Ethiopia in a Glimpse
With an area of above 1.1 million square kilometers, Ethiopia is located at 3 to 15 degree north and 33 to 48 degree east. Its populations is approximately 100 million. Ethiopia is the earliest known home of human kind. The discovery of Lucy’s Australopithecus Afaransis 3.2.million-year old remains founded in 1974 was a milestone in positioning the country as a premier location for paleo anthropological research. The United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) registered the Lower Awash Anthropological site, where Lucy was found as a world heritage. The other discovery is Ardipithecus Ramidos- a 4.4 million year old hominid fossils.
The country is endowed with vast array of historical, natural and cultural tourist attractions. To mention some, Axum was the capital of one of the most glorious Empires of the ancient world dating back to the 1st Century A.D. Once the seat of Queen Sheba; Axum is the site of the famous Stella.
Lalibella is famous for its 11 Rock-Hewn Churches built in the 12 century. These churches are hewn out of a living rock. Of all the churches, Bete Giorgis is famous for its architectural perfection.
Axum, Lalibella and Gondar are world heritage sites. Bahirdar is located in the southern shores of Lake Tana, the largest lake covering an area of 3600sq.kms. There are 37 islands housing 20 churches and monasteries. Ura Kidanemihret, famous for its paintings, is a monastery that is open for both men and women to visit. Its proximity to Bahirdar makes to be accessed easily by boat trip. These destinations including Bahirdar are located in what is popularly known as the Historic Route.
Located 525 kilometers east of Addis Ababa,travelers find the ancient walled city of Harar with its 5 gates. Known for its handicrafts, basketry and colorful market, Harar won fame for its being a symbol of peace co-existence of different religions;it is registered by UNESCO as world heritage site.
Ethiopia is one of the most physically and biologically diverse countries in the world. Out of 861 species of birds 16 rare found only in Ethiopia. Of the 277 species of mammals, 31 larger and smaller size mammals are endemic.
The Danakil Depression is one of earth’s hottest places with many points at little more than 120 meters below sea level. Dallol is lunar type of landscape, while Ertale is lake of volcano.
Ethiopia is a mosaic of people, with more than 80 languages, different lifestyle, costumes and cultural dances. The Lower Omo Valley in Southern Ethiopia is known as the oldest human occupied landscape confirmed by the Paleo-Archaeological findings. It is an area where the first humans were living and registered as a world heritage sites in 1980. This destination offers a great opportunity for visitors who are interested to see the diverse cultures.
The country also offers a lot in terms of outdoor activities. Its mountains and terrain are the best for trekking, bird watching, paragliding and the like. Also rivers like Blue Nile, Awash and Omo are preferred for rafting.
Ethiopia has a number of colorful festivals that attract and entertain tourists throughout the year. Starting with September, which is the time of the Ethiopian New Year (Enkutatash) that falls on Meskerm 1 or September 11/12. The most interesting of the country’s religious festivals are Axum Tsion, Kulubi Gebreil, Sheik Hussein, Gishen Mariam and Sof Omar. Huge crowds arrive to pray for their health, for a new baby to be born, for a special favor, for a good harvest to give thanks to God for wishes already fulfilled. Some more festivals which attract thousands of pilgrims and visitors include; Ashenda(from August 21-23 every year), Meskel(the finding of the true cross on September 27), Irecha(Oromo People thanks giving day celebrated around Lake Hora, Bishoftu), Ethiopian Christmas(Genna on January 7), Timket(Epiphany) celebration(January 19) and Ethiopian Esater.
Muharram Islamic new year colorfully celebrated at Negash and Harar:Sheik Hussen shrine and at the end of Ramadan, the festival of Idd-Ul-Fitr is celebrated. Other major Islamic festivals are Molid-Ul-Nabi (Birthday of Prophet Mohammed) and Eid-ul-Adha (end of Haji, the pilgrimage of Makkah).
Ethiopia is also the birth place of Coffee. It is originated in south western parts of Ethiopia in a place called ‘Kaffa’. Ethiopian coffees are known for their complexity with a pungent, winey quality and distinct wildness in their acidity satisfying the varied tastes of consumers at home and throughout the world.
There are two main seasons: the dry season prevails from October through May; the wet season runs from June to September. Altogether, there are four seasons in Ethiopia.
- From February until mid-June, the weather is more unpredictable with a short rainy season (known as belge) usually coming in March or April. It is much warmer during this period. The days are hot and the nights are less cold than during the dry season.
- The long rainy season (known as meher) is from mid-June until the end of September. During this period, it rains intermittently throughout the day most days and it is generally damp and chilly. During both the belg and the meher rainy seasons, it sometimes hails in Addis Ababa.
There are three principal climate regions in Ethiopia, with tropical rainy climate, dry climate and warm temperate rainy climate. Locally named, Dega (cool temperate highlands over2, 500m absl), Weynadega (moderate warm lands lying between 1500-2500m absl) and Kolla (hot lowlands lying below 1500m absl).
People and Languages
There are over 80 ethnic groups who speak over 80 different languages consisting of 12 Semitic, 22 Cushitic, 18 Omotic and 18 Nilo-Saharan languages. The Amharas and the Tigreans, both of Semitic origin, account for 37% of the population. The people of Oromo descent account for 40% of the population of Ethiopia, and are the country’s largest ethnic group. More than half of the ethnic groups live in the southern part of the country including the Sidamas and Gurages.
Amharic (also known as Amharigna) is the official language and the lingua franca spoken throughout most parts of the country where tourists are likely to visit.
The major religions in Ethiopia are Ethiopian Christianity, Muslim and animist. Old Testament Judaism is apparent in Ethiopian Orthodox religious customs and each Ethiopian Orthodox Church has a “Tabot” that represents the Ark of the Covenant. The Israeli government evacuated most of Ethiopia’s small Jewish (Falasha or Beta Israel) community in May 1991, though some of its members have begun returning to Ethiopia.
Fasting is a big part of the Ethiopian Orthodox religion. Traditionally there are 250 days of fasting in the Orthodox calendar. Wednesdays and Fridays are fasting days. The most serious fasting time is the eight-week period prior to Easter. Fasting requires that no meat products, eggs or dairy products be consumed – essentially a vegan diet –In addition, during the period of Lent, no food is taken until after church services in the afternoon. Muslims also fast during the period of Ramadan, eating only after sundown. Both Ethiopian Orthodox and Muslims avoid eating pork.
Groups holding animist beliefs have influenced both Christian and Muslim religions in Ethiopia. There also are Evangelical Protestant and Roman Catholic communities.
Ethiopia uses 220 volts 50 cycles AC.
Visitors must have vaccination certificates against Yellow Fever. Any person, who visited or transited cholera-infected countries within six days before arrival, is required to have a vaccination certificate against Cholera. Malaria occurs in most parts of the country, especially the lowland. Visitors should take preventive dose against malaria, before, during and after the tour.
Official Name: The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
Capital City: Addis Ababa- The altitude of Addis Ababa ranges from 7,000-8,500 feet (2,200-2,600 meters). It is the third highest capital city in the world (La Paz, Bolivia, is first at 11,913 feet/3,631 meters and Quito, Ecuador, is second at 9,360 feet/2,850 meters).
Location: 3-12 north latitude and 35-38 east longitude. Time: GMT +3 hour’s time zone.
Population: Around 100 million
Government: The country is divided into nine regional states and two city administrations (Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa).
Country Topographic Profile: Ethiopia is located in the northeastern part popularly known as the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia is bound on the east by Djibouti and Somalia, on the north and northeast by Eritrea, on the south by Kenya and on the west by the Sudan. With an area of 1,112,000 km2, Ethiopia is as large as France and Spain combined. From the north and running down the centre are the Abyssinian highlands, to the west of the chain the land drops to the grasslands of Sudan, to the east to the deserts of the Afar and the Red Sea. South of Addis Ababa the land is dominated by the Rift Valley Lakes. The main rivers are the Blue Nile, the Tekezze, the Awash, the Wabe Shabele, the Omo, and the Baro. The major lakes are Abaya, Abiyata, Awasa, Chamo, Hayk, Langano, Shala, Tana& Ziway. As the country is located within the tropics, its physical conditions and variations in altitude have resulted in great diversity of climate, soil, flora and fauna.
Ethiopia has its own script and calendar. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the oldest in Africa – Christianity was made the state religion in the Axumite Empire in 330 AD, before Rome. Muslim communities were established in Ethiopia before the triumph of Islam in its birth place, the Arabian Peninsula.
At the time of the scramble for Africa, following the Berlin Congress in 1884, the disparate ethnic groups that make up Ethiopia united to defend the country against foreign invasion: at Adwa in 1896 Ethiopian forces under Menelik II delivered a stunning rebuff to the colonial ambitions of Italy. The defeat inflicted on the Italian army was the heaviest suffered by any European army in Africa, and was celebrated not only throughout Africa, but in all other countries then suffering under the yoke of colonialism and foreign occupation. The fascist invasion in 1935, “to avenge the stain of Adwa” as Mussolini declared, was met with vigorous and continued resistance – the occupation lasted only 6 years and failed to leave any permanent stamp on the character of the country or the psyche of its people.
Ethiopia has the most extensive historic sites in Sub-Saharan Africa, experts estimate that perhaps as little as 10% of the total has so far been discovered and excavated. The oldest hominid remains have been found along the Awash River valley – currently 41 institutions from 13 countries are excavating in the Afar Region, where most paleo-anthropologists now agree the human race has its origin in this area. There is every variety of scenery, with tropical rain forests, high moorland with Afro-alpine flora, lakes, savannah and deserts. In elevation it ranges from 120 metres below sea level in the harsh salt flats of the Danakil depression, to the 4533 metre peak of Ras Dashen in the Simien Mountains.
Food & Drinks
There are several dishes of nations and nationalities. However, Injera is known in most part of the country. Injera is a flat, sour dough pancake made of mostly small seed grain called Teff. Injera is served with sauce (meat or vegetable). Doro watt – chicken stew is the most delicious national sauce to eat injera with. Vegetarians could enjoy fasting – vegetable dishes anytime but more varieties during the Orthodox Christian fasting periods.
As for drinks, gaseous and still water, along with other soft drinks and several brands of locally brewed beers are available throughout the country. Wines & spirits are produced in the country and also imported ones are wildly available. Locally homemade Tela – home made beer and Tej – honey wine are common during the holiday period.
85% of the population get their livelihood from the land. Coffee (the word originates from the name of the province of Kaffa, in the south west of Ethiopia) provides the bulk of foreign currency earnings. The export of livestock, skins and hides (Ethiopia has the largest domestic livestock population in Africa), chat, oilseeds, textiles, pulses, flowers and animal feed make up the rest of Ethiopia’s foreign currency earnings, with tourism set to make an increasingly important contribution.
The opening up of the economy since the overthrow of the previous government in 1991 has created more favorable grounds for development of Ethiopia’s rich resource base. Ethiopia is the “water tower” of the region (the Blue Nile contributes to 85% of the main Nile flow) and projects are now being implemented to better exploit the country’s water resources both for power generation and to boost agricultural production through irrigation schemes. Mineral exploration and mining has stepped up in recent years – there are reserves of oil, natural gas, coal, gold, copper, tantalum, potash, zinc, iron ore, nickel, marble, precious and semi-precious stones.
Calendar and Time
Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which consists of twelve months of 30days each and a thirteenth month of five days (six in a leap year). The Ethiopian Calendar is seven years and eight months behind the Gregorian calendar. Throughout most of the world, the day begins at midnight. However, in Ethiopia, the day begins at sunrise or 6:00 AM and Ethiopians begin counting the hours from this point. For example, 8:00 AM is 2:00 AM to an Ethiopian; 10:00 AM is 4:00 AM. This continues until 6:00 PM, which is 12:00 PM and then the counting begins again: 7:00 PM is 1:00 PM; 10:00 PM is 4:00 PM, etc.
Foreign visitors must have entry visas. Entry visas can be obtained from Ethiopian Diplomatic and consular missions abroad. You can also apply for a single entry tourist and conference visa online-https://www.evisa.gov.et and obtain it on arrival if your request is approved.
Travel by Air and Road
Ethiopian Airlines operates a safe and generally efficient and reliable domestic air service. It has acquired a good reputation in its over 75 years of service also playing a vital role in linking Ethiopia to the rest of the world through its international flights. The airline reaches almost 90 cities globally and provide domestic flight services through 26 airports and airfields across the country. Private Airlines like Trans Nations Airways (TNA) offer a charter or lease flight service. The Airline also operates privately owned Helicopter service for tourists in Ethiopia. Traveling by road also allows visitors to experience Ethiopia’s wonderful scenery.
In addition to the national carrier Ethiopian Airlines. There are a number of international carriers such as Lufthansa, Emirates, Turkish, Egypt Airways, Kenyan Airways and Qatar Airways regularly fly to Ethiopia.