Country Profiles:
Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a country on the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea to the north and northeast, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Sudan and South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south. Hailed as the “cradle of humanity,” Ethiopia boasts a human history that dates back millions of years. Known to have both ancient and prehistoric history as some of the oldest specimen of modern day humans were found. Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that is not colonized despite attempts by the Italians apart from a five-year occupation by Mussolini. Also attempts were made by Libya. The capital is Addis Ababa (“New Flower”), located almost at the center of the country. Ethiopia is the largest and most populated country in the Horn of Africa.

From 1916-1974 was marked by the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie. He came to power after Iyasu V was deposed.  Iyasu V was the designated but uncrowned Emperor of Ethiopia (1913–16). His mother, Woizero Shoaregga, was the eldest daughter of the emperor Menelek  II. Due to Iyasu’s youth, Menelek agreed to the suggestion that he appoint a Regent ((Enderase), a queen regent/ female monarch,  who is the guardian of a child monarch reigning temporarily in their stead) during the minority of his heir apparent; until Iyasu came of age. Iyasu was replaced by Menelek’s daughter, Zauditu. Since it was considered unseemly for a woman to serve in her own right, Ras Tafari, the son of Ras Makonnen and a cousin of Menelek, served as Zauditu’s regent and heir apparent.  In 1928, Zauditu named Tafari king. On April 1, 1930, Zauditu died, and Tafari declared himself emperor  on  November 2nd  1930. He was crowned Haile Selassie I (“Power of the Trinity”; his baptismal name). He undertook a nationwide modernization campaign from 1916, when he was made a Ras and Regent (Inderase) for the Empress RegnantZauditu, and became the de facto ruler of the Ethiopian Empire. Haile Selassie instituted projects for roads, schools, hospitals, communications, administration, and public services. The combined effect of these projects resulted to increase the country’s exposure to the world economy.

UNESCO Heritage site in Ethiopia includes:

1. Tiya

It is best known for its archaeological site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site remarkable for its large stone pillars, many of which bear some form of decoration. The menhir or stelae, “32 of which are engraved with enigmatic symbols, notably swords,” mark a large, prehistoric burial complex.

2. Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela

The site contains eleven medieval cave churches from the 13th century. The whole of Lalibela offers an exceptional testimony to the medieval and post-medieval civilization of Ethiopia. Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and a center of pilgrimage.

3. The Omo River (also called Omo-Bottego

The prehistoric site near Lake Turkana is the location of many fossil findings, such as Homo gracilis.

4. Awash River

Palaentological findings from at least four million years ago, such as Lucy, give evidence of human evolution. Its course is entirely contained within the boundaries of Ethiopia and empties into a chain of interconnected lakes that begin with Lake Gargori and end with Lake Abbe (or Abhe Bad)

5. Konso Cultural Landscape

Konso, named after the Konso people, is known for its religious traditions, waga sculptures, and nearby fossil beds (the latter an archaeological site of early hominids).

6. Harar Jugol, the Fortified Historic Town

The city is on a plateau and surrounded by gorges and savanna. It contains 82 mosques, 102 shrines, and unique interior design in the townhouses. It is said to be the fourth-holiest city of Islam.

7. Fasil Ghebbi

Is the remains of a fortress-city within GondarEthiopia and was the home of Ethiopia’s emperors.

8. Axum or Aksum

The original capital of the Kingdom of Aksum, it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places. Axum was a naval and trading power that ruled the region from about 400 BCE into the 10th century. In 1980, UNESCO added Axum’s archaeological sites to its list of World Heritage Sites due to their historic value.

The Italo-Ethiopian War, begun from (1935–36), an armed conflict that resulted in Ethiopia’s subjection to Italian rule.

The Italian command used air power and poison gas to separate, flank, and destroy Haile Selassie’s poorly equipped armies. Emperor  Haile Selassie, went into exile in the United Kingdom in 1936. For five years (1936–41) Ethiopia was joined to Eritrea and Italian Somaliland to form Italian East Africa. Italy joined the European war in June 1940, the United Kingdom recognized Haile Selassie as a full ally, and the emperor was soon in Khartoum, Sudan, to help train a British-led Ethiopian army. This joint force entered Gojam on January 20, 1941, and encountered an enemy quick to surrender. On May 5th the emperor triumphantly returned to Addis Ababa. Defying the British occupation authorities, he quickly organized his own government. Emperor  Haile Selassie stayed in power until 1974, when a military junta known as the Derg, deposed of the Emperor and established a socialist state. Torn by bloody coups, uprisings, a wide-scale drought and massive refugee problems, the regime was ultimately toppled in 1991 by a coalition of rebel forces, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). A constitution was adopted in 1994, and Ethiopia’s first multiparty elections were held in 1995. A border war with Eritrea late in the 1990’s ended with a peace treaty in December 2000. 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.

Ethiopia’s landscape is in the middle of three plates the African, Arabian and Somali plates. The single plate that exists today, the African plate, is slowly dividing into two plates, the Somali plate and the Nubian plate, that will rupture completely in approximately 10 million years. The Earth’s crust is divided into different sections called tectonic plates. The split is said to be occurring because of a “Superplume” a giant section of the earth’s mantle that carries heat from near the core up to the crust. As the rift continues, it will eventually cause the eastern part of Africa to split away from the rest creating a new “Somali plate” and sea in the process. The Nubian or Arabian plate will carry most of the continent, while the smaller Somali plate carries the Horn of Africa. As a result, Ethiopia is divided into two portions, the Western and Eastern Ethiopian highlands also known as the Ethiopian Plateau and Amhar Mountain.

Ethiopia has limited mineral resources.  Only gold and tantalum are of significance. Deposits of gemstones, niobium, and soda ash are also mined, and there is potential for the exploitation of other mineral resources, including petroleum and natural gasHydroelectricity, the most important source of power for industries and major cities, is generated at several stations, Awash RiverBlue Nile River or its tributaries, the Omo River, the Gilgel Gibe River, and the Shebele River. Ethiopia’s exports are almost entirely agricultural. Coffee is the primary foreign-exchange earner; other exported products include khat, hides and skins, live animals, oilseeds, and gold. The Ethiopian Highlands are home to the continents largest continuous mountain range  and home to 80 percent of Africa’s tallest mountains. These highlands have helped shelter and a contributing factor of preventing Ethiopia from foreign conquest and preserve one of the world’s most distinct cultures.

Ethiopia has a very diverse population with over eighty different ethnic groups and tribes. The major ethnic groups are the Oromo, Amharic and Somali Tigrayan Sidama. Ethiopians claim to be descendants of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, her first son Menelek I was the first emperor of Ethiopia. They also have a Habesha population as in Eritrea. Habesha’s are known to have partial genetic markers as Arabs and Jewish. Ethiopia also has its own calendar that is seven years and three months behind the standard English calendar.

Ethiopian cuisine is distinct, unique and consists of vegetable and often very spicy meat dishes. The cuisine follows the culture, formed and informed by millennia of trade and exchange with the Middle East, Asia and the Mediterranean. Amidst this storm of positive culinary influence, acquired spices blend with Ethiopia’s indigenous ingredients. Popular dishes include:

  • Doro Wat (a thick Chicken Stew, served atop “injera”, a large sourdough flatbread)
  • Injera (This spongy pancake-like flatbread made from fermented tef (a gluten-free grain indigenous to Ethiopia) is fundamental to every Ethiopian meal)
  • Berbere (is composed of ground semi-spicy chili peppers (which themselves are called berbere to further confuse) mixed with upwards of 20 individual herbs, spices and ingredients including garlic, cumin, coriander, ginger, and fenugreek)
  • Yetsom Beyaynetu (Vegetarian Mixed Plate)
  • Maheberawi (Meat Mixed Plate)
  • Minchet (Spicy Ground Beef Stew)
  • Key Wat (Spicy Beef Stew)
  • Mesir Wat (Red Lentil Stew) 
  • Kik Wat (Split Pea Stew)
  • Ethiopian Coffee.

Ethiopian music is extremely diverse, with each of Ethiopia’s ethnic groups being associated with unique sounds. The music is about love, war as well as patriotism, songs of victory, songs that incite support for a certain crusade with wonderful melodies and poetic lyrics. The spirituality of Ethiopians is expressed in the form of music. All these types of tunes and melodies are prepared and performed using various traditional instruments. The most characteristic and widely used instruments are the masinko, the krar, the washint, the begena, the kebero, and the tom-tom.

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