According to Countryaah, Eritrea has an average population density of 26 residents per km2; density is highest in the highland area of central Eritrea. In 2019, 40 percent lived in one of the country’s cities, of which the capital Asmera (712,000 residents in 2012) is the completely dominant. The civil war and famine have meant that today there are estimated to be about 1 million Eritrean refugees outside the country. Of these, half are estimated to be in neighboring Sudan.
The population is divided into five major ethnic groups and a number of smaller peoples. More than half of the population belongs to Tigrinya, who are Orthodox Christians and dominate the country politically and economically; most live in the central parts of the country. There is also a large tigrinadia spore outside of Eritrea. In the Highlands there is a small group of Tigrinian-speaking Muslims called Jeberti; most of them are traders. In the southern parts of Eritrea are the camel-eating aphids (4 percent), who speak a Cushitic language and are Muslims. Also saho (4 percent) in western Eritrea are Muslims and livestock but with a certain element of resident agriculture. Both Afar and Saho have a traditional socio-political system based on paternal law principles.
The tiger population (30 percent) in the far north-west is mainly agricultural. Among them, Christianity dominates, but Islam also exists. Along the border with Sudan in the north-west, the livestock-eating cattle tribes (210,000) also live. They are Muslims, and among them are both Tiger and Cushitic speakers. Rashaida (76,000), who lives in the vicinity of Beja people, is an Arabic-speaking group that moved in from the Arabian Peninsula in 1846. They are Sunni Muslims, live as camel-breeding nomads and are considered to be descended from Bedouins.
Among the smaller groups in Eritrea can also be mentioned the plow-farming bilin (96,000). They inhabit the central parts of the country and are now Muslims after previously practicing Ethiopian-Orthodox Christianity. In the border regions towards Ethiopia are found the nilotic kunama (100,000). Along the border with Sudan, 26,000 Nara live, which are farmers and Muslims. Their language belongs to the Cushitic languages.
The Eritrean authorities recognize three working languages: Tigrinese, Arabic and English. Tigrinya is preferably spoken by Christians around Asmera and down to the Ethiopian border. Arabic is spoken by small groups in the cities but is widely used as a second language. On the coastal plain north of Massawa, tigers are spoken by Muslim nomads. At the far north is the Kushite beja. In the south-east, the related Kushite languages dominate saho and aphas.
The population is roughly evenly distributed between Muslims and Christians. Muslims dominate western and northern Eritrea as well as along the Red Sea coast, the Christians of the Central Highlands. As in Ethiopia, Muslims are Sunnis. Traditionally, their contacts with Muslims in the Arabian Peninsula and in Sudan are stronger.
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The Christians belong to almost all the Eritrean Orthodox Church. In Eritrea there are also Catholic and Protestant Christians. Of the latter, about 12,000–13,000 are members of two Evangelical Lutheran churches with roots in the Swedish mission.