Travel to Ethiopia
Ethiopia is one of the oldest countries in the world. The Old Testament of the Bible records the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Jerusalem.
In Ethiopia, you will find both nature and culture. High mountains, lakes, waterfalls as well as arid deserts are among the natural attractions of Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s landscape impresses in both scale and beauty. Travelers are thrilled by the amazing backdrop of canyons, chasms, lakes, savannah plains and high plateaus.
The towns of Axum, Gondar, Harar, as well as the rock churches of Lalibela attest to the power of human endeavor.
As the only country in Africa not to have been colonized by Europeans, Ethiopia’s cultural identity is strong and undiluted. Throughout the countryside, historical treasures range from ancient Aksumite tombs and obelisks to 17th-century castles.
Often referred to as the Cradle of Humanity, archaeologically, Ethiopia stands in the same relationship to sub-Saharan Africa as Egypt does to North Africa. In fact, historians believe that Ethiopia may well be the beginning of mankind. The fossils of the oldest once-living humans or “Lucy” were discovered in the northern section of Ethiopia. The remains of the fossil are said to be 3.5 million years old.
Ethiopia is one of Africa’s best birdwatching destinations, with many endemic species.
Outdoor lovers can trek in the Simien and Bale Mountains, descend into the depths of the Danakil depression to see an active volcano’s lava flow, or scale cliff faces to remote rock-hewn churches in Tigray. Rafting on the Omo River is a spectacular experience.
Inhabiting these landscapes is a wide variety of African peoples, including the Afar, the Mursi, the Karo, the Hamer, the Nuer and the Anuak, whose ancient customs and traditions have remained almost entirely intact. Staying with these communities is a great introduction to a way of life once followed by all of humankind. A highlight of any trip to the Horn is witnessing one of the many ceremonies and festivals that are an integral part of traditional culture in the region. They may be Christian, Islamic or animist festivals, or village events, such as a wedding, a rite-of-passage celebration or a local market day.
Ethiopia uses the Ethiopian calendar, which dates back to the Coptic calendar 25 BC, and never adopted the Julian or Gregorian reforms. One Ethiopian year consists of twelve months, each lasting thirty days, plus a thirteenth month of five or six days. The Ethiopian new year begins on 11 or 12 September (in the Gregorian calendar), and has accumulated a lag behind the Gregorian calendar.
In Ethiopia, the 12-hour clock cycles do not begin at midnight and noon, but instead are offset six hours. Thus, Ethiopians refer to midnight (or noon) as 6 o’clock.
Ethiopia is a fascinating country in the Horn of Africa and the second-most populous nation on the African continent, after Nigeria. It’s bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, and Sudan and South Sudan to the west.
Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and the second-oldest official Christian nation in the world after Armenia. Located in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is a rugged, landlocked country split by the Great Rift Valley. With archaeological finds dating back more than 3 million years, it’s a place of ancient culture. Among its important sites are Lalibela with its rock-cut Christian churches from the 12th–13th centuries. Aksum is the ruins of an ancient city with obelisks, tombs, castles and Our Lady Mary of Zion church.
Ethiopia’s population is highly diverse. Most of its people speak a Semitic or Cushitic language. The Oromo, Amhara, Somali andTigreans make up more than three-quarters (75%) of the population, but there are more than 80 different ethnic groups within Ethiopia. Some of these have as few as 10,000 members.
English is the most widely spoken foreign language and is taught in all secondary schools. Amharic was the language of school instruction but has been replaced in many areas by local languages such as Oromifa, Somali and Tigrinya.
Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa. With the majority of its political history being monarchical, it has existed for over 2,000 years, dating back to the first century B.C. during its rule under the Aksumite Kingdom. Coptic Christianity was introduced by the Egyptians during the fourth century, and by the 15th century, Muslim leader Ahmad Gran had conquered the majority of Ethiopia. After a series of power shifts throughout much of the 19th century, Emperor Menelik II took control and led the country through a 1895 Italian invasion. The Ethiopian army defeated the Italians, allowing the country to be recognized as an independent state.
By 1930, leader Ras Tafari Makonnen, soon named Emperor Haile Selassie I, came to power. By 1935 during World War II, however, the Italians attempted a second invasion and succeeded in capturing Addis Ababa in 1936, dethroning Salassie in the process. Soon after, Italian East Africa was formed, combining three separate nations – Ethiopia, Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. The Ethiopian Resistance, greatly assisted by the British army, defeated the Italian rule, which restored Selassie to power by 1941. Salassie continued to rule the country until 1974, when he was overthrown during a military coup and overtaken by General Terefi Benti.
In 1977, Benti was assassinated and replaced by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, a Marxist dictator. He was responsible for the deaths of thousands of governments opponents during a campaign of mass killings known as the “Red Terror” between 1977 and 1979. Simultaneously, Ethiopia defeated a Somali invasion with assistance from the Soviet Union and Cuba. By 1987, Mengistu was elected as president under a new constitution and both Ethiopia and Somalia signed a peace treaty in 1988.
The birr is the unit of currency in Ethiopia.
Addis Ababa is 10 hours ahead of Los Angeles and 7 hours ahead of New York.
Best Time to Travel
Generally the best time to visit is between October and June, when it is the dry season. Rains tend to stop in early October, meaning afterwards the highlands are lush and green – perfect for trekking among pretty wildflowers that have sprung up.
The mean annual temperature in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is very mild 60.7 degrees fahrenheit. The hottest month - May - is somewhat warm with an average temperature of 64.4 degrees fahrenheit. The coolest month - January - is mild with a mean temperature of 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures at higher elevations are far cooler and a jacket is required, especially in early mornings and evenings when temperatures hover around 50 degrees fahrenheit or below.
Roughly speaking, the rainy season begins April and ends in September. In the north most of the rainfall tends to come during July and August. In the south, avoid the peak rains during April, May and October as the rains make many roads unusable.
The driest months are between November to February.
What to Wear
Modest, casual clothing, and comfortable walking shoes are recommended. To prepare for far ranging temperatures, layers are the best approach. A scarf for covering hair while visiting churches is suggested.
Yellow fever is present in parts of Ethiopia and a Yellow Fever Certificate is required for entry. Please consult your travel physician for other recommendations based on your personal health profile.
Tourist visas can be purchased by US citizens on arrival at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport for 50usd per person. (Subject to change without notice.)
Tipping & Porterage
Tipping is appreciated. Plan to tip your driver/guide 10-15 USD per day. Wait staff should be tipped 5 - 10 birr.
Visa cards are accepted at major hotels in Addis Ababa, other cards less so.
Although there are ATMs in Addis Ababa which allow travelers to withdraw local currency, due to power outages, it is not suggested to rely on this. Better to take USD cash to change at hotels or banks. Take newer, post 2006 bills in good condition. In villages and at markets, cash is required.
In Ethiopia the power sockets are of type C, E, F and L. The standard voltage is 220 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
Appliances from the US require both a voltage converter and a power plug adapter.
We recommend drinking bottled or boiled water only.
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