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About Ethiopia

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Ethiopia — an inexhaustible source of wonder for travelers, a sprawling country with an ancient African civilization, colorful festivals, breathtaking landscapes, diverse tribal culture and amazingly friendly people

Dating back to the very beginnings of mankind, Ethiopia is old…old beyond imagination. It is also the land of Queen of Sheba, a place of legendary rulers, fabulous kingdoms, and ancient histories. 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 and traditions.

There are many reasons to visit this fascinating country. Following are only some of them.

Ethiopia, “the Origin of Mankind”

Ethiopia is the earliest known home of humankind. What are believed to be the oldest remains of a human ancestor ever found, which have been dated as being some 5 million years old, were discovered in the Awash Valley in Ethiopia. This recent discovery beats the discovery of "Lucy", a 3.2-million-year-old 40%-complete skeleton of a 20-year-old female Australopithecus Afarensis, which was discovered in 1974 in Hadar, in the Afar region. Registered by the United Nations Education, Science, and Culture Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site, Hadar is situated 160 kilometers northeast of Addis Ababa. The skeleton is now found in the National Museum in Addis Ababa.

Ancient Culture and Civilization

Ethiopia has the most extensive historic sites in Sub-Saharan Africa. These include the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, often referred to by many as “a living wonder of the world”, and the oldest hominid remains (Australopithecus Ramidus, a new species, 4.4 million years old).

Diverse Tribal Culture and Friendly People

With more than 80 ethnic groups and some 200 dialects, Ethiopia is filled with various cultures preserving their own unique customs and traditions. In the remote mountains and in the Great Ethiopian Rift Valley you will find unique tribes living a lifestyle they were living thousands of years ago. You will also find many of the major religions of the world in Ethiopia. But for all the exotic variety, the people of Ethiopia are as one in their friendliness and hospitality.

Unique Calendar

In 1582 when the rest of the Christian world adopted the Gregorian calendar, Ethiopia stayed with the Julian calendar. With the passage of time, seven and a half years have somehow dissolved in the intervening centuries.

Unique Language and Writing

Ethiopia is the only African country with its own alphabet and numbers that trace their origin back to a very ancient time. The alphabet consists of 33 letters, each with 7 forms.

Diverse Religions

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the oldest Christian church in Africa and officially the third oldest in the world. Christianity became the state religion in the Axumite Empire in 330 AD., even before Rome.

Muslim refugees were given asylum in Ethiopia, established communities, and were free to worship before Islam triumphed in its birthplace Arabia.

3000 Years of Independence

Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa with 3000 years of independence.

Origin of Coffee

The story of coffee has its beginnings in Ethiopia, the original home of the coffee plant, coffee Arabica, which still grows wild in the forest of the Ethiopian Western Highlands including Kaffa. Those who can’t face their day without a cup of coffee may be surprised to know that in its birthplace in Ethiopia’s Kaffa region — from which it gets its name — the berries were originally only eaten, never roasted and ground for a drink. Only since the 13th century has coffee has been made as a hot drink. Holding a coffee ceremony is a traditional Ethiopian way of welcoming a guest and giving the guest the best hospitality. It is probably one of the most celebrated and widespread Ethiopian traditions.

Varied Geography

In elevation, Ethiopia ranges from 120 meters below sea level in the harsh salt flats of the Danakil Depression, to the 4624-meter peak of Ras Dashen in the Simien Mountains.

Literary References

Ethiopia was well known to the ancient writers. It is mentioned in the Bible more than 38 times by both Old Testament and New Testament writers. So, in accordance with the Biblical traditions of ancient Israel, Ethiopia is described as the land of "Cush", which was located by the "River Nile" (Gen. 2:13). The Septuagint (The Greek Translation) also describes it with the name of "Ethiopia", which has the same location.

Many historians knew Ethiopia from The Bible and described its geographical location, referring to the south of Egypt, which was populated by both Hamitic and Semitic stocks of people. According to the ancient Egyptian tradition, it was known as the "Land of Punt" located at the end of the world, as well as "Land of Ghost."

Homer (Greek poet of the 8th century B.C.) knew of this historical land and its people when he said "Ethiopia, the land of sun burned face." He described the inhabitants as "the blameless race."

Herodotus (Greek historian, 485–25 B.C.) praised the nation of Ethiopia as "the most just men". The legal Source of Ethiopia starts with the introduction of Judaism to Ethiopia, recorded in the Kebre Negest (The Glory of the Kings). This book focuses primarily upon two historical topics:

  • The birth of Menelik, son of Solomon, the King of Israel, and the Queen Sheba of Ethiopia (970–33 B.C.)
  • The Ark of the Covenant, which was brought to Axum from Jerusalem by the Levites (946–B.C.?)

Ethiopia, then called Abyssinia, has beckoned explorers, writers, and adventure seekers for thousands of years. It's as exotic and exciting as it sounds. After all, this is the land where all began. Now, it's your turn to experience this truly magical land!

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