Ethiopia is unique in many ways! It has its own alphabet, its own calendar, and a landscape that is unparalleled. The first civilization that we know much about was based in Axum and traded on the Red Sea with the Pharaohs of Egypt and later with the Romans and other Mediterranean powers. In the 4th century Christianity came to Ethiopia and an amazing period of church construction began which culminated in the incredible series of monolithic rock-hewn churches in Lalibela. Ethiopia has a magnificent cultural heritage, seven of which are included in the world cultural heritage list;
1. The Simene National Park (North Gondar Zone)
2. The Rock-hewn churches of Lalibela (North Wollo Zone)
3. Castles of Gondar and other monuments of Gonder Style (Gondar)
4. Lower Valley of the Awash palaentological and prehistorical sites (Afar Region)
5. Tiya proto-historical and archeological sites, central Tigray (Tigray Region)
6. Axum historical and archeological sites, central Tigray (Tigray Region)
7. Valley of the Omo, palaenonotological and prehistoric sites (South Omo Zone)
The natural beauty of Ethiopia amazes a first-time visitor. Ethiopia is a land of rugged mountains (some 25 are over 4000 meters high) broad savannah, lakes and rivers. The unique Rift Valley is a remarkable region of volcanic lakes, with their famous collections of birdlife, great escarpments and stunning vistas. Tisisat, the Blue Nile falls, must rank as one of the greatest natural spectacles in Africa today. With 14 major wildlife reserves, Ethiopia provides a microcosm of the entire sub-Saharan ecosystem. Birdlife abounds, and indigenous animals from the rare Walia ibex to the shy wild ass, roam free just as nature intended. Ethiopia, after the rains, is a land decked with flowers and with many more native plants.
Tourists can get further information on many more natural, cultural, historical and archaeological tourist attractions; tour operators and hotels from the links below:
A Fascinating Destination not to be missed…
Ethiopia’s uniqueness makes it a fascinating destination for every kind of traveler, but in particular for the traveller who wants that bit more. Ethiopia’s historic sites are extremely wide-ranging and possibly the most extensive in the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. Experts claim that such sites are only a fraction of what Ethiopia has to offer given that a further 95% remain to be discovered and excavated.
Archaeologists and anthropologists continually claim that the oldest hominid remains (Australopithecus ramidus, a new species, 4.4 million years old) were originally discovered here in the Afar region. More recent findings by Professor Tim White from the University of California, Berkeley, suggest that the earliest ape man lived in Ethiopia 5 million years ago (Daily Telegraph, Monday 18th January 1999).
Country and People
Country:- Ethiopia’s scenery is as diverse as its people and includes lakes, forests, savannah, depressions and deserts. In elevation it ranges from 120 metres below sea level in the harsh salt flats of the Danakil depression, to a 4624 meter peak in the Simien mountains. The Bale National Park in Oromia is the home of many endemic mammals and birds. For big game safaris the Omo and Mago National Parks situated in the Southern Region are strongly recommended.
People:- Ethiopia is home to more than 80 ethnic groups and a similar number of languages, the dominant religions being Christian and Muslim. However, one thing that unites all Ethiopians is their shared national independence having never truly been colonised, although occupied by Mussolini’s Fascists from 1935-1941. Consequently, Ethiopia has maintained what many refer to as its ‘Ethiopianness’, unlike many of its African neighbours now characterised by resonances of former colonial powers-
Travel to and in Ethiopia
Air – The national carrier is EAL (Ethiopian Airlines). Visitors are encouraged to use EAL for their international flights since priority is given to these clients when flying on the domestic circuit. Most travel between major towns and sites is easily accessible by air and prices are relatively cheap by international standards. EAL has an excellent safety record and is noted for its excellent service. In addition, British Mediterranean Airways now has regular flights from the UK to Ethiopia.
Road – In order to fully experience the vast array of Ethiopian scenery it is a good idea to travel by road. However, visitors must be aware that due to the nature of the terrain, road conditions in Ethiopia are poor. Consequently, travel by road can be time consuming and a four-wheel drive can be an advantage.
Climate and Clothing
Ethiopia has two seasons; the dry season prevailing from October through May, and the wet season, which runs from June to September. Light, summer clothes are suitable for daytime wear and a jacket or sweater is useful for the evening when the temperature is much cooler. Visitors to Ethiopia in the rainy season are reminded to pack suitable clothing if they intend to trek in the Simien or Bale mountains. Footwear for walking expeditions and visiting historic sites should be light but strong, thus sandals are not recommended.
Health and Health Precautions
On entering Ethiopia all visitors must be in possession of a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate. In addition, immunization against the following is strongly recommended: Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, Typhoid and Polio.
Malaria can also be a big problem in Ethiopia so before leaving consult your doctor for a prescription for both chloroquine and paludrine. Insect repellent cream or spray is also extremely useful for mosquito bites.
The average temperature is about 25C and in the lower lying areas such as Awash, Omo and Mago parks it can be considerably higher. Visitors coming from cooler climates are advised to use protection against the sun.
Due to an increase in the number of reported cases of AIDS visitors are advised to take the necessary precautions in the event of any planned or unplanned sexual encounters.
Food The Ethiopian national dish consists of injera, a flat, circular pancake made of fermented dough. Various side dishes of meat, pulses and vegetables along with sauces which are generally spiced are also served with injera. The injera is either topped with these side servings or it can be torn off and used to pick up the sauces and fillings.
In Ethiopia it is traditional to eat with the right hand and water for washing one’s hands is usually brought to the table before the dish is served.
Acccommodation The top two 5 star hotels – Hilton Addis Ababa and the Sheraton Addis – are situated in Addis Ababa along with several other tourist class hotels. Outside of Addis Ababa the standards vary immensely with the Hotels in the north being generally better than the hotels in the south. Overall, rooms are very clean and comfortable with en suite toilet and shower.
Photos – Vistors should request permission before taking peoples photographs. Generally, there are no problems about photographs with the exception of some areas, particularly in Afar and in the Omo valley. In these regions people may ask for money. Photography in churches is allowed. Video photography in famous tourist attractions such as the Blue Nile Falls carry a charge. In some areas such as airports and around military camps photography may be prohibited altogether.
Visas – Visitors will require a visa. For visitors traveling from countries where there is no Ethiopian embassy, arrangements can be made with tour operators to collect a visa at the airport on arrival.
Electricity – Voltage is 220.
Tipping – Most hotels and restaurants have a service charge, however tipping is not taboo.
Taxis – There are no set taxi prices. All fares are subject to negotiation; therefore it is a good idea to agree on a price before starting a journey.
Useful Books and Guides –
1. The Lonely Planet Guide to Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti
2. Bradt Guide to Ethiopia
3. Collins Birds of East Africa
4. Ethiopian Amharic Phrasebook – Lonely Planet
5. The Blue Nile – Alan Morehead
6. Spectrum Guide to Ethiopia (English and German editions)