Ethiopia is one of the largest countries in Sub – Saharan Africa, covering 1.14 million square kilometers and occupying the large part of the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia shares borders with Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan. Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia.
It is a land of wonder and enchantment, a country with one of richest histories on the African continent. Ethiopia a land of contrasts and surprises, of remote and wild places, and home to cultured and friendly people who are descended from some of the world’s oldest civilizations.
This is the land of the biblical queen of Sheba, home of the ark of the covenant, the source of the Blue Nile river and the birth place of coffee. ‘Lucy’, at more than 3 million years old, is the world’s oldest known, almost complete, hominid skeleton. Lucy was discovered in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is the only African country that has never been colonized. It is one of the ancient countries of the world.
Ethiopia is diverse in cultures, languages, and religions. More than 80 different ethnic groups and 80 languages are found within the borders of this beautiful country. Amharic is the national language of the country.
Ethiopia’s population is estimated around 80 million. Ethiopia is composed of about 83 ethnic groups. Based on the language they speak, they can be divided into Semitic, Cushitic, Nilotic and Omotic stocks.
A volcanically formed central plateau, isolated on three sides by low- lying desert dominates the Ethiopian landscape. The central plateau, often referred to as the Ethiopian highlands, has an average altitude of above 2,000m and includes 20 peaks of 4,000m or higher. The Ethiopia highlands are dramatically mountainous, no more than where they are bisected by the Rift valley, which starts at the Red sea, then continues through the Denakil depression and through southern Ethiopia to Mozambique in Southern Africa. The part of the Rift valley, south of Addis Ababa, is notable for its string of eight lakes. The most extensive mountain ranges on the highlands are the Semien, which lie directly north of Gondar, and Bale, which lies in the southern highlands to the east of the Rift Valley. Mount Ras Dashen in the Semien is at 4,620m, the fourth highest peak in Africa. The highlands also form the source of four major river systems. The most known of these is the Blue Nile or Abbay, which starts at Lake Tana in the northwest and supplies nine- tenths of the Nile’s water, which eventually reaches Egypt’s Nile valley.
Ethiopia has an elevated central plateau varying in height between 2,000 and 3,000 meters. In the north and center of the country there are some 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 kilometers from its source in Lake Tana, to join the White Nile at Khartoum.
Ethiopia’s weather and climate are largely a result of two conditions – its position in Africa’s tropical zone, and its varied topography. The country has three climate zones, each of which is based on elevation. These are the Dega, or cool zone, located above 8,000 feet (2,438 meters); the Weina Dega, or temprate zone, located between 5,000 and 8,000 feet (1,524 and 2,438 meters); and Kolla, or hot zone, lying at elevations below 5,000 feet.
The country shows a wide climatic variation, ranging from the peaks of the Semien and Bale, which receive periodic snowfall, to regular daytime temperatures of over 500C in the Denakil Desert As a rule, the highland has a temperate climate and average day time temperature of 160C. Due to their proximity to the Equator, the eastern lowlands and far south is dray and hot. The western lowlands are moist and hot, making them one part of the country that feels truly tropical. The southern rift valley, much of which is at the relatively high altitude of 1.500m, is temperate to hot and seasonally moist. The general precipitation pattern is that the bulk of the rain in the highlands and Rift valley falls between mid-June and early October. The rainy season in the Rift Valley generally starts and ends a few weeks earlier than in the highlands. The northeastern highlands have a less reliable rainy season than other highland parts of Ethiopia. In normal rainy season the highlands receive an average rainfall of 1,000mm. From a tourist’s point of view, rain tends to fall in dramatic storms, which end as suddenly as they start a situation that is infinitely easier for travel than are days of protracted drizzle.
Throughout most of the country there are two seasons: the dry season prevails from October through May; the wet season runs from June to September. Temperate in the highlands; hot in the lowlands.
Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which consists of twelve months of thirty days each and a thirteenth month of five days or six days on leap year. You can see the sun every day of the year. That is why we call our country- a country where the sun shines thirteen months. You will be seven years younger when you arrive in Ethiopia because the calendar is seven years and eight months behind the western (Gregorian) calendar. Ethiopia is in the GMT+3 time zone. Days begin at sunrise. Ethiopia belongs to the GMT + 3 time zone.
Amharic with its unique alphabet is the official language of Ethiopia; however English, Italian, French and Arabic are widely spoken. There are over 83 Languages with its 200 dialects through out Ethiopia. In areas outside of the larger cities and towns, indigenous Languages are likely to be spoken.
Three of the world’s major religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam have had their followers here since they were founded and thus have grown with indigenous expressions and protected in Ethiopia before anywhere else.
Today, almost 99 % of Ethiopians are adherents of one of these three main religions with the rest followers of animist traditional sprit or ancestral worship of one kind or another.
Ethiopia has a rich tradition of both secular and religious music, singing, and dancing, which together constitute an important part of Ethiopian cultural life.
Throughout Ethiopian history Azmaris, or wandering minstrels, formed a noteworthy feature of the country’s social scene and resulted in a wide range of folk songs. Zefen (folk songs) accompany Iskista (dancing). Fukara is sung by warriors when boasting of their heroic deeds. Musho and Lekso are sung to express sorrow at funerals.
Singing forms the accompaniment of many agricultural operations. It comes to the fore at religious and other festivals, as well as at many events in the life cycle: births, marriages, and deaths.
A wide variety of different dishes are available in Ethiopia and most of them are unique to the country so you have to familiarize yourself first with the names of different dishes. You can choose from the spicy and hot Doro Wot, Kitfo, or Key Wot to less spicy dishes like Alicha Wot you can get these foods virtually anywhere in the country and portions are generous and very cheap. There are also home made and fabricated local drinks for you to choose from Araki- a strong alcoholic beverage made from millet and maize, Tej – a mead like drink made from honey and Tela – locally brewed beer from maize, wheat and barely and Guder- the Ethiopian wine.
Ethiopia has several unique festival days, the best known being Genna (Ethiopian Christmas), Timkat (Ethiopian Epiphany), Enkutatash (Ethiopian New Year), and Meskel (the finding of the true cross). Enkutatash is celebrated throughout the country, but the other three holydays are associated with the Ethiopian Orthodox church and tend to be celebrated only in areas where that is the dominant religion.
Ethiopia’s environmental diversity – ranging from scorching deserts and acacia savannas, to wetlands, woodlands, and cold alpine highlands creates a great variety of natural habitats (places in which plants or animals can survive). Few countries in the world and certainly few of Ethiopia’s size contain a greater number of habitats. This, in turn, makes it possible for the country to have a wealth of wildlife.
The country is famous for its birds. Bird watchers come from all over the world in the hope of seeing many of Ethiopia’s estimated 800 bird species. In fact, about 20 of the species are endemic, meaning they can be found nowhere else in the world. The Wattled Ibis, the Abyssinian long claw, and the black headed Siskin are only a few of the many species of birds that can be observed both in and out of Ethiopia’s national parks.
At one time, Ethiopia could also boast of having perhaps the greatest variety and abundance of wildlife in Africa. Sadly, this is no longer true today. Damage to habitat, over-hunting, and the introduction of livestock have combined to sharply reduce the country’s once-reach wildlife resources. To an impoverished rural population, there is no distinction between a dwindling wildlife resource such as a Dear, Antelope, or Hartebeest and meat to feed their family. The country has created several national parks in an attempt to preserve its wildlife, as well as to encourage tourism.
Ethiopia is still a largely agricultural society, with the great majority of the people living in the countryside as farmers. The highlands are very fertile, which contain many large rivers with enormous untapped potential for irrigation projects. Agriculture is the backbone of the national economy and the principal exports from this sector are coffee, oil seeds, pulses, flowers, vegetables, sugar and foodstuffs for animals. There is also a thriving livestock sector, exporting carrel on the hoof and hides and skins. 25% of the populations grow coffee and it accounts for 55% of Ethiopia’s exports.
Due to droughts and in order to divert the Ethiopian economy the government has promoted industrialization. Not only in Addis Ababa and its periphery, but also other cities and regions factories industrializing is moving on and foreign investment flowing in. Increasing the income by promoting the tourism industry is also a major objective of the economic policy of the government of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has shown steady economic growth over the last years, with about 10% annual GDP growth. Also for the years to come, strong economic growth has been predicted. Besides, economic stability often relates to political stability and good infrastructure and is therefore also beneficial to the tourism industry.
Ethiopia’s official name is the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Under Ethiopia’s constitution, the government is headed by a prime minster. The council of ministers forms the cabinet. The cabinet members are appointed by the prime minster and approved by the House of people’s Representatives. The House of Peoples Representatives elects the president. The president is commander and chief of the armed forces, and is responsible for implementing both domestic and foreign policies. The party in power following legislative elections selects a prime minister. Ministers are selected by tthe prime minister. and approved by the House of people’s Representatives. The prime minister presides over the council of ministers, and is responsible for normal administrative functions of government. These include forming laws and regulations, preparing the annual budget, and ensuring the social and economic well being of the population.
The legislative branch of Ethiopia’s government consists of a two party parliament. The upper chamber is called the House of Federation and the lower chamber is the House of People’s Representatives. The House of Federation has 117 seats, which are filled by representatives chosen by state assemblies to serve five year terms. The House of People’s Representatives has 548 seats, which are filled by a direct popular vote of the people of each district.
The Federal Supreme Court forms the judicial branch of the government. The president and vice president of the federal Supreme Court are recommended by the prime minister and appointed by the House of People’s Representatives. Other federal judges are chosen by the federal Judicial Administrative Council and sumitted to the House of People’s Representatives for appointment
Ethiopia headquarters the African Union (AU), Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the African Standby Force, next to a large number of NGO’S, IFI’s and other non-profit organizations. In fact, it is often said that Ethiopia’s houses the largest number of NGO’s of all African countries and it is also often called a ‘donor darling’.