The Afar Regional State (Afar: Qafar; Amharic: አፋር ክልል?) is one of the nine regional states (kililoch) of Ethiopia, and is the homeland of the Afar people. Formerly known as Region 2, its new capital as of 2007 is the recently constructed city of Semera, which lies on the paved Awash–Asseb highway.
The Afar Depression, also known as the Danakil Depression, is part of the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia, and is located in the north of the region. It has the lowest point in Ethiopia and one of the lowest in Africa. The southern part of the region consists of the valley of the Awash River, which empties into a string of lakes along the Ethiopian-Djibouti border. Other notable landmarks include the Awash and Yangudi Rassa National Parks.
Based on the 2007 Census conducted by the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia (CSA), the Afar Regional State has a total population of 1,390,273, consisting of 775,117 men and 615,156 women; urban inhabitants number 185,135 or 13.32% of the population, a further 409,123 or 29.43% were pastoralists. With an estimated area of 96,707 square kilometers, this region has an estimated density of 14.38 people per square kilometer. For the entire region 247,255 households were counted, which results in an average for the Region of 5.6 persons to a household, with urban households having on average 4 and rural households 6 people. Ethnic groups include Afar (90.03%), Amhara (5.22%), Argobba (1.55%) Tigrinnya people (1.15%), Oromo (0.61%), Welayta (0.59%), and Hadiya (0.18%). 95.3% of the population is Muslim and 4.7% is Christian (3.9% Orthodox Christian, 0.7% P'ent'ay, and 0.1% Catholics).
In the previous census, conducted in 1994, the region's population was reported to be 1,106,383 of whom 626,839 were men and 479,544 women; urban inhabitants were 85,879 or 7.76% of the population. The major ethnic compositions were the Afar (91.8%), Amhara (4.5%), Argobba (0.9%), Tigrayans (0.8%), Oromo (0.8%), Welayta (0.5%), and Hadiya (0.2%). In the urban areas, the Amhara ethnicity were the most numerous (42.5%), placing the Afar in second place (32.6%), followed by Tigrinnya (7.8%), Oromo (6.7%), Argobba (2.6%), and Welayta (2.2%). 95.6% of the population were Muslim, 3.9% Orthodox Christians, 0.4% Protestants, and 0.1% Catholics.
Afar is predominantly (89.96%) spoken in the region and is the working language of the state. Other languages with a significant number of speakers in the state include Amharic (6.83%), Tigrinnya (1.06%), Argobba (0.79%), Wolaitigna (0.43%), and Oromifa (0.4%).
According to the CSA, as of 2004, 48.57% of the total population had access to safe drinking water, of whom 26.89% were rural inhabitants and 78.11% were urban. Values for other reported common indicators of the standard of living for the Afar Regional State as of 2005 include the following: 67.3% of the inhabitants fall into the lowest wealth quintile; adult literacy for men is 27% and for women 15.6%; and the Regional infant mortality rate is 61 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, which is less than the nationwide average of 77; at least half of these deaths occurred in the infants’ first month of life. On 20 April 2007, the Regional government announced that it had increased health coverage from 34% to 40%, the result of construction of 64 new health clinics, increasing the total for the Region to 111.
Afar Depression, Erta-Ale active volcanic movement, Awash National Park, Yangudi Rassa National Park, Hadar and Aramis area, are the major tourist attraction area of the region. The Hot springs, Afar culture and cultural games are other attraction areas.
In 2005, a giant rift was formed in just a few days. The rift opened when the Dabbahu Volcano, situated in the north of the region, erupted. The crack forming is thought to be part of the process in which the Arabian Plate and African plates are moving apart. This new crack, 500 metres (1,640 ft) long, and 60 metres (197 ft) deep, opened when the lava from the erupting volcano flew underground and cooled into a 60 kilometres (37 mi) long, 8 metres (26 ft) wide dike within days.
The Afar Depression, a plate tectonic triple junction is found in the Afar Regional State. This geologic feature is one of earth's great active volcanic areas. Due to this volcanic activity the floor of the depression is composed of lava, mostly basalt. The continuous process of volcanism results in the occurrence of major minerals including potash, sulfur, salt, bentonite, and gypsum. In addition to these minerals, there are also promising geothermal energy sources and hot springs in different areas of the region. Most of the region's mineral potential are found in Dallol, Berhale and Afxera woredas of Zone Two. Elidar, Dubti and Millee in Zone one and Gewane in Zone Three also have some mineral possibilities.
Afar is home to peculiar wild life, which notably include the Abyssinian wild Ass, Grevy's Zebra, wild fox, wild cat, Cheetah, and Ostrich. These wild animals are found in the region's national parks. Because the region's tourism development is still in a poor state there are only two lodges in Awash National Park.
The CSA estimated in 2005 that farmers in the Afar Regional State had a total of 327,370 cattle (representing 0.84% of Ethiopia's total cattle), 196,390 sheep (1.13%), 483,780 goats (3.73%), 200 mules (0.14%), 12,270 asses (0.49%), 99,830 camels (21.85%), 38,320 poultry of all species (0.12%), and 810 beehives (less than 0.1%). The CSA estimated on the basis of a survey performed in December 2003 that nomadic inhabitants had 1,990,850 cattle (an 83.8% share of those animals in the Region that year), 2,303,250 sheep (90.6%), 3,960,510 goats (90%), 759,750 camels (85.9%), 175,180 asses (92.5%), 2960 mules (88.6%), and 900 horses (100%).
Hadar, a community in Afar, was the site of the discovery of "Lucy", the Australopithecus afarensis skeletal remains, by Donald Johanson of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. On March 5, 2005, another skeleton, estimated to be 3.8 million years old and said to be the world's oldest bipedal hominid skeleton, was found in the region. Yohannes Haile-Selassie has led digs there each year from 2004 to 2007.
On March 24, 2006 it was reported that a "significantly complete" cranium had been found at Gawis in the Gona area. The cranium appears as an intermediate form between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens.
On October 1, 2009, scientists reported that they had found a skeleton, dating around 4.4 million years ago. Named Ardi, it is a form of the species Ardipithecus ramidus. It is a distant cousin of the Australopithecus afarensis, Lucy's species.
In June 2010, the oldest direct evidence of stone tool manufacture was found in the Afar region and attributed to Australopithecus afarensis.