“Ethiopia always has a special place in my imagination and the prospect of visiting Ethiopia attracted me more strongly than a trip to France, England, and America combined. I felt I would be visiting my own genesis, unearthing the roots of what made me an African” Nelson Mandela.
It was home to the most ancient kingdom in Africa, one of the first monarchies in the world. It is the sole African country to possess an alphabet more than 2,000 years old. It is the only country on the continent to have maintained independence in the face of European colonizers.
Its name is derived from the Greek Aithiopia, which means “Land of the burnt faces.” In antiquity, this name referred to the territories south of the empire of the pharaohs. It was also known in Europe as Abyssinia, a term coming from the Arabic Habasha, which referred to one of the tribes south of Arabia that emigrated to Ethiopia at the beginning of its history.
Now let’s start at the beginning. The origin of Ethiopia is largely the origin of us all. Ethiopia is home to many ancient hominid remains yet discovered.
Ethiopia’s first modern encounter with the ancient world was in 1974. It made headline news everywhere. Anthropologists around the world took note: “Lucy or Dinknesh; had been discovered in North-eastern part of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is the tenth largest country in Africa with a surface area of 1,127,000 square kilometers (461,003 sq. miles). It lies in eastern Africa, between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer, in a region known as the Horn of Africa. Bordered by five countries, it is landlocked (due to its separation from Eritrea).
The calendar is another unique feature- it has 13 months. Using the Julian calendar, Ethiopia has twelve lunar months of thirty days, plus one month of five or six days, depending on the leap year. The Julian calendar began 7 years and 113 days after the Christian age, making the first day of the New Year September 11.
Ethiopians enjoy complete freedom of religion. However, two religions are professed by the great majority: Christianity & Sunny Islam. Religion has always been a major influence in Ethiopia. Certainly no country in sub-Saharan Africa can trace its origins as far back. Ethiopia is mentioned thirty-three times in the Bible and many times in the Qur’an.
Ethiopia has been called “The Roof of Africa” for its most outstanding topographical feature: a huge central plateau, the Ethiopian Massif. Formed in the Tertiary era by volcanic activity, this great massif occupies more than half of the total surface area of the country, and has an average elevation of between 1,800 and 2, 400 meters (5,700- 7, 700 feet). Nine peaks rise above 4, 000 meters (12,800 feet) and eleven above 3,000 meters (9,600 feet). These high flat plateaux are dissected by deep valleys through which rivers run.
The Rift Valley crosses the massif, dividing the country into two parts: the highlands of the west, known as the Abyssinian Massif, and those of the southeast of Harar Massif. These highlands gradually descend until they create plains that give way to immense semi-arid lands.
Ethiopia ’s geological past has played a crucial role in making the country today a vast and generous endowed natural haven for many kind of wildlife and avifauna, more than 850 species of birds are found in Ethiopia, of which 21 are found exclusively in Ethiopia. There are also 103 separate mammal species, 9 of which are endemic. The diversity of animal and birds owes its origins to the parallel diversity of the Ethiopian environment Mountains and plains, valleys and deserts, rivers and lakes. The existence of so many endemic creatures is due to the country’s spectacular geological and geographic contrasts, which have created numerous unique habitats and specialized ecological niches replicated.
As a major source of water between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, Ethiopia has been called the “water tower” of Northeast Africa. The combination of its high altitude, 14 large rivers (many of them international), numerous lakes and other sources of fresh water, has created an extensive natural irrigation system to various regions of the Horn.
Ethiopia is… old beyond imagination, dating back to the very beginnings of mankind. It is also the land of the Queen of Sheba, a place of legendary rulers, fabulous kingdoms and ancient mysteries. Mother Nature was in a playful mood when she created Ethiopia, the result is a land that varies greatly from one region to the next. With more than 80 languages and some 200 dialects, each ethnic group, preserves its own unique customs, tradition, and costumes. You’ll find all the major religions of the world In Ethiopia. But for all this exotic variety, the people of Ethiopia are as one in their friendliness and hospitality.