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Ethiopia

BASIC FACTS ABOUT ETHIOPIA
Ancient African Culture and Civilization
The land of diverse tribal culture and friendly people
Unique Calendar
Unique languages and Writing
Origin of Coffee
3000 years of Independence
Religion in Ethiopia
Travel in Ethiopia
Climate and Clothing
GOVERNMENT
A Population Characteristics
Currency and Banking
Transportation and Communications
Statistics

Ethiopia is known as Abyssinia until the 20th century,Ethiopia is the oldest independent nation in Africa. It was
home to the powerful Christian kingdom of Axum in the first century’s ad and became a Christian empire in the 15th century. Ethiopia has a diverse population, with more than 70 distinct ethnic and linguistic groups, has seen human habitation for longer than almost anywhere else in the world; perhaps modern homo sapiens evolved there, located in the Horn of Africa, and is bordered on the north and northeast by Eritrea, on the east by Djibouti and Somalia, on the south by Kenya, and on the west and southwest by Sudan.Official name: Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Capital city: Addis Ababa

Country surface area: 1,126,829 km2 /435,071 square miles (Water ca. 0.7%) – 10th in Africa

Population: ca. 80 Mio – 2nd in Africa

Official language: Amharic

Average annual rainfall: 1,200 mm (47.2 in)

Average annual temperature (Addis Ababa): 16 °C (60.8 °F), daily maximum average: 20–25 °C (68–77 °F)

Ethnic groups: Totally around 80 Ethic groups. The biggest: Oromo:34.49%, Amhara: 26.89%, Tigray: 6.07%, Somali :6.20%, Sidama: 4.01%, Gurage: 2.53%, Wolayta: 2.31%, Afar: 1.73%, Hadiya: 1.74%, Gamo: 1.50%, Kefficho: 1.18% others 11%

Ethiopia has the most extensive historic in Sub Saharan Africa.The rock-hewn Churches of Lalibela,often referred to as the living wonders of the world are a testimony to Ethiopia’s rich history.It is almost certain that Ethiopia is the cradle of mankind. Modern human being and its hominid ancestors evolved in the eastern zone of the great African Rift Valley. “Lucy”, one of our most distant ancestors, lived around 3.2 million years ago and it was found in the Awash Valley. Recently the discovery of an even older hominid fossil in the Afar desert, 4.4 million years old “Ardi”, has been published.

Ethiopia was known from the dawn of civilisation and has a 3000 years old history. The ancient Egyptians knew that their sacred and vital river Nile originated from a lake on a plateau in the land of “Punt” (“Land of the Gods” in their language) and they knew about a garden existing beyond the desert.

The legendary history of this country starts with the mythical Queen of Sheba who, after paying visit to the biblical King Salomon in Jerusalem, gave birth to his son Menelik I, the latter king of the Sabean or Axumite Empire. He took the Ark of the Covenant from the temple in Jerusalem to Ethiopia, where it is believed to rest until now.

However, also historical sources bear witness to the existence of a rich and powerful kingdom with a high level of civilisation in pre-Christian times. From its capital city in the north-eastern part of the country, not far from the Red Sea the Axumite Empire controlled once a vast territory, including parts of today’s Yemen and Sudan. It was an important crossroads of trading caravans from Europe, Africa and Asia. The empire used its own written language, Ge’ez and its own coins which were employed in trade. With the conversion to Christianity of King Ezana in 340 A.D. Ethiopia can be considered one of the first Christian states. Before, Judaism, introduced most probably by several waves of immigration from Israel, had played a major role in the northern and western centres of the country. From that time on, Christianity has become a major component of Ethiopian culture, up to date. After the decline of the Axumite Empire, 1137 to 1270 A.D., the Zagwe dynasty established its reign over big parts of the country, with the centre of power in Lasta, the area around Lalibela. King Lalibela was the most appreciated king of the Zagwe dynasty and later the town was named after him. It was he who ordered the construction of the sacred town, considered as a “New Jerusalem”. He built 11 rock-hewn churches, all carved out of the red mountain rock. Until today they have been very important places of worship. When the Zagwe dynasty declined, several years of changing rulers and coalitions, conflicts and wars followed, until under Emperor Fasilidas (1632-67) the small village of Gondar in the north was turned into the new capital city and a great religious and artistic centre.

In recent history there were other great kings who were able to unify and enlarge the country and oppose foreign invasions and interferences. Kassa Hailu was crowned in 1855 as the “King of Kings” with the crown name of Tewodros II. He ruled the country with strong hands and moved his capital first to Debre Tabor, then to Maqdala, where he built his stronghold in the mountains. There he captured British diplomats, whereupon British troops landed on the Read Sea to liberate them. In 1868 he committed suicide to avoid falling into British hands. The following emperors were Yohannes IV and then Menelik II, who extended the country to its actual size, defeated the Italian invaders in the historical battle of Adwa in 1896, founded the actual capital Addis Ababa and brought modern developments like cars, trains and electricity to Ethiopia.

Haile Selassie, (“Power of Trinity” in Amharic, the official Ethiopian language), the last great emperor crowned in 1930, reigned for half a century until he was overthrown by a socialistic-inspired revolution in 1974. The military committee called the “Derg” under the brutal Leadership of Mengistu Haile Mariam ruled Ethiopia until 1991, when it was overthrown and the first democratic republic was installed.

Many monuments of the ancient and glorious past of this country remain: the monolithic churches of Lalibela, the carved obelisks and churches of Axum, more than 120 monasteries and rock churches in the Tigray region, as well as those scattered here and there along Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. In each of these sacred places ancient paintings, manuscripts and sacred objects are preserved. The diversity of ancient cultures, customs and celebrations are testimonies of the persistent importance of Ethiopia’s history and the Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity with its traditions and ceremonies is still a major part of every day’s life.

With more than 80 Ethnic Groups and some 200 dialects each ethnic group preserves it’s own unique customs and traditions.Modern Ethiopia is situated at the Horn of Africa. It is a large country of 1,126,829 km2, with diverse and extreme natural surroundings. The main part of the country consists of an immense tableland with an average altitude of more than 2000 m above sea level, where you can find mountain massifs reaching more than 4000m, and where rains and big rivers such as the Blue Nile, Tekezze, Omo and Awash have carved out deep canyons.

The Ethiopian high plateau slopes downwards towards its western Sudan borders,

where there are rainforests and large coffee plantations, and eastwards towards the dry and hot desert depression of Danakil (116m below sea level) in whose lunar landscapes, criss-crossed by salt caravans, there are salt lakes and active volcanoes. From the south to the east the country is divided by the great African Rift Valley, which runs from the Red Sea up to Mozambique. It hosts a beautiful sequence of lakes, abounding in fish and inhabited by a large variety of different species of birds.

Towards the southern border with Kenya, in the Omo-Valley, vast and dense savannah can be found in a hot climate.

Situated between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer, with a rainy season lasting from May to September in the main part of the country, Ethiopia is a green country for most of the year.

Due to the special mountainous and inaccessible natural environment of Ethiopia, many cultures could be preserved from foreign influences and interferences. The natural eco- system has developed in a unique way, so a variety of birds, mammals and plants can be found which are endemic (unique only to this place).
In Ethiopia up to 87 different ethnic groups live together, socially organized on federal basis. Almost all of them speak their own language. The three most numerous ethnic groups that have played a preponderant role in the national history are the Amhara, the Tigray and the Oromo.

Among these, the Amhara were in power until a few years ago, and their language, Amharic, is therefore the official national language. The antique language Ge’ez, used up to date in Orthodox Church, is closely related to Tigrinya. Both languages use a special alphabet, related to early south Arabian letters, while the Oromo use the Latin alphabet. Amhara and Tigray have Semitic origin and are also called widely “Habesha” (Origin of the alternative country’s name “Abyssinia”)

The Oromo are the biggest tribe in number of population. They were for a long time semi-nomadic and pagan and used to be a threat for the Empire which occupied mainly Amhara and Tigray regions. The traditional Oromo culture is based on a democratic structure.

Other numerous ethnic groups are the Guraghe and Sidamo, dwelling in the western and south-western highland territories. Towards the north-eastern border with Eritrea and Djibouti, in the wide desert areas of Danakil, there live the Afar, semi-nomadic people which have almost entirely converted to Islam. The Eastern region towards Somalia and the south eastern Ogaden region are mainly populated by Ethiopian Somali, also almost all of which are Muslims. Afar, Sidamo, and Somali are, like the Oromo, tribes of Cushitic origin.

In the southern highlands there are a variety of interesting peoples living,

like the Wolayta, Dorze, Konso and Borena, all of which have preserved their own special style of architecture, agriculture, food and clothing.

Along the banks of Omo River there are several animistic peoples of Nilotic and Omotic origin, e.g. the Karo, Galeb, Bodi, Mursi, Benna , Erbore, Tsemay and Hamer on the eastern side and the Surma, Dizi, Bume and Nyangatom on the western side of the river. They have lived isolated until a few years ago and have preserved their lifestyle practically intact up to the present. Most of these peoples express their creativity and their esthetical sensibility by painting their body and by creating fancy hair-dressings. Towards the west, near Gambela and the Sudan border live the Anuak and Nuer populations, tribes of nilotic origin which are related to Sudanese tribes.

In 1582 when the rest of the Christian world adopted the Gregorian calendar,Ethiopia stayed with the Julian Calendar
With the passage of time,seven and a half years have some how dissolved in the intervening centuries.

Ethiopia is the only African Country with its own Alphabet Letters and Numbers that trace its origin back to a very ancient time.it has an alphabet which consists of 33 letters each with 7 Characters.

The Story of coffee has its beginnings in Ethiopia.The Original home of the Coffee,plant coffee Arabica which still grows wild in the forest of the Ethiopian Western Highlands including Kaffa.

Ethiopia is the oldest independent Country in Africa with 3000 years of independence.

Ethiopia is an important country for all the three book- religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Since the Ark of the Covenant had arrived in the Axumite Empire the country was believed to be a chosen land from the beginning amongst the early Jewish settlers. As one of the first countries in the world, Ethiopia got Christianity as a state religion around 340 A.D.

Two Syrian Christians influenced on King Ezana who converted to Christianity then. He built the first church in Axum and minted coins with a cross instead of other symbols. In the fifth century nine monks from different parts of the Roman Empire came to Ethiopia and built a lot of churches and monasteries. They are still known as the nine saints. The Christian emperors took over the legend of the Ark of the Covenant and therefore referred to their descent of King Salomon. So the Jewish David Star became almost as important as a symbol as the Christian cross, thus the combination of both symbols were used as a royal badge. Also most ceremonies, the cult around the Ark (The heart of every church is a copy of the Ark called “Tabot”, hidden in the holy of holies) and the whole Christian tradition are strongly influenced by the earlier Jewish practices and believes.he geographic isolation of the Ethiopian highlands and the custom to built churches out of the rock might have been a reason why the Christian Church has resisted all attempts to be destroyed and has been cemented and inseparable chained with the country’s leaders and daily life. In the 11th to 12th century, after decades of terror towards the Christians by Queen Yudit, the Zagwe dynasty, probably from Jewish origin, came to power. The emperors were no descendents of Salomon but they strongly promoted Christian faith by building up a strong new capital with 11 marvellous rock-hewn churches, designed as a “New Jerusalem”. The town was later called after the most productive king, “Lalibela”. The period of reign was relatively short. In 1270 the Solomonic dynasty took over again, created important and mythic books like the “Kebra Negast” (Glory of Kings), paintings, crosses, church music etc. At the same time Islam became stronger and the two religions clashed various times in the following centuries.

The prophet Mohammed himself had sent some of his closest friends and his wife to Ethiopia in 615 A.D., because they were persecuted in Arabia. The Ethiopian king protected them and allowed them to settle in peace at Negash (Tigray region near Wukro). Mohamed was very grateful and excluded Ethiopia explicitly from the holy war. Negash and Harar are still under the most important Muslim pilgrimage places. Nevertheless Ahmed the left handed attacked and destroyed big parts of Christian Ethiopia until he was killed in 1543 with the help of Portuguese Jesuits. Several battles had to be fought with Muslims of the east and pagans of the south and west until Christianity could be re- established. The later Emperors tried often to maintain peace by intermarriage with Muslims and concessions. Today the eastern parts around Harar, Bale Mountains and Afar are mainly Muslim while the rest of the Ethiopian highland is mainly Christian in the north and mixed in the southern and western part.

A big group of Ethiopian Jews, called “Falasha”, descendents of the early Jewish immigrants, has lived since millennia in the north- western Amhara Region. Between 1985 and 1991 most of them were airlifted to Israel. Nowadays only a handful of Jewish women and children remain around the village of Woleka, north of Gondar.

The best time to travel: This depends on the region you are travelling to. In the main parts of the country, in particular the highlands, the main rainy season runs from June to the end of September, with a short rain period in March. In the Omo- Valley in Southern Ethiopia however, the seasons are different with the main rains from March to June and shorter rains in November.

Climate and Clothing: Because of the elevation, temperatures rarely exceed 25°C in the highland part of the country, although in some of the lower lying areas (Awash, Omo and Mago parks) it can get considerably hotter. Pack light clothes for the day time and a jacket or sweater for the evenings, and a good pair of walking shoes even if you are not going trekking – path ways around historic sites are usually uneven and stony. Trekkers in the Simien and Bale Mountains will need warm clothes and waterproofs. On a cultural note – Ethiopians are generally modest dressers, and visitors should be sensitive about going underdressed (shorts, tank tops and bare backed) especially into places of worship. Shoes must always be removed before entering churches and mosques – for getting around sites like Lalibela with its many churches airline socks are very useful.

Security: Ethiopia is known to be still one of the safest places in Africa.

Violent crimes are very rare. Tourists should be aware of pickpockets in crowded places like markets and it is better not to show off valuables and money. In some overland regions it is recommended not to drive after dawn. In some remote areas, separatist movements have been active in the last years. Those regions are usually not easy to visit, or only with an official authorization.

Customs: Due to strict custom regulations, it may cause problems at the airport to carry more than the usual basic electronic devices, especially if they are new. Import Tax payment may be required. Souvenirs imitating historic artifacts have to be approved not original by the National Museum in Addis Ababa, if not they can be confiscated at the airport customs before leaving Ethiopia . Buying receipts have to be saved.

Photo and Video cameras: Professional or high standard video equipment is difficult to be brought to Ethiopia. An official permission letter can be expensive.

In many places small fees are charged for photos taken of people, especially in the southern tribal areas of Ethiopia. Video fees can be very high in national parks and other guarded places.

Health and medical information: The possession of a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is not mandatory. Immunization for Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, Typhoid and Polio is recommended. Malaria: in most of the sites malaria is not a problem because of the high elevation, e.g. Addis Ababa, Axum, Gondar and Lalibela. But it may occur in Bahir Dar at the end of the rainy season and after unseasonable rains. Lowland areas along the Awash River, the Omo Valley, Rift Valley and Gambella are subject to malaria outbreaks. Chloroquine resistant strains have been identified in most areas so you should consult your doctor about the prophylaxis. Alternatively, you can keep mosquitoes and other insects at bay with repellent creams and sprays. Visitors should take a simple first aid pack, which would include: different size plasters, antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream and/or tablets for insect bites, sunscreen (while temperatures are moderate the sun is strong) and anti-diarrhoea tablets such as Imodium for emergencies (they will not cure the problem but will control the symptoms).

Food: The Ethiopian national dish consists of Injera, a flat, circular pancake of fermented dough made from a grain seed called “Tef”, on top of which are served different kinds of cooked meats, vegetables and pulses. The sauces are generally spiced with berbere, a blend of herbs and spices (including hot peppers) that gives Ethiopian food its characteristic taste. Vegetarians should try “fasting food” (for devout Ethiopian Orthodox Christians fasting days make up more than half of the year), a colourful spread of salads, vegetables and pulses, devoid of all meat and animal products. One eats national dishes with the right hand (water for washing is usually brought to the table before the food is served), tearing off pieces of injera to pick up the “toppings”.

Addis Ababa now boasts of a wide variety of restaurants, and at hotels in tourist sites European style food such as pasta is always available. If you are travelling to remote areas, such as the Omo Valley and parts of southern Ethiopia where there are no hotels or lodges, it can be advisable to stock up with tinned and packed food in Addis Ababa.

Drinks: Sparkling and still mineral water, along with soft drinks, are available throughout the country. There are several brands of Ethiopians beers, wine and spirits. Imported spirits are also widely available. There are home made alcoholic drinks: Tella (home made beer) and Tej (wine made from honey)

Accommodation: Addis Ababa has three 5 star hotels and a steadily growing number of tourist class hotels. Outside the capital a variety of good and clean hotels and lodges can be found. Standards vary, but apart from the areas around Omo and Mago national parks, where camping is unavoidable, it is generally possible to get relatively clean rooms with en suite toilet and shower. Kibran Tours and other companies have started to construct eco-tourist lodges.

Travelling by air and road: Addis Ababa is the only international airport of Ethiopia, but domestic flights by Ethiopian airlines connect most of the regions and bigger town daily or at least twice weekly. For flights to smaller airstrips, charter flights are available. Travelling by road allows visitors to experience Ethiopia’s wonderful scenery. Road conditions are good to all the destinations of major importance. More roads are being asphalted and there will be a good web of well accessible roads in between the next years. Especially to the south, it is still necessary to travel in 4 WD vehicles. The train connection to Dire Dawa and Djibouti is currently out of use.

Money: Money can be exchanged in the airport, in major hotels and in most banks. Exchange requires a passport and the receipts should be kept, as re-exchanging back into foreign currency is difficult otherwise. The Ethiopian currency is the Birr (“Silver” in Amharic), the rate of which is fixed against the US dollar in weekly auctions. VISA and Mastercard Credit cards are accepted in the main hotels and big shops and enterprises. Few ATMs are available at banks and international hotels.

Visa: Any foreigners except those who hold the Kenyan, Tanzanian and Djibouti passport need a visa!!! You can get your visa from the Ethiopian embassies and most nationalities can issue the tourist visa at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa (valid three months, fee currently 20 US$)

Language: Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia, and English is widely spoken and understood.

Calendar: Ethiopia has its own calendar of 13 months: it follows the Julian calendar which is divided into 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month of five days (or six in leap years) at the end of the year. The time difference is +3 hours from Greenwich Mean Time.

The climate of Ethiopia varies mainly according to elevation. The tropical zone below approximately 1,800 m (approximately 6,000 ft) has an average annual temperature of about 27°C (about 80°F) and receives less than about 500 mm (about 20 in) of rain annually. The subtropical zone, which includes most of the highland plateau and is between about 1,800 and 2,400 m (about 6,000 and 8,000 ft) in elevation, has an average temperature of about 22°C (about 72°F) with an annual rainfall ranging from about 500 to 1,500 mm (about 20 to 60 in). Above approximately 2,400 m (approximately 8,000 ft) is a temperate zone with an average temperature of about 16°C (about 61°F) and an annual rainfall between about 1,300 and 1,800 mm (about 50 and 70 in). The principal rainy season occurs between mid-June and mid- September, followed by a dry season that may be interrupted in February or March by a short rainy season. At Addis Ababa(the capital city of Ethiopia), which ranges from 2,200 to 2,600 m (7,000 to 10,000 ft), maximum temperature is 26 °C (80 °F) and minimum 4 °C (40 °F).

In 1989, the TIGRAYAN Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF) merged with other ethnically-based opposition movements to form the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). In May 1991, The former communist military regime lead by MENGISTU HAYLEMARIAM was overthrown. EPRDF forces advanced on Addis Ababa. MENGISTU fled the country to asylum in Zimbabwe, where he still resides.
Ethiopia is divided into nine regions composed of specific ethnic groups. The regions, which have a significant degree of autonomy, are TIGRAY; AFAR, AMHARA; OROMIYA; SOMALIA; BENSHANGUL-GUMZ; GAMBELA HARAR; and the SOUTHER Nations, Nationalities and Peoples, which comprises about 41 ethnic groups.

The population of Ethiopia (2006 estimate) is more than 75,000,000, yielding an overall density of 61 persons per sq km (157 per sq mi). The AMHARA, who founded the original nation, and the related TIGREANS, both of which are highland peoples of partly Semitic origin, constitute about 32 percent of the total population. They occupy the northwestern Ethiopian highlands and the area north of Addis Ababa. The OROMO, a pastoral and agricultural people who live mainly in central and southwestern Ethiopia, constitute about 40 percent of the population and are the largest ethnic group in Africa.

Ethiopia’s unit of currency, the BIRR, is issued by the National Bank of Ethiopia (9.7 birr equal U.S.$1; 2008 average). Other banks in the country include the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia and the Agricultural and Industrial Development Bank and other private banks.

The Ethiopian terrain makes land travel difficult. Because many areas are inaccessible by road and others are inadequately served by surface transportation, air transport is of great importance. A government-owned airline company, Ethiopian Airlines, handles both domestic and international air service. International airports serve Addis Ababa, Mekele and Dirē Dawa. Now a days Most of the area has Accsus to get a telephone service and some big towns has internet.

Location : –
Eastern Africa, west of Somalia
8°00′N 38°00′E
Area
• Total: 1,127,127 km²
• Land: 1,119,683 km²
• Water: 7,444 km²
• The current population is about 75 million, making it the third most populated country in Africa, mostly depending on Agriculture.
Area – comparative
As Large as France and Spain combined.
Land boundaries
• Total: 5,311 km
• Border countries: Djibouti 337 km, Eritrea 912 km, Kenya 830 km, Somalia 1,626 km, Sudan 1,606 km
Tropical monsoon with wide topographic-induced variation
Terrain
High plateau with central mountain range divided by Great Rift Valley
Elevation extremes
• Lowest point: DANAKIL -125 m
• Highest point: RAS DASHEN, 4,533 m