends of Eritrea with information that is hidden by the Eritrean regime and its surrogates; to provide a platform for information dissemination and opinion sharing; to inspire Eritreans, to embolden them into taking action, and finally, to lay the groundwork for reconciliation whose pillars are the truth. Miriam Was Here This book that was launched on August 16, 2013, is based on true stories; in writing it, Saleh has interviewed dozens of victims and eye-witnesses of Human trafficking, Eritrea, human rights, forced labor.and researched hundreds of pages of materials. The novel describes the ordeal of a nation, its youth, women and parents. It focuses on violation of human rights of the citizens and a country whose youth have become victims of slave labor, human trafficking, hostage taking, and human organ harvesting--all a result of bad governance. The main character of the story is Miriam, a young Eritrean woman; her father Zerom Bahta Hadgembes, a veteran of the struggle who resides in America and her childhood friend Senay who wanted to marry her but ended up being conscripted. Kings and Bandits Saleh “Gadi” Johar tells a powerful story that is never told: that many "child warriors" to whom we are asked to offer sympathies befitting helpless victims and hostages are actually premature adults who have made a conscious decision to stand up against brutality and oppression, and actually deserve our admiration. And that many of those whom we instinctively feel sympathetic towards, like the Ethiopian king Emperor Haile Sellassie, were actually world-class tyrants whose transgressions would normally be cases in the World Court. Simply Echoes A collection of romantic, political observations and travel poems; a reflection of the euphoric years that followed Eritrean Independence in 1991.

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  • Haile S.

    Selam Saleh,

    Ahhhhm on Eretria!
    When the pot calls the kettle black comes to mind. Congratulations! You out-legended the Solomonic one 😁.

    It is a masterstroke to imagine the all Patriot and tireless Francesco Crispi, overlooking Italy’s legend and history in his own backyard, to go fetch in ancient Greece a name of a citadel, Eretria (meaning: the city of rowers (slaves?)) that “fits” his newly discovered colony, Eritrea, forgetting his colony’s own Mare-Erythraeum (Mar-Rosso).

    What makes you doubt it came from Mare Erythraeum? Have you exhausted all possibilities?

    If Crispi was looking for greek name, he had plenty of choice in the land he just possessed. Shouldn’t he have named it Adulisiae, or Arsinoe, a greek name of a port around Assab, Italy’s maiden possession in the region? There was also Berenice somewhere between the two.

    P.S. on the image, you should have choosen Sankara with his legendary beret. On this one he looks like TPLF special force, except the guitar.

    • Saleh Johar

      You are a tough intellectual. I stated it was my theory and you know what you need to do to trash it–get a better theory 🙂 But wondering why Crispi didn’t choose Bernice is a bit out stretched… there are a million other names he could have chosen from, but I gave my theory. Besides, I hated it when every cadre taught new comers—‘Eritrea is named after Mare Erythraeum, meaning light skinned, Ethiopia means burnt face’. I am sure you came across that lullaby lesson 🙂

      • Haile S.

        Selam Saleh,

        Stop intellectualism! I am a handyman, ኣንጠረኛ.

        I was just pushing you if you had further explanation. I haven’t completed my investigation, but I can tell you that even the Italian deputies didn’t understand Crispi’s choice.

        • Abi

          አንተ አንጥረኛ ከሆንክ ነገረፈጅ ማን ሊሆን ነው?

  • Hashela

    Selam Awatawian

    I always struggle(d) to make sense as to why the Red Sea (“Marum Erythraeum”) is called Red Sea. When Saleh pointed out that the Arabian Sea was also called Marum Erythraeum, it perfectly makes sense to me. A basic understanding of physical and biological oceanography (also called oceanology in Russian scientific literature) provides the reason as to why a large part of ocean occasionally become red and fueled the fantasy of ancient sailors. Abstaining from mathematical formulations, below I outline a highly simplified, qualitative explanation.

    The physical part:
    Earth is a rotating and deformable planetary body. The forces associated with the rotation of the Earth strongly affects the fluid dynamics of the ocean. For example, the Trade Winds blow seasonally along the Yemeni/Oman or Somali’ coast. As a consequence of the Earth’s rotation, the ocean surface water is displaced perpendicular to the direction of the wind. This means the surface water along the Yemeni/Oman or Somali’ coast is pushed away toward the open ocean and gets replaced by deep water (water coming from the deeper part of the ocean). Deep water is highly enriched in dissolved nutrients (ዱኽዒ).

    The biological part:
    Bringing nutrient-enriched deep water to the ocean surface fuels a massive growth of microscopically small algae (plants) called phytoplanktons. They form the basis of all food chain. Driven by abundant nutrient availability, the phytoplanktons grow in number dramatic and color the ocean. The type color depends in the dominating group of the phytoplanktons. Often the white group dominates, occasionally the red phytoplankton group dominates and, as a result, colors a large part of the surface ocean red that can last up to 2-3 months and be seen from space.

    It is highly likely that ancient sailors and voyagers cross-crossing the Arabian Sea witnessed the such seasonally red coloring of the surface water

    The atmospheric and oceanic circulation over and in the Red Sea does not promote a large scale transport of nutrient-rich deep water to the surface water of the Red Sea. For this reason, the surface water of the Red Sea is relatively nutrient poor, especially the central and northern segment of Red Sea!

    Oceanographically, it is possible that red algae can be carried by surface current (advection) from the Arabian Sea to the southern Red Sea.


  • Abi

    Hello Ato Saleh
    Those proud Eritrean men and women demonstrating while proudly waving Eritrean flags are true patriots . They are not , by any means, wrapping themselves with Haileselassie flag. You need to curb your exaggerated remarks. Sooner or later, you lose your credibility.
    You are undermining your audience. In case you haven’t paid enough attention, the Awate family is a little sophisticated enough to distinguish between a stand up comedian and a true justice seeker.

    • Saleh Johar

      Selam Ras Abi, the future governor of Assab (I am nominating you:-)

      Sorry, I didn’t meant to hurt your feeling. C’mon, you can tolerate a different perspective! Just you have impulsive responses, others have it. To me it is the Haile Selassie flag–successive Ethiopian governments, segments of your people, parties, and governments think that way. It’s not only me. It just brings bad memories–that is a fact. But please continue doing what you do best–poke, poke, and poke some more. It take more accurate approach to weaken my immunity to attacks like yours. Good luck my dear 🙂

    • Brhan

      The A. Ahmed Ali gov’t is to sue the Ethiopian men and women demonstrators because they were not waiving Ethiopian flags. 😀

      • Abi

        There is no star on the Ethiopian flag. It is የሻገተ አምባሻ soon to be removed.
        Stay tuned.
        I’m sure you are proud of those Eritreans who demonstrated against the fake news and both the demented guys at 1600 Pennsylvanian Avenue and Foggy Bottom.

        • Brhan

          You mean your current Ethiopian flag hanged on the wall of your foreign minster Demeke Mekonen Hassen’s office is stinky bread? . These days you are full of toxic words, even to your foreign minster. I thought the demo boosted your mood.

          • Abi

            As I said earlier, that አምባሻ will be removed from the Ethiopian flag.
            That አምባሻ reminds us the toxicity of the decaying Tplf.
            Stay tuned.

          • Brhan

            What do the 52 stars remind you: “the demented guys?”

          • Abi

            The 52 stars remind me absolutely nothing. I have no idea what you are talking about.
            You are not the only one who thinks that the USA 🇺🇸 flag has 52 stars.
            Now that I brought you from darkness, you can thank me after you wrote “USA” 50 times.
            You welcome.
            ሰዎችን ከጨለማ ወደ ብርሃን እንደማምጣት ምን የሚያስደስት ነገር ይገኛል?

          • Brhan

            Ooops 50 stars! Who knows about US stars more than an American, like you!