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Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 30, No. 3, September 2010

Muslim Hadramis in “Christian Ethiopia”:
Reflections on Boundary Making Processes

SAMSON A. BEZABEH
Abstract
The migration and diasporic formation of Hadramis in the Indian Ocean region
has received due consideration lately from the academic community. Despite the
recent attention however, scholarly works regarding Hadramis in East Africa
remain scant. This article is aimed to redress the imbalance. Based on ethnographic
research that was conducted in the East African country of Ethiopia which is traditionally considered as a Christian nation and adopting a historical perspective,
the article explores the interactions of Hadramis with the Ethiopian state and the
historically dominant Orthodox Christian population. As most Hadramis have
returned from Ethiopia to their homeland, this article also explores the experience
of second and third generation Hadramis, who upon their return from Africa to
their country, Hadramut, have been given a minority status as a result of their
mixed ethnic background.
Introduction
Throughout recorded history sporadic population migration from Arabia to East Africa
and Ethiopia has been a noted phenomenon. In the modern era Hadramis started to
migrate and settle in Ethiopia at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning
of the twentieth century. Thus, by the beginning of the twentieth century, Ethiopia
hosted a number of Arab families who were mainly Yemeni or Hadrami by origin.
Although the exact population of the Hadramis at that time is not known, various statistical estimates and narrations, including narration of present day Hadrami families
indicate that their number was substantial. This is particularly true in the case of
major Ethiopian towns and trading centres such as Hara, Jimma and Asmara.1
Despite their pronounced presence, however, their numbers, declined during the
second half of the twentieth century as a result of negative factors that have forced
them to leave the country. One such factor was the movement of pan-Arab nationalism
which gained momentum in the 1960s. To be more specific, in 1969 Hadramis were
expelled from Ethiopia for “supporting” the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF),2 whom
Arab nations, particularly Syrians and Egyptians, were supporting for fulfilling their
goal of creating a united Arab land which in their vision also included the highlands of
northern Ethiopia.3 In this scenario, Hadramis along with other Arabs were accused
by the Haile Selassie regime4 in Ethiopia of sympathizing with the Arab backers of the
Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), and hence undermining Ethiopian unity.5 This has
led many Hadrami families to voluntarily and involuntarily relocate themselves to
Yemen and to oil reach countries in the Gulf such as Saudi Arabia.
In addition to the above circumstances, the socialist regime that came to power in
1974 resulted in the out migration of Hadrami families. In the 1970s, the regime that
ISSN 1360-2004 print/ISSN 1469-9591 online/10/030333-10 # 2010 Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs
DOI: 10.1080/13602004.2010.515813

334

Samson A. Bezabeh

referred to itself as Derg, nationalized business establishments and private houses
through a series of declarations. Hadrami merchants and traders were also faced with
a hostile environment as they were referred as “the bourgeoisie” who were oppressing
the newly championed class, the proletariat and the farmers. The Red Terror Campaign
which was executed by the Derg regime and which has led to the killing of half a million
people also presented a harsh environment for the Hadramis.6 In these circumstances
many Hadramis lost their property and many became casualties of the Red Terror
regime.
Despite their out migration, Ethiopia still hosts a number of Hadrami families. Many
of the present day Hadramis are descendents of families who have resisted the atrocities
and challenges that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. There are also families who went to
Saudi Arabia and Yemen but returned back to Ethiopia following the down fall of the
Derg regime and the take over by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic
Front (EPRDF) in 1991, a political force that presented a more liberalized framework
reflecting the post Cold War political environment.
In this article I will describe what it means to be a Hadrami from and in Ethiopia in the
above mentioned historical and/or political contexts. To be more specific, in the following pages, I will try to show how Hadrami families have been affected by processes of
exclusion and of stigmatization and of boundary making process effected both by the
state policies and the state administrative set up as well as through the organization of
everyday interaction.
For the sake of clarity and coherence I will present the discussion by focusing on three
time lines:
A) The imperial period: A period which spans from the coming of the
Hadramis at the beginning of the twentieth century to the down fall of
Emperor Haile Sellassie and the take over of the socialist oriented Derg
in 1974. This period present to us a conceptual arena in which the Ethiopian state is portrayed as a Christian Kingdom as a result of a monarchical
system which is strongly linked with the Ethiopian Orthodox church, an
alliance which has been formed since the introduction of Christianity in
Ethiopian during the fourth century.
B) From 1960s to 1990s: In this period I will try to look at what it means to be
a Hadrami when the situation became harsh in Ethiopia. As Hadramis have
also moved from Ethiopia to places like Yemen and Saudi Arabia during
this period, I will also try to relate their experience of being Hadramis
from Ethiopia in those new contexts.
C) From 1990s to 2008: In this section I will try to shed light on what it
means to be a Hadrami in a context where the government in power
namely the current government led by EPRDF portrays itself as being
follower of democratic ideals and committed to the separation of sate
and religion. The narration in this section also considers contemporary
events mainly the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia which occurred in a
post 9/11 environment.

(A) Hadramis in the Imperial Era
At the beginning of the twentieth century, when the Hadramis started to settle in Ethiopia they appeared to the native, especially Ethiopian Mulims, as Muslims who follow the

Muslim Hadramis in “Christian Ethiopia”

335

Shafi school of Islam. They also appeared as Sayyeds, descendants of the prophet
Mohammed and Shaikhs, religious scholars. For the Hadrami migrant this was an enormous advantage. By virtue of being an Arab and a Muslim at the same time, Hadramis
were easily accepted by the Ethiopian Muslim community as they were thought to be the
descendants of the prophet Mohammed and well versed in the teachings of Islam. Their
presence in the community was considered as a sort of blessing to the community. To
obtain this blessing Hadramis were given free land as well as means of livelihood so
that they would stay. As marriage with the Arabs who are considered as being the descendants of the Prophet Mohammed is considered as a prestigious undertaking Hadramis
were also given women in marriage. This was especially true for the Sayyeds and
Shaikhs class among the Hadramis.
The Sayyeds also held a special position within the early Hadrami migrant community.
Sayyeds were venerated and marriage with the Sayyeds class was sought after. This
however was not an easy task because of the stratification system which divides the
Hadramis into four strata, i.e., the Sayyeds (plural, Sada), the Sheiks, Qaabila and
Naqis. In this system marriage from upper strata to the lower strata was made possible
for the men. Women from the upper class however were not allowed to marry to lower
class men, the reason being that descent is counted agnatically.
However, outside the Muslim community Hadramis faced more problems than advantages, where being an Arab Muslim was a liability rather than an asset. Among the Christian population, who dominated the state and whose religion (the Ethiopian Tewahdo
Ortodox Christianity) was also the state religion; Hadramis were looked down upon
by virtue of their being Arabs and Muslims. One of the major factors that explain the
low esteem of Hadramis among this group was the fact that Hadramis were mainly
traders and laborers. In the traditional economy these were two types of occupations
that were regarded as being of low prestige and were left to outsiders or local
Muslims. Because of this Hadramis were ostracized. They were derogatively called
Jemmals, camel trailers, which is derived from the practice of engaging in caravan
trade where trailing the camel is one task. The exclusion also stemmed from their
being Arabs and Muslims. Although homosexuality was not practiced in the group
local Christians somehow considered the Arabs as homosexuals, Bushti. Being Arab
also meant being considered as a womanizer and a person who would do anything to
get a woman.
Also, having Islam as a religion, was another reason for being stigmatized. As Muslims,
the Hadramis would observe the obligatory five times a day prayer. To engage in this they
would ritually perform the ablution so that they would cleanse themselves from any
impurities that they might have encountered. This ritual practice however was not
seen positively by the majority of the Christian population. The Arab Muslim tradition
of wearing a Sheret, or the skirt like dress which is wrapped around the waist, that also
looks like a female dress, added to the negative perception. Since they were considered to
be less masculine, to be without guts, they appeared effeminate and were labeled as
Sheretam Muslims, which literally means “Muslim who wears a Sheret”. In addition
to this, the Hadramis along with other Arab and Ethiopian Muslims were popularly
portrayed as people who would lick their fingers after eating, a practice which was
considered as being crude in the eyes of the majority. The way the Hadramies lived
was also popularly portrayed as being shabby and crowded.
The stigmatization of the Hadramis was also influenced by the long history of war
between the central government of Ethiopia with peripheral people who were “pagan”
or Muslim. Historically, the Ethiopian state waged war with Muslims sultanates in the

336

Samson A. Bezabeh

south and south east during the Middle Ages. At this period of time the Muslims, who
were backed by a substantial number of Hadrami mercenaries, based themselves in the
eastern city of Harar and invaded the Christian highland under the leadership of Ahmed
Gragn.7 Later on, in 1865 the Turks and Egyptians controlled the port cities of Suakin
and Massawa, in the north east and Egypt carried out an invasion leading to war. Ethiopia was also fighting the Mahdist Muslims in the Sudan that rose in reaction to the
British oppression.8
As a result of these historical developments, Muslim groups in Ethiopia were considered as enemies of Ethiopia, and not worthy of trust. By extension, the Hadramis
were considered as “the enemy” who hate the Ethiopians and who wanted to destroy
Ethiopia, just as their Muslim brothers had tried in the past.
The stigmatization and ostracization that the Hadramis have faced has also resulted in
strong actual boundary marking. Although Christians have historically interacted with
the Hadramis and other Muslim, they refrained from entering into marriage with the
Hadramis and Muslims in general. Marrying a Muslim or an Arab was considered tantamount to converting to Islam. The two groups also maintained or observed different
food taboos. Christians consider Hadrami food, especially the hallal meat, as unclean,
while Hadramis and the Muslims held the same opinion about Christian food. Among
the Orthodox Christians, a man who eats an animal slaughtered by a Hadrami or a
Muslim is considered as being himself a Muslim and thus requiring baptism in order
to restore his Christianity.
At the national level, the boundary between Muslims and Christians was expressed by
not allowing Muslims to own land that was the means of production in the country’s
agrarian economy. Traditionally also Muslims were not allowed to hold public offices
unless they converted to Christianity.9 Needles to say Hadramis along with other
Muslims were affected by the official state policy.
Despite the boundaries, the ostracization, stigmatization and biases within the Ethiopian
state structure the actual situation that we find when we look at the Hadramis however is
not only one of total marginalization. In another word being Arab and Muslim in the early
part of the twentieth century, defies simplistic assumptions, which view Muslim groups,
including Hadramis, as being only victims of the Ethiopian state. Hadrami Arabs and
Muslims were considered as being trustworthy people especially in matters of money.
Local people deposited their money with Arab Hadrami merchants as well as with other
Muslims without hesitation. For instance in the capital city, Addis Ababa, Sheikh Saeed
Ba Zara and Ali Ba Zara who were among the prominent Hadrami personalities in the
early twentieth century received money in the form of coins from local people and
deposited it in their home in large containers that were arranged for this purpose. In
addition, Ethiopian emperor used Hadramis as financial managers of the state as well as
for purchasing different goods which range from luxurious items to armaments.10
(B) Being Muslim and Arab in a Turbulent Period: 1960 – 1990s
In the 1960s, being an Arab Muslim in Ethiopia was much more difficult compared to
the first decades of the century. In 1969, the old Ethiopian attitude of considering
Arabs and Muslims as the enemy was dramatized due to the involvement of Arab
states, mainly Syria and Egypt, as backers of the separatist movement, the Eritrean
Liberation Front (ELF). This was also something that continued with the Derg.
Although as part of reforms the Derg introduced many rights for the Muslims, including
the incorporation of Muslim holidays in the public calendar11 it still clung to the idea that

Muslim Hadramis in “Christian Ethiopia”

337

the Arabs were the enemy. For the Derg this was in fact a reality than just a “mythology”
because Arab nations did in fact pour substantial amounts of money into the coffers of
the rebel groups fighting for independence in the northern part of the country. The
rebels also obtained training in Arab countries like Syria, Iraq and Palestine. Due to
this therefore the Hadramis found themselves under suspicion by the government and
by the local people as well.
When the Hadramis migrated back to Yemen12 as a result of the events of 1969, and
later because of the chaos during the Derg regime, the situation was difficult. Although
they were the “Arabs” in Ethiopia, back in Yemen, their Arabness was questioned. The
Hadramis were stigmatized and ostracized for being half cast or muwalladine. Although
at the time the stigma applied to all half-caste Hadramis, the problem was aggravated as a
result of their African heritage. Traditionally, Africans in Arabia appeared as slaves
throughout Arabia, including Yemen, where we find descendants of these slaves who
are referred as akhdam (servants) and given the lowest position in the society.13 Given
this historical reality Hadramis appearing from Ethiopia were therefore ostracized and
marginalized by virtue of having an African descent and being “black” although they
were not equated with the akhdam who are not half cast like them.
Apart from the race issue, Hadramis were also marginalized as a result of being too
modern in the eyes of the host country. Hadramis coming from Ethiopia had been
more exposed to Western ways of life including dressing styles. They have also
“absorbed” many Ethiopian values including mourning aloud at funerals, not observing
the prescribed segregation between women and men. They were also liberal when it
came to the wearing of headscarf. These issues were therefore considered as being a
threat to the “pure” Hadrami “culture” and gave the returning Hadramis from Ethiopia
a below average rank on the scale of being Arab Hadramis.
Hadramis from Ethiopia also faced challenges and negative reaction as a result of their
low skills in Arabic language. Many Hadramis who emigrated from Ethiopia were not
fluent in Arabic and a large majority of them were not conversant at all in Arabic.
This naturally created a problem of communication between them and the host population. It also became a factor in their marginalization in the country.
Among the range of factors that lead to the marginalization of Hadramis from Ethiopia
was also the active involvement of these groups in the political affairs of the country as
well as their dominance in the expanding public sector. During the civil war Hadramis
supported the “modernizing forces” which were at the time backed by Egypt.14 This
placed them on the “black list” of the supporters of the ancient regime as they considered
them as troublemakers. The fact that they had dominated public sectors such as the
insurance, the airline and banking sectors, created envy among local people who were
competing to hold positions in the same sector.
As in Ethiopia, all these types of prejudices were influenced by drawing on history. For
instance the conquest of the Yemen by the Ethiopia ruler, Abraha, became particularly relevant. Abraha invaded Yemen in 525 AD and occupied the country for long. During his
rule Abraha built a church, he also attempted to invade and destroy the Kabba, Islam’s
holiest shrine in Mecca.15 The Quranic account of this event tells us that Abraha was
destroyed by stone throwing birds.16 In the middle of the twentieth century, this story
and the event were used to interpret the existence of the Hadramis. Being half-Ethiopian
or as the Arab would say it Habesh, the Hadramis from Ethiopia were regarded with the
same fear as their ancestor Abraha who had attempted to destroy the Kaba.
Since their first coming to Yemen, the situation of Hadramis from Ethiopia has indeed
improved, but the group is still faced with prejudice that has racist overtones. As the time

338

Samson A. Bezabeh

passed Hadramis were able to connect with the local people by learning the language and
marrying fellow Hadramis. Despite this Ethiopian Hadramis however still face the prejudice, although some of them are no longer enthusiastic about admitting the matter openly.
(C) Hadramis in Post Socialist Ethiopia: 1990s – 2008
In the post socialist Ethiopia, following the fall of the Derg, Hadramis still faced the stigmatization that prevailed during the imperial period. The maintenance of boundaries
between Hadrami Arabs and Christian Ethiopians also still exists, although now the situation is more complicated as a result of the proliferation of Lutheran and Protestant
churches that were almost non-existent in the first half of the twentieth century or
during the Derg period. The Protestants do not socialize with the Arabs. In fact, my
own observation is that Hadramis have more ties with Orthodox Christians than the
Protestants who are considered by both Hadramis and other Christians as being “fundamentalists”. The Protestants do not chew khat (a mildly stimulating leaf) which is
chewed daily by both Hadramis and some Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. They do
not socialize by drinking in bars which also makes them a closed, inward oriented
group. Despite this, however, the Protestants do not observe the traditional food
taboo of not eating animals slaughtered by Muslims, as they see this as an archaic belief.
What we are observing now is a relative proximity between Orthodox Christians
and Hadrami Arabs as compared to the newly arrived groups of Protestants. The old
prohibition of not eating Muslim food and Christian food however has also been
challenged outside the Protestant community. The challenge also comes from the Orthodox Christians and the Hadramis themselves. Many Orthodox Christians eat Muslim food
while many Hadramis no longer refrain from eating Christian food. The prohibition is
regarded as being an archaic phenomenon which is not applicable to the modern condition.
The situation has also changed when it comes to the Sayid Hadrami group which were
traditionally considered to be the descendants of Prophet Mohammed. Their position
has been increasingly challenged by the more radical and militant groups such as the
Ahlele Sunna (Wahabis) and Tekfire, the Muslim Brotherhood, who have been proliferating since the takeover of EPRDF and the liberalization of religion by the regime.17
These groups denounce, among other things, the role of the Shaikhs in the mediation
between Allah and men and oppose the veneration of personalities that was common
within Sufi Islam and the Shafi brand of fiqh. As a result, the Sayyed have been increasingly deprived of followers and on several occasions faced both explicit and implicit
hostility from the new Islamic groups.
The position of the Sadas (Plural of Sayyed) is also increasingly being challenged from
within the community. An increasing number of Hadramis no longer consider the
Sayyeds as being superior to them and harbor resentment for the past dominance of
the Sayyeds. The major factor for this seems to be the changing fortunes of traditionally
low ranking non-Sayyed groups. Through time and hard work the people who have been
ranked at the bottom of the Hadrami stratification system acquired wealth, thereby
enhancing their power in a world that is increasingly being defined by financial capability.
This helped to change their view on the Sada.
In the broader context, during the EPRDF regime, Hadramis were faced with a government that allegedly supported the separation of state and religion. Since the coming
of the EPRDF, unlike the imperial regime, religion and state were separated in a newly
drafted constitution. In line with this, the government also attempted to promote the
expression of religion in all forms. Despite this apparent legal framework the regime,

Muslim Hadramis in “Christian Ethiopia”

339

however, still tightly controls the religious institutions of the country especially of the two
dominant religion, Orthodox Christianity and Islam, by indirectly appointing leaders
who are said to be willing to support the government.
The Role of the Government
Recently, since the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopian forces in 2007, the government in
fact has been playing a greater role in religious affairs. Right before the invasion of
Somalia, opposition groups in Ethiopia argued that the government had been directly
involved in a massacre of Christians, supposedly by fundamentalist Muslims, in the
southern town of Jimma.18 According to these reports,19 the action of the government
was triggered by a fear that the Ethiopian Muslims would back the Supreme Council of
Islamic Court in Somalia.20 The government also feared that the majority of Ethiopian
people who are disappointed with the war with Eritrea would not back them in the
war.21 Given these premises the opposition voices argued that the government
through its military which are purporting to be Muslim fundamentalists, actually
carried out the massacre so that the Christian population would be agitated and the
Muslims would not oppose its invasion fearing the hostility of the Christian population
as well as the government action that would come in the name of “countering
terrorism”.
On the other hand, in Somalia, the Supreme Council of Islamic court, Ittiha¯d almaha¯kim al-isla¯miyya, portrayed the war in Somalia as the invasion by a Christian Ethiopia. Western media as well as the Al-Qaeda second man Ayman Al-Zawari also portrayed
the same interpretation of the situation, i.e., Christian Ethiopia against Muslim
Somalia.22 In order to counter this accusation and to portray Ethiopia as a non Christian
state with a large Muslim population the government increasingly gave voice to the
Muslim community in the country. For the first time in Ethiopian Muslim history, the
tarawih prayer held during the month of Ramadan was televised live on national television. During the Eid al-Fitr prayer in November 2007 the government also ordered
tacitly the closing of all smaller mosques and encouraged people to have their prayer
at the national stadium in mass congregation. Indeed, the national stadium has been
the place where Muslims perform the Eid al-Fitr prayer but Muslims of Addis Ababa
and the surrounding region also used the mosques for the Eid prayer. By ordering the
closure of the smaller mosques and encouraging all Muslims to go to the national
stadium the government hoped to boost the number of Muslims in the stadium so the
resulting image could be used in countering the portrayal of Ethiopia as a Christian
nation. This tactic worked and the government televised the program live on national
television and on the Ethiopian satellite based television the image of a large Muslim
congregational prayer and hence a large population. This was followed by quotations
of statistical figures, which placed the number of Ethiopian Muslims at a record high
level. The national television also ran advertisements, which show how Muslims and
Christians have lived peacefully together.
At the conceptual level, the above mentioned government strategies do not seem to be
of concern to the Hadramis. The Hadramis, as well as many Muslims that I have talked
to in the field, know that this is a game that has to do with Somalia. Although they understand that the government move is a strategic move, they welcome the opportunity and
are enthusiastic about the increasing voice that the Muslim community enjoy since the
coming of the EPRDF, also because of the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. Some also
hope to be able to gain power.

340

Samson A. Bezabeh

Encounter with the Christian Population
Although Hadramis are enthusiastic about the recent gains at the national level this is
however something that has put them in confrontation with the Christian population.
Although they know that this is a tactical strategy on the part of EPRDF, the Christians
did not like the fact that the Muslims have been gaining greater voice and visibility. Due
to the sheer number of Muslims praying on the national television, the Christian population also felt a sense of being dominated by Muslims whom they think are increasingly
becoming fundamentalist and for this they would cite the incidence at the south western
town of Jimma as a case in point.
Thus, the Hadramis face increased confrontation as a result of the intricate political
maneuvering that centers on the old vision of Ethiopia as a Christian state. Local Christians also regard the Hadramis playing a negative role in recent affairs of the country,
which they still consider to be a Christian country. The Hadramis and especially the
wealthy ones who come back to Ethiopia following the EPRDF take over have been
accused of conspiring to make Ethiopia a Muslim country. This charge is especially laid
out against Mohammed Hussein Al-Amoudi the leading investor in the country and
who is said to be working with the ruling party. Al-Amoudi is accused by the local
people, especially the Orthodox Christians, for attempting to convert Christian Ethiopia
to Islam by providing funding for the promotion of Islam and the building of mosques in
various places.

Conclusion
As we have seen through our discussion above, being an Ethiopian Hadrami seems to
be rooted in the broader framework of the modern Ethiopian state and its image of
nationhood. Arriving in the country during the early part of the twentieth century, the
Hadramis were placed within the framework of a Christian state whose “proper subjects”
were being defined among other things by being in the “proper religion”, i.e., Orthodox
Christianity. Thus, being on the “wrong side” the Hadramis were ostracized through
food taboos and other discriminatory practices. During the imperial period, their
relation to Ethiopia and Ethiopians was also explained by looking at wars historically
that occurred between Ethiopia and the various Muslim states. This explanation was
extended during the Derg period as a result of the conflict that the Ethiopian state
was having with Arab backed separatist movement in the northern part of the country.
Even today, as in the imperial and the Derg periods, the Hadramis are portrayed as the
historical enemy of the Ethiopian state. In the imagination of the majority of Ethiopians,
especially Orthodox Christians, this thought seems to be silent as it has been through the
ages. The national image of Ethiopia seems to be defined by creating an externalized
antagonistic community of Muslims and Arabs who are allegedly opposing the Ethiopia
state. This imagination also seems to be played up by foreign powers. Both European,
through Western media and the Islamic groups in Somalia portrayed Ethiopia as a
Christian state and hence by extension making it an antithesis to anything Muslim
and Arab. The net effect of this for the Hadrmis seems to be an increased confrontation
between them and the local Christian population.
Outside the context of Ethiopia, being a Hadrami seems also to be affected by the
connection that they have with Ethiopia. As we have seen, Hadramis were faced with
a vision that centered on the alleged enmity between what is envisioned as Christian
Ethiopian state and the Muslim nation of Yemen. In this case, the reference is nothing

Muslim Hadramis in “Christian Ethiopia”

341

less than the Quran, which documents how the Ethiopian commander Abraha was
marching to Mecca to destroy the all-important symbol of Islam, the Kaaba. To put it
in a nut shell, bearing the diversities of the Hadramis in mind, it seems that the state
has been a vital element in defining being Hadrami from and in Ethiopia. Examined
in historical perspective, Hadrami identity seems to be defined as a result of being
present within a certain national framework that itself exists through the incorporation
and at the same time externalization of its alleged enemies.

NOTES
1. For statistical information regarding the number of Arabs in Ethiopia and in the surrounding region
see J. Spencer Trimingham, Islam in Ethiopia, London: Oxford University Press, 1952, pp. 280, 204,
221.
2. The Eritrean Liberation Front was a separatist movement which was formed in 1961 by groups of
Eritrean elite. Its aim was to separate Eritrea, which is now officially termed as the State of Eritrea,
from Ethiopia. For the history of Eritrea Liberation Front, see Dan Connell, Against All Odds: a
Chronicle of the Eritrean Revolution with a New Afterword on the Postwar Transition, Lawrenceville,
NJ: Red Sea Press Inc., 1992.
3. In the 1960s and 1970s the Arab world was dominated by discourse of unifying the Arabs by creating
economic, political and geographic unity. This idea was prominently emphasized by the Bath party of
Syria and personalities like Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. For a discussion of this discourse and the
effect it had on Ethiopian politics, see Haggai Erlich, Ethiopia and the Middle East, Boulder and
London: Lynne Rienne Publishers, Inc., 1995.
4. The Haile Selassie regime headed by Emperor Haile Selassie lasted from 1930 until its abolition by a
military coup in 1974.
5. For a full coverage on this story, see issues of Addis Zemen (Ethiopian Amharic official newspaper of
the Worker’s Party of Ethiopia) from March 14, 1961 up to March 27, 1961.
6. The Red Terror was a campaign of mass arrest and massacre carried out against members and alleged
supporters of opposition political parties. For an excellent account on the Red Terror Campaign, see
Dawit Wolde Giorgis, Red Tears: War, Famine and Revolution in Ethiopia, Lawrenceville, NJ: The Red
Sea Press Inc., 1989.
7. Ahmed Gragn, the “left handed” whose real name is Ahmed Ibin Ibrahim al Ghazi invaded the Christian highland of Ethiopia in the fourteenth century. His invasion ended as he was killed through the
collaboration of Ethiopian forces and Portuguese army who came to aid the Ethiopian king. For a
brief account of Ahmed Gragn see Franz-Christoph Muth, “Ahmad b. Ibrahim al Gazi”, in Encyclopedia Aethiopica: A-C, ed. Sigbert Herausgegeben VonUhlig, Wiesbaden: Harrassonitz Verlag, 2003,
p.155. For the involvement of Hadrmis in Ahmed Gragn army see B.G Martin, “Arab Migration to
East Africa in Medieval Times”, The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 7, No. 3,
1974, pp. 367–390.
8. For the History of the Mahdist revolution in the Sudan and its conflict with Ethiopia, see P. M. Holt,
The Mahdist State in the Sudan, Oxford: Clarednon Press, 1977.
9. Jon Abbink, “An Historical-Anthropological Approach to Islam in Ethiopia: Issues of Identity and
Politics”, Journal of African Cultural Studies, Vol. II, No.2, 1998, pp. 109–124.
10. Samson A. Bezabeh, “Among People with History: A study of Hadrami Diaspora and Ethiopian State
Interaction”, MPhil thesis in Anthropology of Development, Department of Social Anthropology,
University of Bergen, 2008.
11. J. Abbink, “An Historical-Anthropological Approach to Islam in Ethiopia”, op. cit., pp. 109–124.
12. The reference here is to Northern Yemen (Yemen Arab Republic) rather than People’s Democratic
Republic of Yemen. According to informants’ account, most Hadramis who left Ethiopia during
the 1960s went to North Yemen rather than to South Yemen which at the time was a socialist
country. The experience that is related in this article is therefore confined to the experience of the
Hadramis in the Yemen Arab Republic.
13. For an account on Ethiopians and other Africans in Arabia, see Matthew S. Hopper, “The African
Presence in Arabia: Slavery, the World Economy and the African Diaspora in East Arabia, 1840–
1940”, doctoral dissertation, University of California, 2006. For an interesting discussion regarding


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