Interesting facts on Ethiopia, its cities, peoples, culture, history, languages, climate, currency, different times, in fact everything Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is one of the few African countries never to lose its independence.
It is as large as France and Spain combined and has one of the richest histories on the African continent.
Ethiopia is the cradle of an ancient civilization that adopted Christianity in the 4th century. Located in northeast Africa it has a population of over 70 million and covers an area of almost 429 square miles.
Ethiopia is mountainous with desert lowlands to the northeast and southeast and has been landlocked since Eritrea, bordering the Red Sea, gained its independence in 1993.
Ethiopia is an independent Federal Democratic Republic with a President as head of state and a Prime Minister as the head of government. The constitution was established in 1994, following the over-throw of the Mengistu military dictatorship in 1991.
A federation comprising nine-states with considerable autonomy were established and the first multiparty elections were held in 1995. The distinct regional states are – Tigray, Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Somali, Benishangul-Gumuz, Southern Nations (SNNPS), Gambella and Harari.
The capital, whose name means “New Flower”, was settled in 1886 and given its name by Empress Taytu, consort of Menelik II. The population of Addis Ababa is approximately 3 million.
Addis Ababa is situated at over 2,500 metres above sea level and adjusting to the altitude can take some visitors a little time, so don’t be surprised if you find things tiring.
Depending on your level of fitness you might also experience a shortness of breath, headaches and possibly nausea until you are acclimatized. At high altitude your breathing may become more rapid and shallow causing increased dehydration, so you should drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol.
Cities and Towns
The second largest city in Ethiopia is Dire Dawa, with an estimated population of 330,000. Gondar is the third largest town, with a population of some 150,000 people.
Land Mass: 1,119,683 sq km
Covered by Water: 7,444 sq km
Lowest point: Denakil Depression -125 m
Highest point: Ras Dejen 4,620 m
Ethiopia has a total population estimated at approximately 70 million and is home to more than 80 ethnic groups and a wide diversity of languages. More than 80% of the population live in rural areas.
Ethiopia was never colonised, even though from 1935-1941 it was occupied by Mussolini’s Fascists it has remained untainted by colonial powers.
The major religions are Christianity (mainly Orthodox Church) and Islam.
Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia, although English, Italian, French and Arabic are also widely spoken. Outside the larger cities and towns, indigenous languages are likely to be spoken – of which there are over eighty, along with some 200 dialects. The most common of these are Oromo, Tigrinya and Somali.
In the northern and central parts Ethiopia different Semitic languages are spoken. Namely Tigre, Tiginrya, Guraginya and the official national language Amharic. The root of these languages, Ge’ez, only survives today in church liturgy and literature.
The Sidama languages are spoken to the south-east and to the east and parts of the south are the Cushitic-speaking peoples of the Oromos, the Afars and the Somalis.
To the west and south-west are the Nilotic peoples with their own distinctive language and culture.
In other areas of the country there are smaller communities whose cultures, languages and traditions derive from different facets of Ethiopia’s long history.
Climate and Weather
Ethiopia enjoys a moderate climate despite its proximity to the Equator. Its high altitude ensures fairly consistent non-tropical temperatures around 25°C during the day to around 8 degrees at night. However, in the mountains, especially in January, it can get cold.
Temperature: Temperatures in the lower lying areas such as Awash, Omo and the Mago park can be quite high. You are therefore advised to drink plenty of water and use high UV sun screen protection.
Rainfall: Ethiopia has two main seasons – one is late January to early March when there are irregular short rainy spells. The other season is June until September with longer periods of heavier rain.
Currency and Money
The local currency is the Ethiopian Birr, which is made up of 100 cents. Notes are issued in five denominations – 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 birr and there are five different coins of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents. One US Dollar is about 13 Ethiopian Birr.
Credit cards are NOT widely used in Ethiopia and Travellers Cheques have limited acceptance outside Addis Ababa. Unless you are making a big purchase $200 in cash per person per week would cover the cost of beverages, mineral water, cokes, teas etc and a few presents bought during a typical stay. If you are thinking about buying antique gifts or animal skins you will need an export certificate to legally take them out of the country. Souvenirs for export should not exceed a value of 500 Birr.
Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which comprises twelve months of thirty days each and a thirteenth month of five days (or six days in a leap year). The calendar is seven years and eight months behind the Western (Gregorian) calendar with Christmas being celebrated on January 7 and New Year on September 11, which can be extremely confusing to westerners.
Clocks and Time
The Ethiopian clock is similar to many equatorial countries and there is a six-hour difference between Ethiopian and Western time. This means Western 6:00am is 12:00am Ethiopian time and 6pm Western time is 12 noon Ethiopian time. Ethiopia is also three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
However, there is no adjustment of clocks for Winter or Summer Time, so there is no putting clocks backward or forward an hour. Being close to the Equator there is almost twelve hours of constant daylight. In Addis Ababa, sunrise begins at around 06.30 and sunset is about 18:45.
Respect for citizenship is strong in our Ethiopia;
National pride is seen, shining from one side to another.
For peace, for justice, for the freedom of peoples,
In equality and in love we stand united.
Firm of foundation, we do not dismiss humanness;
We are peoples who live through work.
Wonderful is the stage of tradition, mistress of proud heritage,
Mother of natural virtue, mother of a valorous people.
We shall protect you – we have a duty;
Our Ethiopia, live! And let us be proud of you!