The major structural feature of the northern part of the Main Ethiopian Rift is an en echelon belt of Quaternary tensional faulting with the individual faults trending approximately N 20 degrees E. Farther north, towards central Afar, this structural pattern gives way to a zone of complex faulting. Northern Afar is dominated by a linear, axial central rift region, marked by active fissure volcanism, normal falting and open tensional fauls, all trending generally NNW. However, this central rift zone dies out northwards as it is traced towards the Gulf of Zula. Left-lateral shear along the length of the Main Ethiopian Rift is proposed as the cause of the en echelon tensional fault zone, which can be traced into Afar, but is apparently not continuous with the zone of faulting associated with the median trough of the Red Sea. The latter appears to be replaced in an en echelon fashion southwards by zones of crustal extension in central and northern Afar.