Considered the cradle of humanity, as the location of the earliest found human remains, Ethiopia’s culture and history is as rich as it is extensive. It is a land of fascinating history and thriving culture, best epitomised through its distinctive and delicious cuisine and versatile and unique music.
These cultural and historical riches are complimented by astounding natural beauty. Ethiopia is a far cry from the arid desert state many believe it to be. The land-locked country is home to jaw-dropping mountain ranges, vast lakes and lush greenery, populated by a vast number of flora and fauna endemic only to Ethiopia.
Quite simply, Ethiopia is one of Africa’s most unique and spectacular countries.
Ethiopia is one of Africa’s most diverse countries. With a massive population of over 100 million, Ethiopia is mainly comprised of the Oromo and Amhara peoples, who comprise a combined 52% of the country’s people.
However, Somali and Tigray populations also make up a significant portion of the country’s population.
There are an estimated 80 different ethnic groups in total in Ethiopia. Christianity is the dominant religion, with 63% of the population adhering to it. There is also a large Muslim population, accounting for 34% of the population.
Music is considered to be one of the Ethiopian people’s greatest forms of cultural expression, featuring unique, diverse styles and lyricism centering around themes of partyism, national pride and unity.
Ethiopian food is practically synonymous with the dish of injera, a large, sourdough flatbread, which is often served with wat, a thick stew comprised of vegetables or very spicy meat, most often beef or lamb.
Ethiopian eating customs dictate that one eats with their right hand, scooping up the stew with pieces of injera.
Due to fasting traditions of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the country is renowned for its plethora of vegan options.
Important ingredients include Berbere and Mitmita, powerful, powdered chilli spices.
Having originated in Ethiopia, coffee is the country’s national beverage, and an important cultural commodity
The currency used in Ethiopia is called Birr.
Tips are considered apart of everyday life in Ethiopia and often help supplement low wages.
Amharic is the country’s primary working language but many other regional languages exist: Afar, Harari, Oromo, Somali and Tigrinya.
Ethiopia is a large country known for its vast ecological diversity. It contains expansive deserts and lush tropical forests within the confines of its land-locked borders.
Its main climate is tropical monsoon, although this does vary.
The best time to visit is generally considered to be between September and April to avoid the rainy season.
The country’s wildlife flourishes particularly during September-October
Ethiopia is known as a highly traditional and conservative country, which is reflected in the country’s modest dress code, applying to both the country’s Christian and Muslim populations. Tourists are encouraged to follow these customs, especially in the country’s more conservative regions.
Women are encouraged to wear a long-flowing shirt and dresses, which cover the knees and legs. Trousers are also acceptable for women.
Men are encouraged to wear trousers and a shirt and are discouraged from wearing shorts.
Although Ethiopia is home to an estimated 84 airports, only 14 of these have paved runways. Addis Ababa International Airport is the country’s main internal and international transport hub.
Ethiopia’s internal transport infrastructure is fairly poor, however, there is a significant level of government expenditure currently being invested in its improvement.
There is an international railway to the Port of Djibouti, where an estimated 95% of the land-locked country’s trade moves through.
There are currently numerous planned railway expansions currently underway to enhance the country’s network.
A quarter of Ethiopia’s annual infrastructure is currently invested in improvement of the country’s roads, as Ethiopia has the highest rate of traffic fatalities in the world.
It is recommended to visit your health professional 4-6 weeks before travelling to Ethiopia to check for any required vaccinations.
Malaria, Bilharzia and several water-borne diseases are common in rural areas.
It is recommended to only drink boiled or bottled water.
Addis Ababa has several hospitals, but only private ones are of a high standard.
Other health facilities are poor, travelling with a full health kit is highly recommended.
Visas are required for all tourist visitors to Ethiopia. These are available for purchase at $50/month(Euros and Birr also accepted) at Addis Ababa International Airport only.
Top 5 Sites
1. Blue Nile Falls, Amhara Region
2. Simien Mountains National Park, Amhara Region
3. Lake Tana, Amhara Region
4. Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela, Lalibela
5. Church of Our Lady of Zion, Axum
Top 5 Things To Do
1. Addis Ababa – Soak in the culture of Ethiopia’s sprawling capital city. Home to bustling markets, astounding religious monuments such as St George’s Cathedral and a variety of museums.
2. Gondar – A stone’s throw from some of Ethiopia’s most beautiful sites, Gondar is the historical capital of the Ethiopian Empire and still houses the remains of several royal castles. It is also home to The Four Sisters Restaurant, considered to be one of the country’s best and most authentic restaurants.
3. Simien Mountain National Park – One of the most spectacular mountain ranges in Africa, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a site to behold for both its natural beauty and the plethora of wildlife, which can only be glimpsed here.
4. Lalibela – One of the country’s holiest cities, Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s most historically rich cities, filled with relics from its Medieval and post-Medieval periods. Its collection of monolithic, rock-hewn churches, cannot be missed.
5. Axum – The holiest of Ethiopia’s cities and one of the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, Axum is a place of importance for both Christians and Muslims. It is filled with spectacular sites, recognised by UNESCO, of significance to both religions.