Occurred amidst the tropics of East Africa during the 10th century BC, Ethiopia is the cradle of one of the oldest cultures in Africa. The name “Ethiopia” comes from the Greek words Ethio “burned” and Pious “face”, i.e. the land of sunburned faces. During the long years of colonialism Ethiopia remained the only free and independent country on the continent, country that have never been conquered by Europeans.
The only exception was the period between 1936th and 1941st when Italy occupied these lands during the rule of Benito Mussolini. Many scientists believe that human civilization occurred here.
In 2009, after 15 years of hard work, an international team of scientists working in Ethiopia brought to light the oldest human skeleton found to date in the world. It is about 4.4 million years old!
Geographic location, boundaries and size. Ethiopia is located in the eastern parts of the continent of Africa and occupies an area of 1,127,127 square kilometers.
Climate. Ethiopia has a subequatorial climate, characterized by extremely high temperatures and pronounced seasonality of rainfall. Ethiopia’s lowland areas have very hot weather throughout the year, and temperatures of around 45°C are quite common.
For this reason, most major cities are located in the plateaus. High-altitude climatic conditions are much more enjoyable and easily affordable. Typical example is the capital Addis Ababa. The central part of the city is over 2400 meters above sea level.
For this reason, Addis Ababa is known for its mild climate and pleasant temperatures, varying from 21°C in August to about 25°C in March.
The dry season in Addis Ababa lasts from October to February, and the rainy season is during the period from March to September with maximum amount of rainfall in July and August.
Nature. Ethiopia is a predominantly mountainous country. Most of its territory is occupied by a high tableland called Abyssinian Plateau. Despite its high altitude, Ethiopia has rounded relief forms.
In the northern parts of the country is Mount Ras Dashan, 4620 meters high. The Ethiopians mountains are “birth place” to several major African rivers. Most impressive is the Blue Nile River.
It is one of the main tributaries of the world’s longest river and crosses the territory of Ethiopia in north-west direction toward the Sudan’s border. Some of the rivers that flow to the east and southeast are seasonal and dry up completely during the dry season.
In the northern parts of the country is the largest Ethiopian lake. It is called Tana and in rainy years may reach an area of 3,500 sq.km. The world famous Rift Valley crosses the territory of Ethiopia from south-west to north-east.
It is known for its amazing wildlife and rarely seen biodiversity. The nature of this country is very beautiful. Most of its territory is occupied by a large grassy areas and savannas.
Local mountains are most beautiful during the rainy season, when vast areas are covered with green carpet. The lower flat parts of Ethiopia are occupied by deserts and semi-desert areas.
Fauna. Ethiopia is home of impressive biodiversity. Lions, leopards, hyenas and jackals are the masters of local fauna. The most widely distributed herbivores are zebra, wildebeest and African buffalo, which is one of the most dangerous animals on the continent.
With its changeable temper it usually attacks more people than even the most dangerous predators in Africa. Beneath the surface of local rivers huge crocodiles are waiting for their lunch. Their preys most often become unsuspecting antelopes, especially during drinking of water.
Unlike defenceless antelopes, hippos usually share a common habitat with crocodiles, but feel safe to them and do not even pay attention to their presence. Other impressive animals that every visitor would like to see are the black rhino and the African elephant, which is the largest land mammal on the planet.
Economics. Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. It relies heavily on primitive agriculture, which employs about 80% of workers in the country. The most widely grown are cereals and legumes. Ethiopia is one of the largest producers of coffee in the world.
The services sector is very under-developed. The same applies to industry. Since Ethiopia is a former socialist country, the majority of local economy is still in state hands. The need of deep and comprehensive reforms is serious. One of the main problems to be resolved is the ownership of land.
Residents are not allowed to buy, but only to lease land for a period of less than 99 years. Today, Ethiopia suffers from very high unemployment. It is assumed that the unemployed are more than ½ of the working population.
The situation is even worse among the younger people. Despite the high rates of economic growth in recent years, Ethiopia is so poor, that local people can not feel any change. In 2010 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita is less than $ 1,000. Official currency of Ethiopia is Ethiopian bir (ETB).
Problems. Together with its neighbors Somalia and Eritrea, Ethiopia is among the countries in East Africa with the highest rates of illiteracy. Moreover, many people have no access to medical care and in the country spread many dangerous diseases such as AIDS.
Ethiopia is among the first places in the world according to the number of orphans as a result AIDS. Here are distributed many communicable diseases, which are typical of poor and underdeveloped countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Various types of hepatitis, malaria, yellow fever and even plague, a disease which many Europeans have long considered extinct, are widely distributed among the poor population.
Population. Ethiopia’s population is approximately 82.9 million people, but according to unofficial data has reached about 90.9 million and continues to increase rapidly. The largest city in the country is the capital Addis Ababa with a population of the urban agglomeration approaching 2.7 million.
The inhabitants of Ethiopia are almost entirely black. About 50% are Muslims and about 40% are Christians. The remaining 10% follow indigenous traditional beliefs. A characteristic feature of the local population is that Ethiopia is one of the least affected countries by European culture.
Official language is Amharic, though widely spoken are dozens of other languages such as Tigrinya, Oromo and others. Ethiopian women are considered among the most beautiful in the world.
Rock-hewn churches in Lalibela. The Rock-hewn churches in Lalibela date from the 13th century AD. They are a miracle, created by human hands as if to astound its visitors. The place is inaccessible.
It is located in an isolated area of Lasta Mountain. The most amazing in these churches is the way in which they are carved into the rocks and actually are located underground.
Lalibela is considered the most important, from a religious point of view, place in Africa and is a cultural monument of the Christian religion under the open sky. Lalibela is a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Erta Ale. Located amidst the desert landscapes of northeast Ethiopia, Erta Ale is a unique place where thirsty for adventure tourists can see some of the most active and dangerous volcanoes in African.
Some of the volcanoes in this highly isolated and inaccessible area constantly churn out large quantities of lava. The terrible heat amidst this almost lunar landscape will make you feel like you are in the middle of hell! Burning sun increases the temperature to 50 degrees!
It is so hot that you could fry an egg on the ground. The heat tests the vitality of every living creature that has fallen here, and if you think you may find some shadow in this place, so you are deeply wrong.
Miazia 27. Miazia 27 is the official name of the statue of liberty. It is considered one of the most important landmarks in the capital of Ethiopia. It was officially opened by the emperor in 1944 in honor of the victory of Ethiopia over the army of Benito Mussolini in 1941.
The monument has 6 entrances and is 15 meters high. It is located in the heart of Addis Ababa and is considered an obligatory stop for tourists in the city.
Tiya. Tiya is a small town located in a grassy area in the plateaus of central Ethiopia. The place is known for its ancient burial complex that lies just a few meters outside the village.
The complex consists of 36 commemorative stones, arranged in a row. 32 of them have carved inscriptions and drawings. Since 1980, this landmark is a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Gondar. Probably one of the places that will be interesting to visit is the town of Gondar, and especially the medieval settlement Fasil Ghebbi. You’ll find it near the Lake Tana in northern Ethiopia, about 14 km southwest of Gondar.
Here are preserved in excellent condition, great castles of 16th and 17th centuries, showing the former wealth and glory of this African nation.
Lost its former economic and political importance, today Gondar carries the spirit of the past and its beauty just fascinates its visitors. Since 1979 the place is under the auspices of UNESCO.
The lion of Judah. One of the top sights of Addis Ababa is the Lion of Judah. It rises to a high pedestal near the railway station in the Ethiopian capital, and depicts a lion holding the Ethiopian flag in hand.
During the era of Mussolini the lion was stole from Ethiopia, but several decades later Italy returned the monument again in Addis Ababa.
Abijatta-Shalla National Park. Abijatta-Shalla National Park was founded in 1974. It is located in the central Rift Valley of Ethiopia and consists of two lakes – Abidjatta and Shalla. The area is famous for its hot springs and beautiful countryside, covered with acacia trees.
Typical of the local landscape are huge flocks of pink flamingos, landing among the muddy shallows of the lakes. The surroundings can be seen mainly various antelopes, ostriches, hyenas, and monkeys.
Axum. The city of Axum, which is located in the northern regions of Ethiopia, is a very important tourist center in the country because of its archaeological wealth. Since 1980 the unique local attractions are under the auspices of UNESCO.
It is advisable not to miss Queen of Sheba’s palace, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Zion, the royal tombs and many other treasures. Axum has an exciting story that could be divided into pre-Christian and Christian period.
Although today Axum has a population of 57,000 people, once he was the center of Axumite kingdom, and traces of its glorious past can be seen everywhere.
Tis Isat Falls (Blue Nile Falls). Adjacent to the city Tis Isat in northwestern Ethiopia are the Blue Nile Falls, known as Tis Isat waterfalls. They are about 30 km from the Lake Tana and are probably the biggest tourist attraction in Ethiopia.
The view is spectacular, especially during the rainy season, when a wall of water, hundreds of meters long, collapses with an incredible power of more than 40 meters height.
Food. Ethiopian cuisine is very spicy and was developed on the base of great variety of vegetables prepared in different ways. The reason is because the traditions of local population include many days that meat consumption is not desirable.
For example, besides the traditional periods of fasting, Ethiopians must eat vegetarian meals on Wednesdays and Fridays too. For this reason locals had to learn how to cook a variety of vegetable dishes using a wide range of spices.
The most common vegetables in the country are potatoes, tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, and carrots. Probably one of the most commonly used spices in the local cuisine is cayenne pepper, which is added to almost any meal.
Garlic, which locals add to the dishes, makes a strong and rich the taste of each meal. Local residents put meat on the table less than other nations. The most commonly consumed meats are chicken, beef, sheep and goats. In general, pork is not consumed.
Quite popular are various types of freshwater fish. Different types of thermophilic fruits are grown in the country. Citrus and bananas are the most widespread.
Ethiopia is known for its great variety of pastries, including croissants with fillings, and a kind of specific and peculiar bread, whose shape resembles a large pancake. This bread is called injera and is often used in traditional Ethiopian cuisine like a tray on which are arranged a variety of foods.
When to visit Ethiopia? The best time to visit the capital of Ethiopia is between October and February during the dry season. In this part of the year, the combination of temperature and rainfall is most easy bearable. In the lowland areas the weather is extremely hot throughout the year and conditions are barely tolerable.
What clothes to wear? When traveling to Ethiopia, you must prepare your summer clothes and shoes. During the day, no matter the season, the temperatures are consistently between 21 and 25°C.
However, because of the high altitude, nights are cool, practically all year around, so a thin jacket, jeans and closed shoes will be necessary. In the lowland parts of the country the weather can be a serious problem for most people because the heat is usually scorching.
In this case you need airy clothing that protects the largest possible part of your body from the harmful effects of strong sunlight. Sunscreens are especially important.
Attention! As a result of poor public health services and limited access to medical care, in Ethiopia spread many dangerous diseases. Before traveling in this country will be better to visit your GP and ask him for the necessary vaccinations and precautions.
Safety. The political situation in the country is relatively stable and locals are quite friendly. However, avoid secluded country roads as the danger of assault and robbery is growing.
Do not carry valuables when walking around the city sights, especially in markets and places, saturated with tourist attractions. To prevent problems it is advisable to avoid the border areas, particularly Somalia and Eritrea.