Ethiopia is truly a land of contrasts and extremes; a land of remote and wild places. Some of the highest and most stunning places on the African continent are found here, such as the jaggedly carved Simien Mountains , one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites – and some of the lowest, such as the hot but fascinating Danakil Depression, with its sulphur fumaroles and lunar-like landscape. Ethiopia is old; old beyond all imaginations. Ethiopia was formerly called Abyssinia. As Abyssinia , its culture and traditions date back over 3,000 years. And far earlier than that lived “Lucy” or Dinkenesh, meaning ‘thou art wonderful’, as she is known in Ethiopia, whose remains were found in a corner of this country of mystery and contrasts.
Unique among African countries, the ancient Ethiopian monarchy maintained its freedom from colonial rule.
• Population: 74.2 million (UN, 2005)
• Capital: Addis Ababa
• Area: 1.13 million sq km (437,794 sq miles)
• Major languages: Amharic, Oromigna, Tigrinya & Somali
• Major religions: Christianity & Islam
• Life expectancy: 46 years (men), 49 years (women) (UN)
• Monetary unit: 1 Birr = 100 cents
• Main exports: Coffee, hides, oilseeds, beeswax, sugarcane
• GNI per capita: US $110 (World Bank, 2005)
• Internet domain: .et
• International dialling code: +251
• Time: GMT + 3time zone.
Three equal horizontal bands of green (top), yellow, and red;
Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa, and the three main colors of her flag were so often adopted by other African countries upon independence that they became known as the pan-African colors.
Ethiopia is strategically located in the Horn of Africa, 3′ and 14.8″ latitude 33′ and 48′ longitude bordering Somalia, Sudan, Djibouti, Kenya and Eritrea with a total border length of 5,311 km.
· It is the 10th largest country in Africa.
· The 3rd populous country in Africa
· Lowest pt is 100 mts. below sea level
. The highest pt is 4620 mts above sea level . Ras Dashen.
Its proximity to the Middle East and Europe, together with its easy access to the major ports of the region, enhances its international trade.
Ethiopia, as large as France and Spain combined, has an area of 1.13 million square kilometres. About 65 percent of the land is arable. From the north and running down the centre are the Ethiopian highlands, to the west of the chain the land drops to the grasslands of Sudan, to the east to the deserts of the Afar. 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.
Ethiopia has an elevated central plateau varying in height between 2,000 and 3,000 meters. In the north and centre of the country there are some 25 mountains whose peaks rise over 4,000 meters. The most famous Ethiopian river is the Blue Nile (or Abbay), which runs a distance of 1,450 kilometres from its source in Lake Tana, to join the White Nile at Khartoum.
Ethiopia uses the Julian calendar which divides the year in 12 months of 30 days each, with the remaining five (or six days in a leap year) constituting the short 13th month of “pagume”. In Greek pagume means “Additional“. The Ethiopian New Year commences on the 10th or 11th of September every year.
Although Ethiopia lies within 15 degrees North of the Equator, owing to the moderating influence of high altitude, the country enjoys moderate temperature and pleasant climate, with average temperature rarely exceeding 20oc (68oF). The sparsely populated lowlands typically have sub–tropical and tropical climates. At approximately 850mm (34inches), the average annual rainfall for the whole country is considered to be moderate by global standards. In most of the high lands, rainfall occurs in two distinct seasons: the “small rains” during February and March and the “big rains” from June to September.
The natural beauty of Ethiopia amazes the first- time visitor. Ethiopia is a land of rugged mountains (some 25 are over 4,000 meters high), broad savannah, lakes and rivers. The unique Rift Valley is a remarkable region of volcanic lakes, with their famous collections of bird life, great escarpments and stunning vistas. Tissisat, the Blue Nile Falls, must rank as one of the greatest natural spectacles in Africa to day. With 14 major wildlife reserves, Ethiopia provides a microcosm of the entire sub Saharan ecosystem, Bird life abounds, and indigenous animals from the rare Walia ibex to the shy wild ass, roam free just as nature intended. Ethiopia, after the rains, is a land decked with flowers and with many more native plants than most countries in Africa.
Ethiopia , an old country beyond all imaginations, has culture and traditions dating back over 3000 years. With over 80 different Ethnic groups with their own language, culture and traditions. The strong religious setting, celebrations and festivals play an important part in every ones daily life. Church ceremonies are a major feature of Ethiopian life. The events are impressive and unique. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has its own head, follows its own customs, and is extremely proud of its fourth century origins.
Ethiopia ‘s Islamic tradition is also strong and offers colorful contrast, particularly in the eastern and south-eastern parts of the country. In fact, there were Ethiopian Muslims during the lifetime of Prophet Mohammed. This rich religious history is brought to life in the romantic walled city of Harar , considered by many Muslims to be the fourth ” Holy City ” following Mecca , Medina , and Jerusalem .
Religion is a secure and accepted element of everyday life in Ethiopia and the language is full of references to God. Yet there is not the ever-present feel that one can experience in a totally Muslim country for example.
On the central plateau, the Ethiopian Orthodox church holds sway, again an individual and fascinating feature of this unusual country. Priests and deacons abound in their often colourful robes, carrying their staffs and ornate crosses that people frequently kiss as they pass.
Christianity came to Ethiopia in ancient times and became the official Ethiopian religion in the 4th century. The Orthodox church has many connections with ancient Judaism. Fasting and detailed food restrictions, the specific ways of slaughtering animals, circumcision and the layout of the churches, all these things make for a very particular religious culture.
Islam is also very strong in many parts of Ethiopia , frequently existing peaceably alongside Christianity. The city of Harar , in the east of the country, is officially the fourth most holy Muslim site in the world. Islam reached Ethiopia in the seventh century.
Ethiopia has communities of ‘falashas’, Ethiopian Jews, especially in the Gondar region in the north. Many of these however have now departed to live in Israel , having been airlifted out of the country with Operation Solomon and Operation Moses in the latter part of the 20th century.
In the lowland areas, animistic and pagan religions are still commonly found among tribal peoples who live in simple and primitive communities.
A Land of Great Civilization
Ethiopia has a proud and long history extending to the known beginnings of humankind. The Axumite kingdom was one of the great civilizations of the ancient world and has left behind the mystery of the great Stellae found at Axum . In the late middle Ages great religious civilizations flourished in many parts of the country, particularly at Lalibela where churches hewn out of massive monolithic rock testify not only to great faith but also to great architectural skills.
And in the former capital of Gondar many significant castles speak of the same legacy.
Addis Ababa, the largest city that is the seat of the government of Ethiopia, lies in the central plateau at an altitude of 2400 meters. Its average temperature is 160c .
Addis Ababa was founded in 1887. It is a host to the African Unity (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). Several other international organizations have their head quarters and branch offices in the Capital. Addis Ababa is also the center of commerce and industry.
Ethiopia’s other important centers of trade and industries are; Awassa, Dire Dawa, Gonder, Dessie, Adama, Jimma, Harrar, Bahir Dar, Mekele, Debre Markos and Nekemte. All these towns are connected to Addis Ababa by asphalt and gravel roads and most of them have good infrastructure facilities, such as first class hotels and airports.
Originated in Ethiopia
Three major crops are believed to have originated in Ethiopia: Coffee, Grain Sorghum & Castor Bean.
Ethiopia’s World Heritage Sites
The World Heritage List includes 830 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value. These include 644 cultural, 162 natural and 24 mixed properties in 138 States Parties. Out of which 8 properties are found in Ethiopia: 7 cultural and 1 natural properties.
The 8 Ethiopian properties inscribed on the World Heritage List
1• Rock-Hewn Churches
Date of Inscription: 1978
The 11 medieval monolithic cave churches of this 13th-century ‘New Jerusalem’ are situated in a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia near a traditional village with circular-shaped dwellings. Lalibela is a high place of Ethiopian Christianity, still today a place of pilmigrage and devotion.
2• Fasil Ghebbi
Location: Gondar Region
Date of Inscription: 1979
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the fortress-city of Fasil Ghebbi was the residence of the Ethiopian emperor Fasilides and his successors. Surrounded by a 900-m-long wall, the city contains palaces, churches, monasteries and unique public and private buildings marked by Hindu and Arab influences, subsequently transformed by the Baroque style brought to Gondar by the Jesuit missionaries.
Location: Sodo Woreda
Date of Inscription: 1980
Tiya is among the most important of the roughly 160 archaeological sites discovered so far in the Soddo region, south of Addis Ababa. The site contains 36 monuments, including 32 carved stelae covered with symbols, most of which are difficult to decipher. They are the remains of an ancient Ethiopian culture whose age has not yet been precisely determined.
Date of Inscription: 1980
The ruins of the ancient city of Aksum are found close to Ethiopia’s northern border. They mark the location of the heart of ancient Ethiopia, when the Kingdom of Aksum was the most powerful state between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia. The massive ruins, dating from between the 1st and the 13th century A.D., include monolithic obelisks, giant stelae, royal tombs and the ruins of ancient castles. Long after its political decline in the 10th century, Ethiopian emperors continued to be crowned in Aksum.
5• Lower Valley of the Awash
Date of Inscription: 1980
The Awash valley contains one of the most important groupings of palaeontological sites on the African continent. The remains found at the site, the oldest of which date back at least 4 million years, provide evidence of human evolution which has modified our conception of the history of humankind. The most spectacular discovery came in 1974, when 52 fragments of a skeleton enabled the famous Lucy to be reconstructed.
6• Lower Valley of the Omo
Location: Southern Nation Nationalities & Peoples Region
Date of Inscription: 1980
A prehistoric site near Lake Turkana, the lower valley of the Omo is renowned the world over. The discovery of many fossils there, especially Homo gracilis, has been of fundamental importance in the study of human evolution.
7• Harar Jugol, the Fortified Historic Town
Location: Harari Region
Date of Inscription: 2006
The fortified historic town of Harar is located in the eastern part of the country on a plateau with deep gorges surrounded by deserts and savannah. The walls surrounding this sacred Muslim city were built between the 13th and 16th centuries. Harar Jugol, said to be the fourth holiest city of Islam, numbers 82 mosques, three of which date from the 10th century, and 102 shrines. The most common houses in Harar Jugol are traditional townhouses consisting of three rooms on the ground floor and service areas in the courtyard. Another type of house, called the Indian House, built by Indian merchants who came to Harar after 1887, is a simple rectangular two-storied building with a veranda overlooking either street or courtyard. A third type of building was born of the combination of elements from the other two. The Harari people are known for the quality of their handicrafts, including weaving, basket making and book-binding, but the houses with their exceptional interior design constitute the most spectacular part of Harar’s cultural heritage This architectural form is typical, specific and original, different from the domestic layout usually known in Muslim countries. It is also unique in Ethiopia. Harar was established in its present urban form in the 16th century as an Islamic town characterized by a maze of narrow alleyways and forbidding facades. From 1520 to 1568 it was the capital of the Harari Kingdom. From the late 16th century to the 19th century, Harar was noted as a centre of trade and Islamic learning. In the 17th century it became an independent emirate. It was then occupied by Egypt for ten years and became part of Ethiopia in 1887. The impact of African and Islamic traditions on the development of the town’s specific building types and urban layout make for the particular character and even uniqueness of Harar.
8• Simien National Park
Location: Gondar Region
Date of Inscription: 1978
Massive erosion over the years on the Ethiopian plateau has created one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, with jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys and sharp precipices dropping some 1,500 m. The park is home to some extremely rare animals such as the Gelada baboon, the Simien fox and the Walia ibex, a goat found nowhere else in the world.