Terrain shapes and bedrock
According to COUNTRYAAH, the nature of Eritrea is largely characterized by large faults parallel to the Red Sea. On the coast towards the Red Sea, a coastal plain is spreading, which extends southward and passes into the Danakil Plateau. This desolate area extends into Ethiopia and encloses a sink, the Kobar sink, which reaches more than 90 m above the coast, like the islands of the Dahlakaripelagi, coral reefs. The coastal plain is confined to the west by a fault slope. Just above the slope lies Eritrea’s highest mountain, Amba Soira (3,010 m above sea level).
The plateau west of the slope is built up of granites and gneisses, which are superimposed by sandstone, limestone and top basalt. On the plateau, rest mountains have been formed with flat tops, ambas, between deeply eroded valleys and ravines. To the west, the plateau gradually slopes down towards the border with Sudan in a soft rolling landscape.
The coastal plain of the Red Sea has an extremely hot and dry climate. In Mitsiwa, the average temperature in January is 26 °C and in July 35 °C. The annual rainfall is on average around 180 mm and varies greatly from year to year.
On the plateau-like highlands in the northwest, the climate is both cooler and rainier. Keren, northwest of Asmera, has an average temperature of 18 °C in January and May (warmest month) of 25 °C. The annual rainfall here is about 650 mm on average.
Plant-and animal life
The coastal area is desert-like with low grass and tamarisk. In the few high-lying areas in the north and northwest that are not exploited, Koso, brown olive (O’lea africa’na), styrene Juni’perus proce’ra, the strävbladiga Co’rdia abyssi’nica and shrub and candelabra shaped Euphorbias. Higher up are torch lilies and tree-like heather.
Wildlife is mostly adapted to dry environments. There are over a hundred species of mammals, including mantle baby, caracal, striped and spotted hyena (both rare) and gold shawls. Of ungulates there are African wild ox (rare), oyx and Sömmerings gazelle (Gazeʹlla soemmerriʹngi). Over 300 species of birds are nesting, and an additional 200 are seen.
Eritrea had two national parks in 2010: the Dahlakar Archipelago, the Marine National Park in the Red Sea, and Semenawi Bahri, a mountainous area in central Eritrea.