Facts & figures
Full name: Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Population: 86.5 million (UN, 2012)
Capital: Addis Ababa
Area: 1.13 million sq km (437,794 sq miles)
Major languages: Amharic, Oromo, Tigrinya, Somali
Major religions: Christianity, Islam
Life expectancy: 58 years (men), 62 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 Birr = 100 cents
Main exports: Coffee, hides, oilseeds, beeswax, sugarcane
GNI per capita: US $370 (World Bank, 2011)
Internet domain: .et
International dialling code: +251
Hailemariam Desalegn was sworn in as prime minister of Ethiopia in September 2012, ending a period of uncertainty following the death of long-term leader Meles Zenawi.
Visa & travel advice
Visitors to Ethiopia require visas. The only exceptions are nationals from Djibouti and Kenya and travellers who arrive in Addis Ababa Bole International Airport to catch a connecting flight.
- Best period:
Ethiopia is a sun-filled country. Although the highlands, including the tourist-friendly historic circuit, receive rain from March to September, most days still enjoy a considerable amount of sunshine. A great time to go is right after October: at that time, just after the rainy season, Ethiopia is lush, green, dotted with wildflowers, and less traveled than in other parts of the dry season. If you plan on visiting the tribes of the Lower Omo Valley, try not to go in April, May, or October, when rain makes roads in this area nearly impassable.
Ethiopia is a relatively stable country, but it’s best to use your good judgment in any travel situation. Make sure to do your research, and be sure to exercise heightened caution especially when traveling to any remote area of the country, including borders near Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, and Sudan. The U.S. Department of State’s website on Ethiopia is a great place to check for any rare advisories.
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 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.
The music of Ethiopia is extremely diverse, with each of Ethiopia's ethnic groups being associated with unique sounds. Some forms of traditional music are strongly influenced by folk music from elsewhere in the Horn of Africa. However, Ethiopian religious music also has an ancient Christian element, traced to Yared, who lived during the reign of Gabra Masqal. In northeastern Ethiopia, in Wollo, a Muslim musical form called manzuma developed. Sung in Amharic, manzuma has spread to Harar and Jimma, where it is now sung in the Oromo language. In the Ethiopian Highlands, traditional secular music is played by mostly itinerant musicians called azmaris, who are regarded with both suspicion and respect in Ethiopian society.
Ethiopian literature, writings either in classical Geʿez (Ethiopic) or in Amharic, the principal modern language of Ethiopia. The earliest extant literary works in Geʿez are translations of Christian religious writings from Greek, which may have influenced their style and syntax. From the 7th century to the 13th, a period marked by political disturbances, there was no new literary activity; but, with the proclamation of the new Solomonid dynasty in Ethiopia in 1270, there began the most productive era of Geʿez literature, again characterized by translation, not from Greek but from Arabic, though the originals were frequently Coptic, Syriac, or Greek. The subject matter was mostly theological or strongly flavoured by religious considerations. The most interesting work of this period was the 14th-century Kebra Negast (“Glory of the Kings”), a combination of mythical history, allegory, and apocalypse, the central theme of which is the visit of the Queen of Sheba (Makeda) to Solomon and the birth of a son, Menilek, who became the legendary founder of the Ethiopian dynasty.
- Film industry:
Ethiopia has only in recent years made some impression in the film festival circuit. Througout the country films are very popular despite the fact former president Mengistu tried to nationalize or the existing commerical cinema's in to People's Cinema with extreme censorship in place. Before his ruling (1974-1991) no information is available about the cinematic history. During the Haile Selassie ruling a filmmaker managed to shoot footage about the poverty and starvation of the Ethiopians and all Western TV's showed these shocking images. Soon afterwards the rebel Mengistu, supported by this sudden growth in sympathy, took control and turned out to be one of the most malignent dictators in Africa. Under his rule the film industry became extinct. In the last 10 years Ethiopian cinema has made tremendeous progress. Haile Gerimaa is without a doubt the most acclaimed Ethiopian director. Toady working as professor in the USA, he made his first film Harvest - 3000 years already in 1976. Since than he directed several other films. He is Ethiopia's most proficient director and exporter, who has made seven films including Sankofa (1993) and Imperfect Journey (1994).
At the Zanzibar Film Festival 2001, the short film The Father directed by Ermias Woldeamlak won the Silver Dhow. Although there is some video production, there are currently no film making schools or organisations to encourage film production. Cinema is popular in Ethiopia, and films from Europe, the US, Africa and India are screened.
- Famous places:
Lalibela is a town in northern Ethiopia, known for its monolithic churches. Lalibela is one of Ethiopia's holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and is a center of pilgrimage for much of the country. Unlike Aksum, the population of Lalibela is almost completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian.
Ethiopia is a complete package in Eastern Africa away the coast and has many famous and extensively amazing cities under its territory. There are many enjoyable cities but the most exciting city here is Addis Ababa which is renowned for its heritage, vibrant lifestyle, mouthwatering food and versatile markets.
- Architecture history:
Traditional houses are round dwellings with cylindrical walls made of wattle and daub. The roofs are conical and made of thatch, and the center pole has sacred significance in most ethnic groups, including the Oromo, Gurage, Amhara, and Tigreans. Variations on this design occur. In the town of Lalibella the walls of many houses are made of stone and are two-storied, while in parts of Tigre, houses are traditionally rectangular.
In more urban areas, a mixture of tradition and modernity is reflected in the architecture. The thatched roofs often are replaced with tin or steel roofing. The wealthier suburbs of Addis Ababa have multistory residences made of concrete and tile that are very western in form. Addis Ababa, which became the capital in 1887, has a variety of architectural styles. The city was not planned, resulting in a mixture of housing styles. Communities of wattle-and-daub tin-roofed houses often lie next to neighborhoods of one- and two-story gated concrete buildings.
Many churches and monasteries in the northern region are carved out of solid rock, including the twelve rock-hewn monolithic churches of Lalibela. The town is named after the thirteenth-century king who supervised its construction. The construction of the churches is shrouded in mystery, and several are over thirty-five feet high. The most famous, Beta Giorgis, is carved in the shape of a cross. Each church is unique in shape and size. The churches are not solely remnants of the past but are an active eight-hundred-year-old Christian sanctuary.