Welcome to Ethiopia : You think you know Ethiopia ?


Ethiopia is:

  • A unique country and with no other African country comparison. The scenery is varied and surprisingly green, with many wonderful geological features such as Dallol Depression (one of the lowest depressions in the world), the Erta ale Active Volcano, Sof Omar Cave, the Great East Africa Rift Valley, Blue Nile Gorge and others.
  • Éthiopie has much to offer the Simien Mountains with jagged peaks and deep gorges to the beautiful Lake Tana & its medieval period island monasteries and the eleven magical Christian monolithic churches in Lalibela. Also fascinating are the many nomadic peoples. Truly a country to discover!
    Ethiopia is the home of distance running where many of the greatest runners of all time have come and they have come to dominate the world of distance running along with their fellow east Africans in Kenya. Visit the town of Runners Bekoji (Where Ethiopian Runners Are Born or Ethiopia’s Home of Athletics Champions) where most of Ethiopian Olympic gold medal winners seem to have chosen to be born here. Haile Gebreselassie, Derartu Tulu, Fatuma Roba, Kenenisa Bekele, and Tirunesh Dibaba.
  • The home to the most ancient Kingdom in Africa (Ethiopia), and one of the first monarchies in the world and the sole African country to possess an alphabet more than 2000 years old.
  • Ethiopia is one of the most enriching country for experiences and highly recommended if you get the chance, that it’s a destination not to be missed!
    If you are interested in going, there is only one get way that can give you the type of experience that Ethiopian offer and you wish.

Ethiopia is like nowhere else on the planet, a beautiful country blessed with a peerless history, fabulous wildlife and some of Africa’s most soulful peoples. Ethiopia is an ancient country whose unique cultural heritage, rich history and remarkable biodiversity are reflected in a tally of nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites – more than any other country in Africa. Within its borders, you’ll find the world’s fourth-holiest Islamic city, along with as the oldest continuously-occupied town south of the Sahara. Compelling antiquities include the mediaeval rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and Gheralta, ruined palaces and temples dating back 3,000 years, the magnificent 17th century castles of Gondar, and the oldest human fossils unearthed anywhere on the planet. Add to this the beautiful Simien and Bale Mountains, the spectacular volcanic landscapes of the Danakil Depression, and a wealth of mammals and birds found nowhere else in the world, and it’s little wonder that Ethiopia has become the most attractive and popular emergent tourist destination in Africa.



Ethiopian tradition has it that Christianity came to the country at the beginning of the 4th century AD. A boat sailing from Tyre to Ethiopia stopped at a Red Sea port where the locals massacred all the men on board except for two brothers, Fromentius and Edesius. It was to be these two brothers, who were taken to Axum as slaves, who would gain favour in the court and eventually convert the King, Ezena to Christianity. Fromentius took the lead role and became the first Bishop of Ethiopia.It is therefore said that Ethiopia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its official state religion. It has retained many points of similarity with the Coptic church of Egypt. Indeed, until 1959, the Abuna or patriarch was appointed from Alexandria. Now the Church has its own patriarch. Ethiopian orthodoxy also displays many similarities to ancient Judaism, in its fasting rules, in the way in which animals are slaughtered and in the layout of its churches amongst other features. Wednesday and Friday are days of fasting when no animal products may be consumed. There are 55 days of fasting prior to Fasika, the Orthodox Easter. Circumcision is practised on all boys. Church services on Sundays are long and start at the crack of dawn.

Festivals in Ethiopia are an important part of daily life. The most significant is Ethiopian Epiphany, or Timkat, while Meskel (the finding of the true cross), Easter, Christmas (celebrated on the 7th January) and various other smaller days are also celebrated.
Roughly 45% of the population follow the Orthodox religion. Protestants and Catholics take the total number of Christians to around 62% of the population.
A fascinating book that will inform the reader in much more detail of these Ethiopian Orthodox traditions is the Kebre Negast, the Glory of Kings, written in the 13th century, which is available in several translated editions. Here one may read of the association between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and of the bringing of the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia



Ethiopian tradition has it that Christianity came to the country at the beginning of the 4th century AD. A boat sailing from Tyre to Ethiopia stopped at a Red Sea port where the locals massacred all the men on board except for two brothers, Fromentius and Edesius. It was to be these two brothers, who were taken to Axum as slaves, who would gain favour in the court and eventually convert the King, Ezena to Christianity. Fromentius took the lead role and became the first Bishop of Ethiopia.It is therefore said that Ethiopia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its official state religion. It has retained many points of similarity with the Coptic church of Egypt. Indeed, until 1959, the Abuna or patriarch was appointed from Alexandria. Now the Church has its own patriarch. Ethiopian orthodoxy also displays many similarities to ancient Judaism, in its fasting rules, in the way in which animals are slaughtered and in the layout of its churches amongst other features. Wednesday and Friday are days of fasting when no animal products may be consumed. There are 55 days of fasting prior to Fasika, the Orthodox Easter. Circumcision is practised on all boys. Church services on Sundays are long and start at the crack of dawn.

Festivals in Ethiopia are an important part of daily life. The most significant is Ethiopian Epiphany, or Timkat, while Meskel (the finding of the true cross), Easter, Christmas (celebrated on the 7th January) and various other smaller days are also celebrated.
Roughly 45% of the population follow the Orthodox religion. Protestants and Catholics take the total number of Christians to around 62% of the population.
A fascinating book that will inform the reader in much more detail of these Ethiopian Orthodox traditions is the Kebre Negast, the Glory of Kings, written in the 13th century, which is available in several translated editions. Here one may read of the association between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and of the bringing of the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia

Islam came to Ethiopia in very early times. Mohammed himself was said to have sent followers to Ethiopia in 615 AD, and they received a warm welcome. As Axum’s Christian strength waned later in that century, Islam began to have a more meaningful influence across the country.

The 16th century was to see disastrous conflict between Christendom and Islam in Ethiopia. Of particular note was the powerful invasion led by Mohammed Gragn (the Left-Handed) in an attempt to conquer the entire country. This force was to be very successful in many areas of Ethiopia and was only eventually defeated with the help of the Portuguese led by Vasco da Gama’s son Christopher.

These days, the Islamic faith and Christianity seem to co-exist very peacefully in most areas. The high central plateau is predominantly Christian, while the lower surrounding areas to the east and south are more uniformly Muslim.

The holy city of Harar lies near the railway line to Djibouti in the east. It is officially the fourth most holy site in Islam and its architecture gives no doubt to its history and faith. Mosques abound within the city walls – 87 at the last count – and the colourful dresses of the women add to the exotic ambience of a memorable town.

The ‘Beta Israel’ – as the Jews of Ethiopia refer to themselves – have lived in Ethiopia for many centuries, but their origins are uncertain. Some hold to the tradition that they are descended from the lost tribe of Dan. The medieval Christian chronicle, the Kebra Negast, tells of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba having a son called Menelik, who grew up in Ethiopia but went to visit his father in the Land of Israel and returned home accompanied by a group of Israelite soldiers who settled in Ethiopia. Modern academics are also divided in their explanations: some think that Jewish tribes from the Arabian Desert migrated to Ethiopia, others have proposed that Jewish influence travelled down the Nile from Egypt.

The Beta Israel settled in the Northern part of Ethiopia, particularly in the Simien mountains, and around Lake Tana. There were periods when an independent Jewish kingdom held out against Christian emperors, but in the 15th century the Beta Israel were soundly defeated and from then on they became a lower-status minority in the Christian empire.

Flora & Fauna

Ethiopia owes its rich biodiversity to the combination of a tropical location and an altitudinal span ranging from 4,533 metres above sea level to 116 metres below sea level. The country is known for its unusually high level of endemism i.e. plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world. Among vertebrates alone, at least 140 species are unique to Ethiopia, including more than 40 mammals and 18 birds.

The varied flora embraces the world’s most extensive tracts if Afroalpine moorland, along with a varied mix of forest, savannah, desert and cultivation. 

Ethiopia provides refuge to a typical Afro-tropical fauna, ranging from parrot and pelicans to lions and crocodiles, but it is most notable perhaps for endemic species such as the Ethiopian wolf, gelada baboon and Prince Ruspoli’s turaco.


Ethiopia boasts an extremely diverse flora including more than 1,000 species of woody plants (125 of which are endemic) and 736 types of grass. 

Due to its high altitudes, Ethiopia supports the world’s most extensive tracts of Afroalpine moorland and grassland, particularly on the upper slopes of the Bale and Simien massifs. Plants typical of this open habitat include soft green guassa grass, ericaceous heathers and spectacular palm-like giant lobelias. 

Striking plants associated with higher altitudes are the aloe-like ‘red-hot-pokers’ of the genus Kniphofia. The pokers are named for their spear-like orange and red flowers, which usually bloom during the rainy season, and whose copious nectar is attractive to bees and sunbirds. 

The most biodiverse habitat in Ethiopia is closed canopy forest, which covers about 4% of the national landmass. The most important forest blocks are the Harenna Forest in the southern slopes of the Bale Massif, and the extensive montane forests protected in the Biosphere Reserves of the western highlands, which are also where coffee originated. 

A characteristic tree of highland areas is the Abyssinian juniper Juniperus procera, an indigenous conifer recognisable by its needle-like leaves and fragrant herby smell. Other common highland trees include the African Olive Olea Africana.

The larger rivers and lakes of Ethiopia support strips of riparian forest, while many old churches and monasteries protect small relict forest patches. In such habitats you’ll often find large buttressed trees of the genus Ficus, whose seasonal fruits frequently attract large numbers of monkeys and birds. 

The Rift Valley and others below an altitude of around 2,000m naturally support a typical African cover of wooded savanna, often dominated by thorn trees of the Acacia family. 

The only rose species indigenous to Africa, the Ethiopian rose Rosa abyssinica, a thorny deciduous shrub with fragrant creamy flowers, is common in the highlands around Bale. 

Although outsiders frequent assume Ethiopia to be dominated by desert habitats, only about 30 percent of the country is classified as arid or semi-arid, most if it in the southeastern Somali border area and the Danakil Depression. 

Around 15 percent of Ethiopia’s land is under cultivation and 50 percent is used as pasture. Most farmland consists of private smallholdings used to produce tef (the endemic grain used to make injera), sorghum, millet and corn. Cash crops include coffee and flowers. Agriculture is estimated to account for about 42 percent of GDP, and 84% of exports. It is also the main source of income for 80% of the workforce.


Ethiopia boasts one of the most diverse faunas in Africa. Although most species present are typical of the Afro-tropical region, the fauna also displays affiliations to the Palaearctic region. The Bale Mountains, for instance, protect the only known sub-Saharan breeding populations of Palaearctic birds such as the golden eagle, ruddy shelduck and red-billed chough.

Of the 280 mammal species recorded in Ethiopia, at least 40 are found nowhere else in the world. Most of these endemics are relatively inconspicuous shrews, rodents and bats, but the list also contains several larger and more striking species. Among these, the best known are the Ethiopian wolf (the world’s rarest wild dog), mountain nyala (a massive spiral-horned antelope), Bale monkey (a bamboo-eater confined to the Harenna Forest), gelada (a grass-eating baboon with a flowing lion-like mane and heart-shaped red chest patch) and Walia ibex (the only goat indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa).

Other mammals represented in Ethiopia include the acrobatic black-and-white colobus monkey, small numbers of elephant and buffalo, and a subspecies of lion noted for the males’s unusually large black mane.

Of the 860 bird species recorded in Ethiopia, a full 18 – including the spectacular Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco, Stresemann’s Bush Crow and melodious Abyssinian catbird – are national endemics and a similar number are near-endemics whose range only otherwise extends into Eritrea. The Simien Mountains are the best place in the world to see the mighty lammergeyer displaying its 2-metre wingspan.

Reptiles recorded in Ethiopia range from the heavyweight Nile crocodile and impressive Nile monitor lizard to several tiny species chameleon. At least 16 reptile species are endemic to Ethiopia, along with 26 amphibian and 33 freshwater fish species.

Ethiopia’s invertebrate fauna – comprising insects, arachnids, molluscs and the like – is even more diverse. Butterflies alone are represented by around 375 species of which almost 10% are endemic.

A Country of Contrasts & Extremes

Every trip to Ethiopia is different. We’re excited to show you this incredible country and to help you craft the adventure of your lifetime.  Ethiopia is truly a land of contrasts and extremes; a land of remote and wild places. Some of the highest and most stunning places on the African continent are found here, such as the jaggedly carved Simien Mountains, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites – and some of the lowest, such as the hot but fascinating Danakil Depression, with its sulphur fumaroles and lunar-like landscape.

Ethiopia is old; old beyond all imaginations. As Abyssinia, its culture and traditions date back over 3,000 years. And far earlier than that lived “Lucy” or Dinkenesh, meaning ‘thou art wonderful’, as she is known to the Ethiopians, whose remains were found in a corner of this country of mystery and contrasts. Many people visit Ethiopia – or hope to do so one day – because of the remarkable manner in which ancient historical traditions have been preserved. And, indeed, the ceremonies and rituals of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, open a window on the authentic world of the Old Testament. In no other country is it possible to find yourself so dramatically transported back in time or to participate with such freedom in the sacred rituals of an archaic faith.

Ethiopia, the oldest independent nation in Africa, is a land of stunning natural beauty. A rich diversity of culture and geography that will captivate the visitor. The welcome that comes from the mosaic of a people with over 80 different languages and as many cultures is warm and spontaneous.

The attractions of Ethiopia are of world renown, and the development of the Country as the foremost tourist destination in North East Africa has opened up Ethiopia to a new generation of tourists, to whom a visit to the land of the Queen of Sheba, the birthplace of the Blue Nile and the ‘cradle of mankind’ was previously just a dream.

The climate is dependent on the physical terrain and its position close to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, but for much of the year it is warm and pleasant in low-lying areas and cool and bracing in the highlands. There are two principal seasons, rainy from June to September, (although the sun still shines on most days), and dry for the rest of the year. Just perfect for discovering the riches of Ethiopia.

Ethiopia and it’s People

Ethiopia is truly a Land of  discovery – brilliant and beautiful, secretive, mysterious and extraordinary. Above all things, it is a country of great antiquity, with a culture and traditions dating back more than 3,000 years. The traveler in Ethiopia makes a journey through time, transported by beautiful monuments and the ruins of  edifices built long centuries ago. Ethiopia, like many other  African countries, is a multi-ethnic state. Many distinctions have been blurred  by intermarriage over the years but many also remain. The differences may be observed in the number of languages spoken – an astonishing 83, falling into four main language groups: Semitic, Cushitic, Omotic and Nilo-Saharan. There are  200 different dialects.

The Semitic  languages of Ethiopia are related to both Hebrew and Arabic, and derive from  Ge’ez, the ecclesiastical language.


The principle  Semitic language spoken in the north-western and central part of the country is Amharic, which is also the official language of the modern state. Other main languages are Tigrigna, Guraginya, Adarinya, Afan Oromo, Somalinya, Sidaminya, Afarinya, Gumuz, Berta and Anuak.

The Tigrigna- and  Amharic-speaking people of the north and centre of the country are mainly  agriculturalists, tilling the soil with ox-drawn ploughs and growing teff (a local millet), wheat, barley, maize and sorghum. The most southerly of the Semitic speakers, the Gurage, are also farmers and herders, but many are also craftsmen. The Gurage grow enset, ‘false banana’, whose root, stem and leaf stalks provide a carbohydrate which, after lengthy preparation, can be made into porridge or unleavened bread.

The Cushitic Oromo,  formerly nomadic pastoralists, are now mainly engaged in agriculture and, in the more arid areas, cattle-breeding. The Somali, also pastoral nomads, forge a  living in hot and arid bush country, while the Afar, semi-nomadic pastoralists  and fishermen, are the only people who can survive in the hostile environment of the Danakil Depression.


like-ethiopiaThe people of  Ethiopia wear many different types of clothing. The traditional dress of the Christian highland peasantry has traditionally been of white cotton cloth. Since  the time of Emperor Tewodros 11 (mid-1800s), men have worn long, jodhpur-like  trousers, a tight-fitting shirt and a shamma (loose wrap).

The Muslims of Harar, by contrast, wear very colourful dress, the men in shortish trousers and a coloured wrap and the women in fine dresses of red, purple and black. The  lowland Somali and Afar wear long, brightly coloured cotton wraps, and the Oromo and Bale people are to be seen in the bead-decorated leather garments that  reflect their economy, which is based on livestock. Costumes to some extent  reflect the climates where the different groups live – highlanders, for instance,  -use heavy cloth capes and wraparound blankets to combat the night chill. In the heat of the lowland plains, light cotton cloths are all that is  required by men and women alike.

Traditional dress, though often now supplanted by Western attire, may still be seen throughout much  of the countryside. National dress is usually worn for festivals, when streets  and meeting-places are transformed into a sea of white as finely woven cotton dresses, wraps decorated with coloured woven borders, and suits are donned. A  distinctive style of dress is found among the Oromo horsemen of the central  highlands, who, on ceremonial days such as Maskal, attire themselves in lions’ manes or baboon-skin headdresses and, carrying hippo-hide spears and  shields, ride down to the main city squares to participate in the  parades.

Ethiopians are justifiably proud of the range of their traditional costumes. The most obvious identification of the different groups is in the jewellery, the hair styles and  the embroidery of the dresses. The women of Amhara and Tigray wear dozens of  plaits (sheruba), tightly braided to the head and billowing out at the shoulders. The women of Harar part their hair in the middle and make a bun  behind each ear. Hamer, Geleb, Bume and Karo men form a ridge of plaited hair and clay to hold their feathered headwear in place. Arsi women have fringes and short, bobbed hair. Bale girls have the same, but cover it with a black  headcloth, while young children often have their heads shaved.

Jewellery in silver  and gold is worn by both Muslims and Christians, often with amber or glass beads  incorporated. Heavy brass, copper and ivory bracelets and anklets are also  worn.

ethiopian-art-and-cultureEthiopia also has a  rich tradition of both secular and religious music, singing and dancing, and  these together constitute an important part of Ethiopian cultural life. Singing accompanies many agricultural activities, as well as religious festivals and  ceremonies surrounding life’s milestones – birth, marriage and death. Traditional musical  instruments in widespread use include the massinko, a one-stringed violin  played with a bow; the krar, a six-stringed lyre, played with the fingers or a plectrum; the washint, a simple flute; and three types of drum – the negarit (kettledrum), played with sticks, the kebero, played with  the hands, and the atamo, tapped with the fingers or palm. Other instruments include the begena, a huge, multi-stringed lyre often  referred to as the Harp of David; the tsinatseil, or sistrum, which is used in church music; the meleket, a long trumpet without fingerholes,  and the embilta, a large, simple, one-note flute used on ceremonial occasions.

Though often simply  made, the massinko can, in the hands of an expert musician, produces a  wide variety of melodies. It is often played by wandering minstrels,particularly near eating houses, where the musicians entertain the diners. The rousing  rhythms of the negarit were used in times gone by to accompany important  proclamations, and chiefs on the march would be preceded by as many as 30 men,  each beating a negarit carried on a donkey. The tiny atamo is most  frequently played at weddings and festivals, setting the rhythmic beat of folk  songs and dances.


Natural Tourist Attractions

euro-ethiopiatravel_waliyaThe natural beauty of Ethiopia amazes the 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 subsaharan 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 than most countries in Africa.



The Blue Nile Falls (Tisisat Falls)

nile_ethiopiaThe river Nile, over 800km in length within Ethiopia and the longest river in Africa, holds part of its heart in Ethiopia. From lake Tana, the Blue Nile, known locally as Abbay, flows for 800 km within Ethiopia to meet the white Nile in Khartoum to form the great river that gives life to Egypt and the Sudan. It has been said that the Blue Nile contributes up to 80% of the Nile’s flow. The Blue Nile Falls are about an hour by tour bus from Bahar Dar. Known locally as Tis Isat, the falls are over 400m (1312ft) wide and 45m (148ft) deep. Because of a series of dams near Bahar Dar, they aren’t as impressive as they used to be. Nowhere, is it more spectacular than where it thunders over the Tisisat Falls literally ” Smoking Water” – near Bahar Dar. Here millions of gallons of water cascade over the cliff face and into a gorge, creating spectacular rainbows, in one of the most awe-inspiring displays in Africa.

The Blue Nile falls can easily be reached from Bahir Dar and the Scenic beauty of the Blue Nile Gorge, 225km from Addis Ababa, can be enjoyed as part of an excursion from the capital.

The Sof Omar Cave

Sof Omar, a tiny Muslim village in Bale, is the site of an amazing complex of natural caves, cut  by the Wab River as it found its way from the nearby mountains. The settlement, which is a religious site, is named after a local Sheikh.

Armed with torches and official map, visitors to Sof Omar make their way underground, far into the  bowels of the earth, beside a subterranean stream, and there can see an  extraordinary number of arched portals, high eroded ceilings and deep echoing chambers.

The Rift Valley

omo-valley-peopleThe Ethiopian Rift Valley, which is part of the famous East African Rift Valley, comprises numerous hot springs, beautiful lakes and a variety of wildlife. The valley is the result of two parallel faults in the earth’s surface between which, in distant geological time, the crust was weakened, and the land subsided. Ethiopia is often referred to as the ” water tower” of Eastern Africa because of the many rivers that pour off the high tableland. The Great Rift Valley’s passage through Ethiopia is marked by a chain of seven lakes.

Each of the seven lakes has its own special life and character and provids ideal habitats for the exuberant variety of flora and fauna that make the region a beautiful and exotic destination for tourists.

Most of the lakes are suitable and safe for swimming other water sports. Besides, lakes Abiata and Shalla are ideal places for bird watchers. Most of the Rift Valley lakes are not fully exploited for touristic purposes except lake Langano where tourist class hotels are built. The Rift Valley is also a site of numerous natural hot springs & the chemical contents of the hot springs are highly valued for their therapeutic purposes though at present they are not fully utilized. In short, the Rift Valley is endowed with many beautiful lakes , numerous hot springs, warm and pleasant climate and a variety of wildlife.

Ethiopia’s Historical Attractions


Ethiopia, the oldest independent nation in Africa, has a heritage dating back to first century AD. Traders from Greece, Rome, Persia and Egypt knew of the riches of what is now Ethiopia, and by the first century AD, Axum was the capital of a great Empire . This realm became one of the first Christian lands of Africa. Late in the 10th Century , Axum declined and a new Zagwe dynasty, centred what is now Lalibela, ruled the land . Axum, Lalibela and Gonder now provide our greatest historical legacy. It was in the 16th Century that the son of the great explorer Vasco Da Gama came to Ethiopia, but then found a land of many kingdoms and provinces beset by feuds and War.

Legend has it that Emperor Menelik I, the son of the Queen of Sheba and king Solomon, brought the  Ark of the Covenant from Jerusalem to Axum, where he settled and established one  of the world’s longest known, uninterrupted monarchical dynasties.

This is only one example of Ethiopia’s magnificent history, which encompasses legend and tradition, mystery and fact, from a powerful and religious ancient civilization. The well -trodden path through Ethiopia’s famous and fascinating  historic places takes you through a scenically magnificent world of fairy -tale  names, such as Lalibela, Gondar, Deber Damo and Bahar Dar.

Several of Ethiopia’s more remote areas are excellent for walking safaris, which are offered by several good tour operators in the country. Walking tours, best  planned for the dry season, offer the traveller the opportunity for  awe-inspiring vantage points from which to view many of Ethiopia’s natural  wonders, cultural riches and architectural heritage. In Gondar, there are  fairytale castles dating back to the 17th century. In Harar, the visitor can enjoy the incense-flavored mysteries of narrow alleyways and towering minarets. The followings are some of our historical attractions.



Ethiopia’s most ancient city and the capital of the historic Axumite state, is the site of many remarkable monolithic stone stelae, or obelisks, the three most  important being decorated to represent multi-storied buildings, complete with doors and windows.

The largest  obelisk, which was 35 meters long and weighed 500 tons, is the biggest piece of  stone ever cut by humanity anywhere in the world but today it lies broken on the ground. Near it stands a smaller but nevertheless most impressive 24-metre-high obelisk – the pride of Ethiopia. A somewhat larger obelisk was taken to Rome, on  the orders of the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, in 1937. All three section of the 1,700-year old Axum obelisk has arrived back in Ethiopia, 68 years after it was looted by Italian fascists. It was eventually dismantled into three pieces in 2004 in preparation for its journey home, an operation which is costing Italy an estimated 6 million euros (£4.1 million). The monument is due to be re-erected after the rainy season.

Axum, in its day,  was a great commercial centre, issuing its own currency and trading with Egypt, Arabia, Persia, India and even Ceylon. The settlement was also the site of  Ethiopia’s oldest church, which dated back to the coming of Christianity as the  state religion, early in the 4th Century. The original building has long since disappeared but a structure erected on its site by Emperor Fasiladas in the early 17th Century is still there. A nearby outhouse is the reputed repository  of the biblical Ark of the Covenant. This historic relic cannot be seen but visitors there can see and photograph a number of the remarkable crowns that  belonged to several notable Ethiopian monarchs of the past.

Just out of the  town, the remains of an early Axumite palace, popularly thought to have belonged to the Queen of Sheba, are well worth a visit. The remains are located at Dangur, near the mountain from which the obelisks were originally excavated. The  beautifully worked tombs of several ancient Axumite rulers and the local  archaeological museum are also worth a visit. About 45 per cent of the Ethiopian population is Muslim. Most of the Christians belonging to the  Ethiopian Orthodox Church, whose 4th Century beginnings came long before Europe accepted Christianity. A further small percentage of the population adheres to traditional and other beliefs, including Judaism.


lalibela_ethiopiaA medieval settlement in the Lasta area of Wallo, lies at the centre of an extensive complex of rock churches. Some can be reached by one or two hours’  drive, others are a full day’s journey. Lalibela has 11 remarkable rock-hewn  monolithic churches, believed to have been built by King Lalibela in the late 12th or early 13th Century. These notable structures are carved, inside and out,  into the solid rock, and are considered to be among the wonders of the world.  Each building is architecturally unique but each reflects beautifully executed  craftsmanship, and several are decorated with fascinating paintings. These  astonishing edifices remain places of living worship to this day.




Debre Damo

gheralta-rock-churches-ethiopiaSome 76 Kilometers from Axum is the monastery of Debre Damo ( closed to Women), which is said to have the oldest existing intact church in Ethiopia. Local tradition says that Abune Aregawi, one of the nine Saints, built the church in the 16th Century. The Monastery of Debre Damo can only be reached by rope pulley.


Some 55 km east of Axum is the 5th Century BC temple of Yeha. Its massive walls house Judaic relics and historic artefact.




Bahar Dar

debre_zeyit-langanoBahar Dar is a small town set on the south – eastern shore of lake Tana, where local fishermen still use papyrus boats, and just 30 km from the spectacular Tissisat Falls. Here the Blue Nile creates ” Smoking Water” an awe-inspiring sight as it plunges into the gorge below.

From Bahar Dar one must explore some of the ancient monasteries that have been built around Lake Tana, or on the many Islands. These include Dek Stephanos with its priceless collections of icons, as well as the remains of several medieval emperors, Kebran Gabriel and Ura Kidane Mehret with its famous frescoes. The colorful local market at Bahir Dar is renowned for its weavers and wood workers.




fasil_ghebi_gondarGonder was the 17th Century capital of Ethiopia, and is notable for its medieval Castles and churches. The City’s unique imperial compound contains a number of Castles built between 1632 and 1855 by the various Emperors who reigned during this period. These dramatic castles, unlike any other African, display a richness in architecture that reveals the Axumite traditions as well as the influence of Arabia.

Other treasure of Gonder include the 18th Century palace of Ras Beit, the bath of Fasilades, the reuined palace of Kusquam, and the church of Debre Berhane Selassie with its unique murals.



Although Lalibela is unique, it is not the sole site of Ethiopia’s famous rock-hewn churches. In Tigray near Mekelle, over 200 fine example of these monuments to man’s devotion to God as well as his building skills, may be seen and visited.

The Capital of the emperor Yohannnes IV (1871 – 1889), Mekelle is now the main town of Tigray, the most northern Ethiopian region. The emperor’s palace has been turned into a particular interesting museum, with many exhibits of his time and subsequent history. The town is also well known as a transit point for the Camel Caravans bringing salt up from the arid lands of the Danakil Depression. This makes the market palace a particular interesting place to visit. Intrepid visitors can also make excursions into the Danakil to visit some of the Afar nomads that trek across the region.


harar-jugol-the-fortified-historic-town-ethiopiaThe city of Harar is an ancient (1520) and holy city. Always an important trading centre, the city is famous for its ancient buildings, its great city walls and as a centre of learning muslim scholarship ( the town has 99 mosques). The city is well known for its superb handicrafts that include woven textiles, basketware, silverware and handsomely bound books, Harar has been a place of pilgrimage from all over the world for many years.

Harar’s attractions are:

– The City Walls (The City Walls, and the narrow streets lined with traditional Harari gegar houses.) – Rimbaud House (A Fine building traditional house dating from the period when the French poet Rimbaud lived in Harar.) – The Hyena Man

Dire Dawa

Dire Dawa is city in Harar region, Ethiopia. It is a commercial and industrial center located on the Addis Ababa–Djibouti railroad. Manufactures include processed meat, vegetable oil, textiles, and cement. There are also railroad workshops in the city. Dire Dawa was founded in 1902 when the railroad from Djibouti reached the area, and its growth has resulted largely from trade brought by the railroad.

Public Holidays 2019

This section contains a national calendar of all 2019 public holidays for Ethiopia.

Date, Day & Holiday
7 Jan Mon Ethiopian Christmas
19 Jan Sat Timket
2 Mar Sat Adwa Victory Day
26 Apr Fri Siklet
28 Apr Sun Easter Sunday
1 May Wed Labour Day
5 May Sun Patriots’ Victory Day
28 May Tue Derg Downfall Day
5 Jun Wed Eid al-Fitr
12 Aug Mon Eid al-Adha
27 Sep Fri Meskel
10 Nov Sun Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday

Useful Amharic Words & Phrases

Useful words & phrases in Amharic
A collection of useful phrases in Amharic, a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Key to abbreviations: inf = informal, frm = formal, >m = said to men, >f = said to women, pl = said to more than one person.

Englishኣማርኛ (Amharic)
Welcomeእንኳን ደህና መጣህ።
(ənkwan dähna mäṭṭah) m
እንኳን ደህና መጣሽ።
(ənkwan dähna mäṭṭaš) f
Hello (General greeting)ሰላም (sälam) [peace] – inf
ታዲያስ። (tadyass) – inf [how is it?] – inf
ጤና ይስጥልኝ። (ṭenaisṭəlləň) >frm
[may he (God) give you health on my behalf]
How are you?እንደምን አለህ፧
(əndämən alläh?) >m
እንደምን አለሽ፧
(əndämən alläš?) >f
እንደምን አላችሁ፧
(əndämən allaččhu?) – pl
Reply to ‘How are you?’ደህና ነኝ። (dähna näň)
Long time no seeረጂም ጊዜ ከተለያየን።
(räǧǧim gize kätäläyayän)
What’s your name?ስምህ ማን ነው፧ (səməh man näw?) >m
ስምሽ ማን ነው፧ (səməš man näw?) >f
የእርስዎ ስም ማን ነው፧ (yärswo səm man näw?) frm
My name is …የኔ ስም… ነው (yäne səm … näw)
ስሜ … ነው። (səme … näw)
Where are you from?ከየት ነህ፧ (käyät näh?) >m
ከየት ነሽ፧ (käyät näš?) >f
ከየት ኖት፧ (käyät not?) frm
አንተ ከየት ነህ፧ (antä käyät näh?) >m
አንቺ ከየት ነሽ፧ (anchi käyät näš?) >f
እርስዎ ከየት ኖት፧ (ərswo käyät not?) frm
I’m from …እኔ ከ … ነኝ። (əne kä … näň)
ከ … ነኝ። (kä … näň)
Pleased to meet youስለተዋወቅን ደስ ብሎኛል
(səlätäwawäqən däs bəloňňall)
Good morning
(Morning greeting)
እንደምን አደርክ? (əndämən addärk?) >m
እንደምን አደርሽ? (əndämən addärš?) >f
አንደምን አደሩ? (əndämən addäru?) frm
[how did you pass the night?]
Good afternoon
(Afternoon greeting)
እንደምን ዋልክ? (i’ndemin walik?) – m
እንደምን ዋልሽ? (i’ndemin walish?) – f
አንደምን ዋሉ (i’ndemin walu) – frm
[how did you spend the day?]
Good evening
(Evening greeting)
አንደምን አመሸህ?
(əndämən amäššäh?) >m
ምሽቱን እንዴት አሳለፍከው?
(məššətun əndet asalläfkäw?) >m
አንደምን አመሸሽ?
(əndämən amäššäš?) >f
ምሽቱን እንዴት አሳለፍሽው?
(məššətun əndet asalläfšəw?) >f
አንደምን አመሹ?
(əndämən amäššu?) frm
[how did you spend the evening?]
Good nightደህና እደር (dähna där) >m
ደህና እደሪ (dähna däri) >f
ደህና እደሩ (dähna däru) frm/pl
(Parting phrases)
ቻው (chaw) – inf
ደህና ሁን (dähna hun) – m
ደህና ሁኚ (dähna hunyi) – f
ደህና ሁኑ (dähna hunu) – pl
Good luck!መልካም እድል (mälkam əddəl) – inf
Cheers! Good Health!
(Toasts used when drinking)
ለጤናችን (läṭenaččən)
ለፍቅራችን (läfəqraččən)
ለጓደኛነታችን (lägwadäňňannätaččən)
Have a nice dayመልካም ቀን።
(mälkam qän)
መልካም ቀን ይሁንልህ።
(mälkam qän yəhunəlləh) >m
መልካም ቀን ይሁንልሽ።
(mälkam qän yəhunəlləš) >f
መልካም ቀን ይሁንላችሁ።
(mälkam qän yəhunəllaččhu) – pl
Bon appetit /
Have a nice meal
ብላ (bəla) – eat! >m
ብዪ (biy) – eat! >f
ብሉ (bəlu) – eat! – pl
መልካም ምግብ (mälkam məgəb) – good feasting
Bon voyage /
Have a good journey
መልካም ጉዞ። (mälkam guzo)
መልካም ጉዞ ይሁንልህ። (mälkam guzo yəhunəlləh) >m
መልካም ጉዞ ይሁንልሽ። (mälkam guzo yəhunəlləš) >f
መልካም ጉዞ ይሁንላችሁ። (mälkam guzo yəhunəllaččhu) – pl
Do you understand?ገባሀ? (Gäbah?) >m
ገባሸ? (Gäbaš?) >f
I understandገባኝ (gäbbaň) – it entered me
I don’t understandአልገባኝም (algäbbaňem) – it didn’t enter me
I don’t knowአላውቅም (alawqəm)
Please speak more slowlyእባክህ ቀስ ብለህ ተናገር።
(əbakəh qässə bəlläh tänagär) >m
እባክሽ ቀስ ብለሽ ተናገሪ።
(əbakəš qässə bəlläš tänagäri) >f
እባካችሁ ቀስ ብላችሁ ተናገሩ።
(əbakaččhu qässə bəlläččhu tänagäru) pl
እባክዎ ቀስ ብለው ይናገሩ።
(ebakwo qäs beläw yenagäru) – frm
Please say that againእባክህ ያልከዉን ድገምልኝ።
(əbakəh yalkäwn dəgäməlləň) >m
እባክሽ ያልሽዉን ድገሚልኝ።
(əbakəš yalššəwn dəgämilləň >f
እባካችሁ ያላችሁትን ድገሙልኝ።
(ebakaččhu yalaččhuten degämulleñ) – pl
እባክዎ ያሉትን ይድገሙልኝ።
(ebakwo yaluten yedegämulleñ) – frm
Please write it downእባክዎ ይፃፉት
(ebakwo yetsafut) – frm
Do you speak Amharic?አማርኛ ትችላለህ? (amariňňa təčəlalläh) >m
አማርኛ ትችያለሽ? (amariňňa təčiyalläš) >f
አማርኛ ትችላላችሁ? (amariňňa təčəlallaččhu) pl
Yes, a little
(reply to ‘Do you speak …?’)
አዎ፣ ትንሽ (awo tənəš)
How do you say … in Amharic?እንዴት ነው … በአማርኛ የምለው?
(endiet näw … bä’amareñña yämmeläw)
… በአማርኛ ምን ይባላል?)
(… bä’amareñña men yebbalal)
Excuse meይቅርታ (yəqərta) – forgivness
How much is this?ስንት ነው ዋጋው፧ (sənttə näw wagaw?)
Sorryአዝናለሁ (azənallähw)- I am sorrowful
Pleaseእባክህ (əbakəh) – m
እባክሽ (əbakəš) – f
እባክዎን (əbakown) – frm – I beg of you
Thank youአመሰግናለሁ
(amäsäggänallähw) – I praise you
በጣም አመሰግናለሁን
(bäṭam amäsäggänallähun)
Reply to thank youምንም አይደለም
(mənəm aydälläm) – it is nothing
ችግር የለም
(čəggər yälläm) – there is no problem
Where’s the toilet / bathroom?ሽንት ቤት የት ነው?
(šəntə bet yätə näw) – inf
መጸዳጃ ክፍል የት ነዉ?
(mäs’ädaǧǧa kəfl yätə näw) – frm
This gentleman will pay for everythingለሁሉም ይህ ሰዉየ ይከፍላል።
(lähulum yəh säwye yəkäflall)
This lady will pay for everythingለሁሉም ይህች ሴትዮ ትከፍላለች።
(lähulum yəč setyo təkäflalläč)
Would you like to dance with me?ከኔ ጋር መደነስ ትፈልጋለህ።
(käne gar mädänäs təfälləgalläh?) >m
ከኔ ጋር መደነስ ትፈልጊያለሽ።
(käne gar mädänäs təfälləgiyalläš?) >f
I like you (as a friend)እወድሀለሁ። (əwäddəhallähw) >m
እወድሻለሁ። (əwäddəšallähw) >f
I love youአፈቅርሻለሁ። (əfäqrəšallähw) >f
አፈቅርሀለሁ። (əfäqrəhallähw) >m
Get well soonምህረቱን ያምጣልህ። (məhərätun yamṭalləh) >m
ምህረቱን ያምጣልሽ። (məhərätun yamṭalləš) >f
(may his (God’s) mercy come for you)
Go away!ሂድ! (hid) >m
ሂጂ! (hiǧǧi) >f
ሂዱ! (hidu) – pl
Leave me alone!ለቀቅ አርገኝ። (läqäq arrəgäň) >m
ለቀቅ አርጊኝ። (läqäq arrəgiň) >f
Help!እርዳኝ (ərdaň!) >m
እርጂኝ (ərǧǧiň!) >f
እርዱኝ (ərduň!) – pl
Fire!እሳት (əsat!)
Stop!ቁም! (qum) >m
ቁሚ! (qumi) >f
Call the police!ፖሊስ ጥራ። (polis ṭərra!) >m
ፖሊስ ጥሪ ። (polis ṭərri!) >f
ፖሊስ ጥሩ ። (polis ṭərru!) – pl
Christmas greetingsመልካም ገና (melikami gena)
New Year greetingsእንኳን አደረሰህ (ənkwan adärräsäh) >m
እንኳን አደረሰሽ (ənkwan adärräsäš) >f
እንኳን አደረሱ (ənkwan adärräsu) – frm
እንኳን አደረሳችሁ (ənkwan adärräsaččhu) – pl
[even you have ushered in (the holiday)!]
እንኳን አብረው አደረሰን (ənkwan abräw adärräsän)
[reply – even we have ushered in together!]
Easter greetingsመልካም ፋሲካ (mälkam fasika)
Birthday greetingsመልከም ልደት (mälkam lədät)
Congratulations!እንኳን ደስ አለዎ! (Inikwani desi ālewo!)
One language is never enoughአንድ ቋንቋ ብቻ በቂ አይደለም
(and qwanqa bəča bäqi aydälläm)

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