Ethiopia has an unequalled range of natural habitats, ranging from the extraordinary peaks and ambas (flat-topped summits) of the Simien Mountains at over 4,000 meters, to the Danakil Depression, 120 meters below sea-level, one of the lowest points as well as the hottest place on Earth. There are Afro-Alpine highlands, moors and mountains, deep gorges, the Sof Omar caves (the most extensive in Africa), the Great Rift Valley and its many lakes, tropical rain forests, white-water rivers and rock climbing faces, savannahs, waterfalls, volcanic hot springs and a volcano or two. These are supplemented by a wealth of historic, cultural, religious, archaeological and anthropological sites, including the northern "historic route" which incorporates the former capitals of Gondar (17and 18th centuries), Axum (1st-8th centuries), and Lalibela (12th-13th centuries) with its spectacular rock-hewn churches, as well as the monasteries on Lake Tana (and the Blue Nile falls), and the numerous rock churches of Tigray region, many dating to the 14-16th centuries, or even earlier.
The capital, Addis Ababa, this year is celebrating the 125th year of its foundation by the Emperor Minelik in 1887. The story goes that he built a palace on top of the Entoto Hills a thousand metres above the future site of Addis Ababa. His wife, the Empress Taitu, finding the hilltop too cold and wet, removed to the hot springs at the bottom of the hill and refused to return. After waiting two years, Minelik had to relocate his palace as the only way to see his wife again. There is now a museum, the Entoto St. Mary Museum, on top of the Entoto Hills, the original site of the imperial settlement, 3,200 meters above sea level. It holds articles of historical significance including imperial crowns, ceremonial dresses of the Emperor Minelik and the Empress Taitu, and drums used on the march to the battle of Adwa where the Italians were defeated in 1896.
The National Museum of Ethiopia holds the earliest hominid skeletons of Lucy (3.4 million years old) and Ramidus (4.4 million years old), as well as jewellery, costumes, paintings and sculptures. The Ethnographic Museum of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies is on the site of the former imperial palace of Emperor Haile Selassie and now part of Addis Ababa University. The Zoological Natural History Museum has displays of Ethiopia's wealth of wildlife, including many examples of the country's endemic species of rodents, bats, carnivores, primates, birds, snakes, lizards, amphibians, fishes and invertebrates. There are a number of church museums in the city with fascinating wall paintings. The Ethiopian Postal Museum has a collection of the country's stamps, the Addis Ababa Museum in the former palace of Ras Biru built at the turn of the 19th century, has a collection of photographs depicting the development of the city, and the nearby Red Terror Museum contains details of the disastrous Red Terror 1977-78. The city has a number of parks including the Lion Park with its rare Black-maned Lions near the Addis Ababa University, the country's oldest University at Sedist Kilo.
World Heritage Sites
Ethiopia now has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the most recent of which is the Konso Cultural Landscape, a 55 sq km area of stone-walled terraces and fortified settlements in the Konso highlands of Ethiopia. It is a spectacular example of a living cultural tradition stretching back 21 generations (more than 400 years) adapted to a largely dry and hostile environment. It is features anthropomorphic wooden statues, grouped to represent respected members of their communities and heroic events, a testimony to funerary traditions that are on the verge of disappearing. Stone steles in the towns express a complex system of marking the passing of generations of leaders.
Location and Boundaries
Location and Boundaries
Ethiopia is located in the centre of the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with the Sudan and South Sudan to the west; Eritrea to the north and north-east; Djibouti and Somaliland to the east; Somalia and Kenya to the south.
It covers an area of 1.14 million square Kilometers (944,000 square miles)
The population according to the 2007 Census was 73,918,505. The growth rate is estimated at 3.2% and the current population estimate is now 86 million, of which 46% fall within the 1-14 age range; 51% between 15 and 64; and 3% are over 65. Approximately 17% of the population is estimated to live in urban areas.
Nation and Nationalities
Ethiopia is home to over 80 different peoples and nationalities. According to the 2007 census the larger ones are: Oromo 25.5 million (35%); Amhara 20 million (27%); Somali 4.6 million 6.2%); Tigrean 4.5 million (6.1%) Sidama 3 million (4%); Gurage 1.9 million (2.5%); Welayta 1.7 million (2.3%); Hadiya 1.3 million (1.7%); Afar 1.3 million (1.7%); Gamo 1.1 million (1.5%).
Christians make up 62.8% of the population (43.5% follow the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and 19.3 other denominations); Muslims 33.9%; traditional faiths 2.6%; and others 0.6%.
Although Ethiopia lies within 15 degrees North of the Equator, overall the country enjoys moderate temperatures and a pleasant climate, with average temperature rarely exceeding 200C (680F), owing to the moderating influence of high altitude. The more sparsely populated lowlands tend to have sub–tropical and tropical climates; and parts of the Afar regional State in the east of the country which lie below sea level are considered to be the hottest place on earth with temperatures regularly reaching 500C (1200F) or more.
At approximately 850mm (34inches), the average annual rainfall for the whole country is considered to be moderate by global standards. In most of the highland areas, rainfall occurs in two distinct seasons: the "small rains" (belg) during February and March and the "big rains" (kremt) from June to September. In the south east lowlands the rainy seasons are from March to May, the longer season (gu), and the short rainy season from October to December (deyr).
There are international airports at Addis Ababa (Bole International Airport), and at Dire Dawa, Bahr Dar, Gondar, Lalibela, Axum, Arba Minch, and Mekelle. The national carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, has an excellent international reputation and currently flies to 81 international destinations in America, Europe, Africa and Asia as well as 18 local flight destinations. It is now taking delivery of the latest Boeing 787 "Dreamliner" aircraft for its long haul flights.
The main entry points by road are at Moyale (from Kenya), Humera and Metema (from Sudan), Dewele (from Djibouti). All have full customs and immigration checks. Until Eritrea invaded Ethiopia in 1998, Humera, Rama, Zalembessa and Bure were entry points from Eritrea; in the absence of any effort by Eritrea to normalize relations, they remain closed.
VisasAll visitors to Ethiopia, except citizens of Kenya, require a visa to enter the country. These should be obtained in advance from an Ethiopian Embassy, though single entry, one to three month, tourist visas can be obtained at Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa. For information about business visas or multiply entry tourist visas, contact a local Ethiopian Embassy which will provide the relevant forms. Visas issued by embassies are valid from the day of issue not from the date of arrival in Ethiopia