15 Interesting Facts about Ethiopia
Situated in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked countries on the continent. It shares borders with Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan and Sudan. Even though, Ethiopia is remembered as a famine struck country, it has significantly recovered from it since then. It’s now a very unique blend of culture, history and scenery. It’s a mountainous country unlike many other African countries that boast savannas. Also owing to the diversity of Ethiopia, you can enjoy a wide range of experiences, such as hiking, visiting tribal areas and exploring ancient, historical places. Moreover, the people of Ethiopia are patriotic and proud since they believe they are unique due to the successful fight they put up against colonization. This helps them with a strong sense of identity and respect for their culture and tradition.
The best time to explore Ethiopia is between mid of October and January when the rainfall has decreased while the countryside blooms with lush green vegetation. Although, you can visit the country any time during the year, this season ensures smooth travel and milder temperatures with days being sunny and nights cool. There is also a range of religious festivals that are celebrated in the country and some of these are held during this travel season as well.
As by now you may have started thinking differently about Ethiopia and more than just a famine struck country, let’s have a look at some even more interesting facts about Ethiopia that will make you want to travel to and explore this beautiful place.
1. Home to Nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites
There are a total of nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country and Ethiopia has been quite diligent about maintaining most of its landmarks and historical sites. These UNESCO World Heritage Sites include the Lalibela Rock Hewn Churches, Konso Cultural Landscape, Lower Valley of the Awash, Aksum, Tiya, Simien National Park, Harar Jugol, Lower Valley of the Omo, and Fasil Ghebbi. Altogether, they make Ethiopia home to the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in all of Africa.
Eight of these sites are a relic of the country’s ancient past and stand as a testament to its rich culture and history. Visiting these sites is an exhilarating experience, and each of these boast a unique peace of the country’s identity. There is no better way to learn more about the country than taking a look into its past. These well-preserved heritage sites are the perfect way to sneak into the country’s soul and understand where it comes from and where it’s headed.
2. Highest Capital of the Continent
Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia is the fourth highest capital of the world and the highest capital of any country in the entirety of African continent. It stands at a magnificent height of about 2,400 meters above sea level. Translating to “New Flower” in Amharic, the capital city of Ethiopia is just that. It’s a city rapidly growing, both in terms of population and contemporary advancements.
Addis Ababa is known for its oxymoronic nature. It’s both historic and modern, charming yet dusty, lively yet somber all at once. Home to both the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Addis Ababa is an important city for the continent and the lifeline of the country. But at the same time, it’s also spirited and full of life so there’s never a moment of boredom while in the capital city of Ethiopia.
3. Home To The Oldest People In The World
Everyone knows that Africa is where the humanity actually started from but it’s exactly here, in this bustling country of Ethiopia, where the first humans of the world actually lived. It was in the Afar region of Ethiopia where a 3.2 million year old hominid skeleton was found in 1974, a staggering revelation in the field of archaeology which suggests Ethiopia to be the home of the world’s oldest people.
This claim is not founded on a singular revelation alone. In fact, Ethiopia’s Afar region afforded another skeleton after the first, which was older by nearly a million more years. All of this goes to show how incredibly significant Ethiopia is for all of humanity. In fact, Ethiopia is known as the “Cradle of Humanity” and rightly so. After all, this is where our descendants first lived.
4. Only Country in Africa Which Was Never Fully Colonized
Perhaps one of the most interesting facts about Ethiopia, is that unlike the other countries in Africa, Ethiopia is the only country that was never officially colonized by European nations. Although Italy did occupy it twice from 1895-96 and 1935-1941, Ethiopia was never formally taken over by any other country and Italy never succeeded in making Ethiopia a colony.
Given the history of colonization and the long-lasting impacts it left on the colonized nations, it’s fascinating to know that Ethiopia was one of the very few countries which were never subjugated to such cultural erasure. This makes Ethiopia all the more interesting as a travel destination because its historic culture is not as widely impacted by colonizers as that of other African countries and it retains a lot of its initial ancient influences.
5. Originating Region of Coffee
Coffee is an essential component of many people’s diet. It’s caffeine which gives us the energy and the motivation to start our day and it’s caffeine which allows us to end the day on a high note. It’s widely believed that it was Ethiopia where coffee was first discovered.
The legend has it that a herder noticed his goats acting curiously around a particular bush in Kaffa and decided to taste it himself. The herder found that he was a lot more active and energetic for the rest of the day, and this is how caffeine and its magical properties were first discovered. So if you ever have the good fortune of visiting Ethiopia, knowing this interesting fact about the country will make the essential action of drinking coffee an amusing experience for you.
6. Home to 83 Different Languages
Apart from being culturally rich, Ethiopia is also very linguistically diverse. With about 80 different ethnic groups inhabiting the area within the boundaries of the country, there are almost 83 different languages that are spoken. Even those languages have up to 200 dialects, which makes Ethiopia an epicenter of cultural exchange and dialogue.
The oldest language spoken in Ethiopia is Ge’ez which was also once the official written language of the country. Now, the official national language of the country is Amharic but English, Arabic, French, and even Italian are widely spoken. This makes Ethiopia all the more attractive for visitors from all of over the world, as language barrier is not really a hindrance when exploring this diverse country.
7. Different Time System Than The Rest of the World
It’s a fact not widely known that Ethiopia makes use of a time system completely different from the rest of the world. Ethiopian clocks start with the day and make use of 12-hour system from both dawn to dusk and dusk to dawn. This means that the sun rises at 1 o’clock and sets at 12 o’clock, and then the clock restarts.
This makes travelling to Ethiopia interesting in quite a baffling way. Its unique clock system demands the visitors to acclimatize themselves to its time and that makes for an invigorating experience. After all, it’s logically sound to start your clock only when the sun has risen.
8. Calendar Different Than The Rest Of The World
Time system of Ethiopia is not the only thing different from the rest of the world. Ethiopia also follows a calendar which is different than the rest. The Ethiopian Calendar consists of 13 months and is more than seven and a half years behind the Gregorian calendar followed in the rest of the world. It consists of 12 months of 30 days followed by an extra month of 5 to 6 days.
This is yet another example of Ethiopia retaining its past traditions and cultures. Just like Ethiopians never let themselves be fully colonized by Italians, they never changed their calendar when the Roman church made changes to its ancient calendar in 525 AD.
9. Fastest Growing Economy of the World
Ethiopia is recognized as the world’s fastest growing economy. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country rose at a significantly higher rate than the rest of the world and now it’s being viewed as one of the most rapidly growing economies of the world.
When contrasted against the fact that Ethiopia is still a very poor country with an overwhelming proportion of its population living below the poverty line, the growth of the country’s economy shows its positive trajectory in terms of both, its social and economic progression.
10. Home To The Smallest Grain In The World
Injera is a widely consumed food in Ethiopia. Known as Teff, it’s very interesting to know that the grain which is used to make Injera is actually an ancient grain also considered to be the smallest grain of the world.
Teff might be the smallest grain in the world, but its rich in all the necessary components of diet. It contains high levels of calcium, phosphorous, iron, copper, and aluminum and also gluten-free. Along with these, Teff is also considered an excellent source of proteins, carbohydrates, and fibers. Diabetic patients are also widely encouraged to incorporate Teff in their diets as its high level of resistant starches help in regulation of blood sugar levels. This makes Injera one of the most nutritious foods that you can eat.
If you were to ever visit Ethiopia, you must make sure to taste the famous Injera which would not only afford you the luxury of consuming the smallest grain in the world but will also offer you many health benefits.
11. One of the Oldest Christian Nations of the World
There is a lot that can be said about the religious diversity of Ethiopia. One of the most interesting things to know is that Ethiopia is one of the oldest Christian nations of the world. It adopted Christianity as the state religion in the 4th century BC and became one of the first Christian countries of the world.
Even though Ethiopian King Najashi gave refuge to Muslim followers who fled persecution in Arabia, he never accepted Islam. This also made Ethiopia the only country in Africa which did not convert to Islam and remained a Christian state.
12. Home to the Ark of Covenant and True Cross
If being one of the oldest Christian nations of the world was no enough, Ethiopia is also the home to the Ark of Covenant, which is a gold-covered chest believed to be holding tablets with the Ten Commandments engraved on them.
According to a widely known legend, Ark of Covenant was brought to Ethiopia about 3,000 years ago by a man called Menelik, son of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba. It’s believed to be hidden in a church called St. Mary of Zion cathedral situated in a small city of Aksum in the northern highlands of the country.
Apart from being the keeping place of the Ark of Covenant, Ethiopia is also considered to be the house of a piece of True Cross where Jesus was first crucified. Meskel, translating to “Finding True Cross”, is a religious festival celebrated each year at the beginning of the Ethiopian Calendar to commemorate the discovery of True Cross by Roman Empress Helena. This festival holds great importance for the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church which claims to have buried the True Cross in the monastery of Gishen Mariam.
This is an extremely fascinating fact to know for those interested in anthropology and religious studies, making Ethiopia an excellent destination for cultural enthusiasts and scholars.
13. Home to The Great Rift Valley
With all its cultural and social significance, Ethiopia is also an extremely interesting place to explore for geography and geology enthusiasts. Ethiopia is home to The Great Rift Valley which is one of the most prominent features of planet Earth. This topographic feature of the planet can also be viewed from space.
This intra-continental ridge system starts from the northeast of the country and spans all the way to the south. It’s a sight to behold and part of one of the most significant physical features of not only the continent, but also the world itself.
14. Home to The World’s Rarest Canid
Ethiopian Wolf is considered the world’s rarest canid with lesser than 500 remaining in the world. They are only found in the highlands of Ethiopia and remain the most threatened carnivorous species of Africa.
Since they are only found in high altitude regions, subsistence farming in the mountainous areas and diseases like rabies carried by dogs pose a major threat to the population of these endangered Ethiopian Wolves. Many preservation programs are underway to protect the dwindling numbers of the world’s rarest canid.
15. Home to 924 Species of Birds
If we were to call Ethiopia a birdwatcher’s paradise, we would not be wrong in doing so. Ethiopia is home to nearly 924 different species of birds which make it an extremely attractive spot for the bird enthusiasts.
But this is not where it stops. Given how 23 of the bird species are endemic to Ethiopia alone, it’s not surprising that Ethiopia has made consistent efforts to safeguard its unique population of birds. There are about 20 national parks along with many other protected wildlife areas dedicated to bird watching and preservation of species. Altogether, these areas are made up of about 20,000 square miles of land.
It’s safe to say that Ethiopia is a treasure trove of all things humanity keeps close to its hearts. It’s ancient past is reflected in its nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites while its religious importance dates as far back as the 4th century. Even today, you can find the cultural diversity of this nation in its 83 different spoken languages and equal number of ethnic groups. But that’s not it. Ethiopia is also rich is natural resources. From being home to the world’s smallest but one of the most nutritious grains to having a topographical feature visible from space, Ethiopia has it all. Its 924 different species of birds and its characteristic Ethiopian wolves are but a testament to its natural treasures, and all attractive features of this incredibly beautiful African country.
Considering all of the things this country is bestowed with and that it has preserved, Ethiopia is an increasingly proving its mettle in the world. Many tourists are hopping on flights to explore the cultural and natural beauties of Africa, and Ethiopia is one of the most sought after countries of the continent.