The Habesha people (Ge'ez: ሐበሻ Ḥabaśā, Amharic (H)ābešā, Tigrinya: Ḥābešā?; Arabic: الاحباش al-Aḥbāš), also known as Abyssinians, are a population group inhabiting the Horn of Africa. They include various related ethnic groups in the Eritrean Highlands and Ethiopian Highlands, who speak languages belonging to the South Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic family. Members' cultural, linguistic, and in certain cases, ancestral origins trace back to the Kingdom of Dʿmt (usually vocalized Diʿamat) and the later Kingdom of Aksum.
In antiquity, the Habesha (Habash) or Abyssinians inhabited an area in the Horn known as Al-Habash, which was situated in the northern highlands of Eritrea and Ethiopia. The peoples referred to as "Habesha" today include the Amhara and Tigrayans of Christian background Together, the Amhara and Tigray comprise around 41.5% of Ethiopia's population (c. 33.6 million Amhara; 5.5 million Tigray), while the Tigrinya make up (55%, respectively) of Eritrea's population (c. 5 of 5.9 million).
The Habesha developed an agricultural society, which most continue, including raising of camels, donkeys, and sheep. They plow using oxen. The Orthodox Church is an integral part of the culture. The church buildings are built on hills. Major celebrations during the year are held around the church, where people gather from villages all around to sing, play games, and observe the unique mass of the church. It includes a procession through the church grounds and environs.
Ethiopian coffee is a very important ceremonial drink. The "coffee ceremony" is common to the Tigray and the Amhara. Beans are roasted on the spot, ground, and brewed, served thick and rich in tiny ceramic cups with no handles. This amount of coffee can be finished in one gulp if drunk cold; but, traditionally it is drunk very slowly as conversation takes place. When the beans are roasted to smoking, they are passed around the table, where the smoke becomes a blessing on the diners. The traditional food served at these meals consists of injera, a spongy flat bread, served with wat, a spicy meat sauce.
Houses in rural areas are built mostly from rock and dirt, the most available resources, with structure provided by timber poles. The houses blend in easily with the natural surroundings. Many times the nearest water source is more than a kilometer away from the house. In addition, people must search for fuel for their fires throughout the surrounding area.
The Habesha people have a rich heritage of music and dance, using drums and stringed instruments tuned to a pentatonic scale. Arts and crafts and secular music are performed mostly by artisans, who are regarded with suspicion. Sacred music is performed and icons are painted only by men trained in monasteries.
The culture of Harar and the Harari people is deeply Islamic, as is its art and architecture; According to UNESCO, it is "considered 'the fourth holy city' of Islam" with 82 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century, and 102 shrines. It has developed unique art forms, such as a polyphonic singing style, dhikr, and ornamentation. The city has a tradition of leather book-binding of Qurans and other religious books are renowned in the Islamic world. The ancient walled city with its white-washed walls and narrow alleyways is reminiscent of the medinas and kasbahs of the Near East. Harar has been the epicentre of Islamic learning and culture in the Horn and East Africa for a millennium.
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