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Historically, there has been a division in Eritrea between the Christian highlands, which are culturally and linguistically homogenous, and the predominantly Muslim lowlands, which are culturally and linguistically heterogeneous.
Eritrea's long war of liberation, however, managed to bridge some of the traditional differences between the highland and lowland populations. Located in northeastern Africa, Eritrea has about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) of coastline along the west coast of the Red Sea.
Eritrean pupils are today taught in their mother tongue in primary levels (one through five), and English takes over to be the language of instruction from sixth grade (at least in theory).
Moreover, local resistance and uprisings coupled with the domination of overseas trade by the Islamic empire in the Middle East led to the collapse of the kingdom.
The highland Tigrinya group constitutes about half of the population.
More than 75 percent of the population lives in rural areas. Although the Eritrean Constitution states that all nine ethnic languages in the country are equal, the government of Eritrea has two administrative languages: Tigrinya and Arabic.
The official Eritrean flag, adopted in 1993, is a combination of the flag of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front, the liberation movement that achieved a military victory over the Ethiopian government, and the old flag given to Eritrea by United Nations in 1952. The Eritrean-Ethiopian region has been exposed to population movements and migrations from northern Africa, across the Red Sea, and from the south.
On the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia, one also finds traces of some of Africa's oldest civilizations.
The notion that Eritrea was more developed and modern than Tigray and the rest of Ethiopia helped to boost Eritrean national consciousness.