- Land area: 432,310 sq mi (1,119,683 sq km); total area: 435,186 sq mi (1,127,127 sq km)which makes it approximately as big as France and Spain combined.
- Ethiopia is in east-central Africa, bordered on the west by the Sudan, the east by Somalia and Djibouti, the south by Kenya, and the northeast by Eritrea
- The capital of Ethiopia is Addis Ababa, which means "new flower" in Amharic. The altitude is 2,355m (7,726 ft), making it the 3rd highest capital city in the world. It is also the diplomatic capital of Africa. It has nearly 3 million inhabitants (2015)
- More than 70% of Africa's mountains are found in Ethiopia. Probably due to the high altitude in the country, Ethiopians are famous for being great long distance runners.
- Lake Tana is the source of the Blue Nile River, which meets the White Nile River in Sudan to form the Great Nile River. Lake Tana supplies 85% of the water to the Great Nile River.
- The Danakil Depression is home to one of the lowest points on the African continent - Dallol, at 116m below sea level - and one of the only lava lakes in the world - at Erta Ale volcano.
- The Great Rift Valley, the most significant physical detail on the planet that is visible from space, cuts through Ethiopia from the northeast to the south of the country
- There are more than 80 different ethnic groups in Ethiopia with just as many languages and over 200 dialects are spoken throughout the country.
- Ethiopia is the only country in Africa with its own unique script.
- Ethiopia claims to hold the Ark of the Covenant as well as a piece of the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified.
- Ethiopia is known as the Cradle of Mankind, with some of the earliest ancestors found buried in the soil. Lucy (3.5 million years old), the most famous fossils found, were unearthed in Hadar.
- Ethiopia remains one of the only nations in Africa never to be colonized. It was occupied briefly by the Italians from 1936 to 1941.
- Ethiopia is home to 9 UNESCO World Heritage sites, more than any other country in Africa.
- Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar consisting of 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month of 5 or 6 days. It is roughly 7 and a half years behind the Gregorian calendar.
- The Ethiopian fiscal year begins on 8 July and the Ethiopian new year begins on 11 September (12 September in leap years). Ethiopians will ring in the year 2005 on 11 September, 2012.
- As with many equatorial countries, the sun dictates time in Ethiopia. The sunrise marks the beginning of the day and the sunset marks the end of the day. What most of the world would call 7:00, Ethiopians would call 1:00. Both noon and midnight are 6:00 in Ethiopia.
Food & Drink
- Coffee, one of the world's most popular beverages, was discovered in Ethiopia, in the region of Kaffa.
- Ethiopia has the largest per capital density of cattle in Africa and the 10th largest in the world.
- Teff, the grain used to make the Ethiopian staple injera, is an ancient grain believed to have originated in Ethiopia between 4000BC and 1000BC. It is the smallest grain in the world and is rich in calcium, phosphorous, iron, copper, aluminum, barium and thiamine and is a good source of protein, amino acids, carbohydrates and fiber. It is a great gluten-free option.
- Ethiopia is the home of the Black Jews, known as the Falashas, or Beta Israel.
- Ethiopia adopted Christianity in the 4th century, making it one of the oldest Christian nations in the world.
- Islam also appeared early in Ethiopia, during the time of Mohammed, when his followers fled persecution in Arabia and sought refuge in Ethiopia.
- Emperor Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia, is worshipped by Rastafarians as a devine being. In fact, their name comes from Haile Selassie's birth name, Ras Tafari, which means "Prince Tafari".
- There are 279 species of mammals found in Ethiopia, of which 5 are critically endangered, 8 are endangered, 27 are vulnerable and 12 are near-threatened. There are 31 endemic mammal species found in Ethiopia.
- There are 924 species of birds found in Ethiopia, making Ethiopia a bird-watchers paradise. Of these, 23 species are endemic to Ethiopia.
- There are 175 species of fish found in Ethiopia, 40 of which are endemic.
- The gelada baboon is, in fact, not a baboon, but an old world monkey often classified in its own genus. They are the last surviving species of ancient grazing primates that were once widespread. They have a complex social system where women are dominant. The patch of skin on their chest becomes bright red on females when they are most fertile. Young males form bachelor groups and older males serve as grandfatherly figures, looking after the young. They can be found in large groups, sometimes up to 800 or more, particularly when there is food to be found.
Archeologists have found the oldest known human ancestors in Ethiopia, including Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba (c. 5.8–5.2 million years old) and Australopithecus anamensis (c. 4.2 million years old). Originally called Abyssinia, Ethiopia is sub-Saharan Africa's oldest state, and its Solomonic dynasty claims descent from King Menelik I, traditionally believed to have been the son of the queen of Sheba and King Solomon. The current nation is a consolidation of smaller kingdoms that owed feudal allegiance to the Ethiopian emperor.
Hamitic peoples migrated to Ethiopia from Asia Minor in prehistoric times. Semitic traders from Arabia penetrated the region in the 7th century B.C. Its Red Sea ports were important to the Roman and Byzantine Empires. Coptic Christianity was brought to the region in A.D. 341, and a variant of it became Ethiopia's state religion. Ancient Ethiopia reached its peak in the 5th century, then was isolated by the rise of Islam and weakened by feudal wars.
Modern History (1896 – today)
Modern Ethiopia emerged under Emperor Menelik II, who established its independence by routing an Italian invasion in 1896. He expanded Ethiopia by conquest. Disorders that followed Menelik's death brought his daughter to the throne in 1917, with his cousin, Tafari Makonnen, as regent and heir apparent. When the empress died in 1930, Tafari was crowned Emperor Haile Selassie I.
Haile Selassie, called the “Lion of Judah,” outlawed slavery and tried to centralize his scattered realm, in which 70 languages were spoken. In 1931, he created a constitution, revised in 1955, that called for a parliament with an appointed senate, an elected chamber of deputies, and a system of courts. But basic power remained with the emperor.
Fascist Italy invaded Ethiopia on Oct. 3, 1935, forcing Haile Selassie into exile in May 1936. Ethiopia was annexed to Eritrea, then an Italian colony, and to Italian Somaliland, forming Italian East Africa. In 1941, British troops routed the Italians, and Haile Selassie returned to Addis Ababa. In 1952, Eritrea was incorporated into Ethiopia.
Mengistu Leads a Campaign of "Red Terror" (1977)
On Sept. 12, 1974, Haile Selassie was deposed, the constitution suspended, and Ethiopia proclaimed a Socialist state under a collective military dictatorship called the Provisional Military Administrative Council (PMAC), also known as the Derg. U.S. aid stopped, and Cuban and Soviet aid began. Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam became head of state in 1977. During this period Ethiopia fought against Eritrean secessionists as well as Somali rebels, and the government fought against its own people in a campaign called the “red terror.” Thousands of political opponents were killed. Mengistu remained leader until 1991, when his greatest supporter, the Soviet Union, dismantled itself. In May 2008, Ethiopia’s Supreme Court sentenced Mengistu to death in absentia. He had lived in Zimbabwe since 1991.
EPRDF comes to power (1991)
A group called the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front seized the capital in 1991, and in May a separatist guerrilla organization, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front, took control of the province of Eritrea. The two groups agreed that Eritrea would have an internationally supervised referendum on independence. This election took place in April 1993 with almost unanimous support for Eritrean independence. Ethiopia accepted and recognized Eritrea as an independent state within a few days. Sixty-eight leaders of the former military government were put on trial in April 1996 on charges that included genocide and crimes against humanity.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front won parliamentary elections by a wide margin in May 2010. The U.S. and the European Union said the vote failed to meet international standards, and the opposition refused to recognize the results. Nevertheless, parliament elected Zenawi to a fourth term.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi Dies
In August 2012, Prime Minister Zenawi died at age 57 after a long illness. Zenawi had been in power since 1995. He is credited with lifting the country out of famine to the point that Ethiopia began exporting food, reducing poverty, increasing economic growth, and improving infrastructure. However, Zenawi was repressive and dictatorial, arresting and imprisoning activists, journalists, and members of the opposition. Relations between the U.S. and Ethiopia improved under Zenawi, with Ethiopia helping the U.S. combat Muslim militants in Africa. The U.S. gives Ethiopia some $800 million in aid annually. Hailemariam Desalegn, the minister of foreign affairs, succeeded Zenawi.
On October 7, 2013, Mulatu Teshome Wirtu became the fourth president of Ethiopia. He previously served as Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Cooperation, Minister of Agriculture, and Speaker of the House of Federation. He also served as the country's Ambassador to China, Japan and Turkey. He was elected president by Parliament. The vote was unanimous. Mulatu Teshome replaces Girma Wolde-Giorgis who could not seek re-election due to term limits.
Preliminary results of May 2015 elections, gave the Ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) a landslide victory. The opposition accused the EPRDF of voter intimidation. Voter turnout was high, about 90%.
War with Eritrea
Since Eritrea's independence, Eritrea and Ethiopia had disagreed about the exact demarcation of their borders, and in May 1998, Eritrea initiated border clashes that developed into a full-scale war that left more than 80,000 dead and further destroyed both countries' ailing economies. After a costly and bloody two-year war, a formal peace agreement was signed in Dec. 2000. The United Nations provided more than 4,000 peacekeeping forces to patrol the buffer zone between the two nations. An international commission defined a new border between the two countries in April 2002. Ethiopia disputed the new border, escalating tensions between the two countries once again. In Dec. 2005, an international Court of Arbitration ruled that Eritrea had violated international law in attacking Ethiopia in the 1998 war.
President: Mulatu Teshome Wirtu (2013)
Prime Minister: Hailemariam Desalegn (2012)
Government: Federal republic.
Population (2014 estimated.): 96,633,458 (growth rate: 2.89%); birth rate: 37.66/1000; infant mortality rate: 55.77/1000; life expectancy: 60.75
Northern Ethiopia, an open air museum in a magnificent landscape
Most people travel to Africa for safari or to see wildlife and tribes. But, in the north of Ethiopia you will discover a completely different Africa with monuments that speak of an ancient civilization which can be compared with the Greek and Roman civilizations, 17th century castles where kings lived in excessive luxury, playing their political games and also innumerable rock hewn churches, hidden jewels in the rough landscape of Tigray. Contact us to get more information or book a tour to see the treasures of North Ethiopia with your own eyes. See also our Tour program Historical North or book for the group tour with fixed departure date.
Southern Ethiopia, a mosaic of colorful cultures and a variety of landscapes
This is a truly unspoiled part of Earthalt with lakes, hot-springs, rolling green hills, rugged mountains, huge forests, wild coffee and the real African savannah and semi-desert. There are several National Parks where a great variety of wildlife and birds can be seen. A mosaic of tribes live in this varied landscape. More then 45 languages are spoken here
Read also our tour program Tribes and Lakes.
Still unknown by the tourism industry, this part of Ethiopia is very rich in natural beauty such as green rolling hills with dense forests teeming with wild animals and birds, the Omo river Canyon, waterfalls, coffee- and tea plantations and fertile soil where fruits, crops and vegetables abundantly grow. In the far west the climate and landscape changes abruptly when you go down to the swampy lowlands with their hot, humid atmosphere near the Sudanese border.
The word "coffee" comes from the name of the former region "Kaffa"where coffee first was discovered by a herds boy as a stimulant and later was used as the black liquid which is so well known now all over the world. For ages the secret of coffee remained in Ethiopia. In the 16th century coffee was brought to Arabia by traders and cultivated there and in the 17th century it was introduced in Europe. The biggest coffee plantations of Ethiopia are still in the Kaffa region and coffee is still the biggest export product of Ethiopia.
West Ethiopia is inhabited by the Oromo, Nuer and Anuak people and different smaller tribes. In Jimma and in Nekemte are interesting museums where you can learn more about the culture of this tribes.
East and north-east Ethiopia, from the mountains through the desert to the lowest place on earth
This part of Ethiopia is inhabited by the Afar nomads, Oromo's, Somali and Harari. Where in most parts of Ethiopia the Christian Orthodox faith has had a great influence on culture and social life, in the east Muslim culture has been dominant since the 13th century. Visiting the 1000 years old walled Muslim city of Harar you will breath the atmosphere of the tales of "thousand and one night". The surrealistic landscapes of Danakil Desert with one of the few active lava lakes in the world and the bright colored salt formations of Dallol make you feel walking on another planet.
Read also our Tour program "Desert and Salt Lakes" which we offer as an individual- as well as a group tour. Contact us to get more information or book a tour to Experience the Extraordinary!