This region was the stronghold of Eritrean struggle, good hiding place with its huge mountains and valleys. It has been a stronghold for many others much earlier, notably the 44 monastries in the mountain peaks of third century, of Bet Ma’ala. It was the travellers route of ancient time, as Queen Makeda.
In 523-524 A.D. the remaints of the christian martyrs of Najran in Yemen came to Sahel, still known as Hagere Nagran, helped by Negus Kaleb. A swedish translation from a book found by R Sundstrom when he found this book in Debre Sina, 1910 ”The Martyrs in Nagran” The Beja tribes grew and fell in these mountains.
In the medivial times, the inhabitants were nomads moving for pasture. There were battles, fights and raids from the south that new tribes began to migrate to the Sahel. Some decades ago, the tribes living there are supposedly 24, like the Asgede, Degdege, Zager, Asfeda, Almeda Shiho, Harabes, Zaul, Tsaura, Aderke, Dob’at, Aflanda, Reshaida, Belew, etc. Their main kin live in Barka and Kebesa. The Asgede, a powerful group came up there from Adi Nefas, but originally of Tsena Degle of Akele Guzai. The historian Conti Rossini states it was in 1500, also Crawford, that Asgede came amongst the Habab. Alberto Pollera in his book "Le popolazioni dell’Eritrea" 1935 states that Asgede’s father Be’imnet was a noble of Tsena Degle. An extensive history on the Habab is written by Anthony D’Avrey 1996, ”Lords of the Red Sea” It is a common story by the Tsena Degle elders I had talked to.
Before the coming of the Asgede, there was a merciless man of Dob’at called Tegez. He polished his famous sword with human marow. He killed so many that at last he came to his sister and wanted to kill one of her sons, to polish his sword. His sister ’s dead husband was Mohammed Almeday. She begged him to spare her children saying this is my fence Hasuray, this is my Axe, Agdubay, my washing cup, Regbet, Tsauray, names they still bear as tribes. Two of her sons were present and when their uncle lied down to rest, one said ”Uncle, what magificent sword, can I try it?” And with it, he stabbed the cruel uncle, swearing ”Ab Regeb” (I stabbed him). His younger brother took out the sword swearing ”Ab Selab” (I slay). The mortally wounded uncle told them to bury him and then tell the people else they would be killed for revenge. And they did so.
In summer 1998, I talked to several boys drawing water, in Afabet-Nakfa road. Knowing their answer, I asked them of their Kebila-tribe. They answered without hesitation ”Asfeda, Almeda, Asgede, Zager!” etc.
In 17th century, The powerful Fung rulers of Sennar (Sudan) waged war against the Belew of Barka (a long story) to help Amr, later known as Beni Amer. The Belew were forced to flee eastwards settling in Senhit, Hamassien, but mostly to Semhar and Serae.
The father of the tribes of Mensa’, Marya Tselim and Maria Keyeh of Senhit, Hazo and Tora’ of Akele Guzai came from Arabia, through Yemen and they still remember the kinship.
The Tewke of Blein, the Asawerta and Betjuk amongst others originate from Hamassien
In 1950s, there was a large feast by the Zauls of all over Eritrea in Edaga Hamus, Asmera. They gathered from 17 villages from Serae, with representatives, 12 from Akele Guzai, 18 from Hamassien, and 6 of Senhit. I was lucky to get the print of 1946 Eth Cal. With the names of villages and the representatives. The keeper of treasury was Blata Osman Abera Hagos of Asmera.
In 1992-3, I went to Zaul village and was surprised that they received me as their kin and was presented to several ”uncles”, after 8 generations away.
In about 1973, a young truck driver accidently killed a man in Keren. He was caught and the people asked him of his tribe. He said Serae. They asked him which tribe and he said Zaul. Immediately the Zauls sent word and gathered and contributed Gar money to the victim, apart from the law, and that was the last time the Zauls had contact with each other, as the Derg time was disturbed times and people fled away.
There are many stories relating all Eritreans together. I have learnt to connect myself to many villages I visited, to get stories from the elders. They always ask ”Who are you?” meaning which tribe. And there is so much connection most can find kins everywhere.