Ethiopia, is truly a land beyond all imaginations, contrasts and extremes; land of remotes and wild places. Some of the largest and most stunning places on the African continent are found here, such as the jaggedly carved Simien Mountains, one of UNESCO’s world heritages sites and some of the lowest point on earth, hottest but fascinating Danakil Depression, with its lunar like landscape. Ethiopia is ancient as equal as prehistory of the earth, far earlier than that lived Lucy or Dinknesh, meaning thou art wonderful, as she is known to the Ethiopians, whose remains were found in a corner of this country. As Abyssinia, its culture and traditions date back over 3000 years.
A country with a Strong Identity
The world looks different when viewed from a mountain plateau at 2,500 meters above sea level: the landscape appears almost upside-down. Since ancient times, this land has been known as a place of mysterious kingdoms and fabulous wealth, as the country of Punt, who, according to the ancient Egyptians, was the progenitor of their gods.
In the north of the country, the kingdom of Axum came into being in the classical era and for almost a thousand years represented a crucial crossroads between Africa and Asia. The legend tells about a mythical queen of Sheba and of king Salomon of Jerusalem, from whose union the first king of Ethiopic dynasty, Menelik, was born. It was not until midway through the fourth century, however, that we have historical records of the first king. King Ezana converted to Christianity following the arrival of Ferremnatos, and founded one of the oldest Christian nations in the world in the midst of Ethiopia’s most inaccessible mountains.
Further south, along the banks of the river Awash, remains have been found of one of the oldest ancestors of mankind: the skeleton of Lucy (“Australopithecus Afarensis”) date back to 3.8 million years ago. These areas, some still isolated from the rest of the world, are the home of tribes and peoples with strong and authentic African traditions. Being nomadic herdsmen with their own traditional rituals. Profoundly artistic by nature, their art is expressed mostly in the adornment of their huts and in the strikingly original decoration of their bodies.
A land of Great Civilization
Do you know that Ethiopia is mentioned in the Bible more than 38 times by both Old and New Testaments? Ethiopia has a proud and long history extending to the known beginnings of humankind. The Axumite kingdom was one of the great civilizations of the ancient world and has left behind the mystery of the great Stellae found at Axum. In the late middle ages great religious civilizations flourished in many parts of the country, particularly at Lalibela where churches hewn out of massive monolithic rock testify not only to great faith but also great architectural skills. In the former capital Gondar many significant castles speak of the same legacy. All these would be enough to make Ethiopia a fascinating place to visit and travel through, but Ethiopia has so much more to offer.
Land of Culture and Home of Diverse People
Ethiopia has culture and traditions way back over 3000 years. With its over 80 different ethnic groups, with their own language, culture and traditions. The strong religious setting, celebrations and festivals play an important part in every ones daily life. Church ceremonies are major feature of Ethiopian life. The events are impressive and unique. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has its own head, follows its own customs and is extremely proud of its fourth century origins
"Are you not like the Ethiopians to me, O people of Israel (Amos 9:7)
Islamic tradition is also strong and offers colorful contrast, particularly in the eastern and south eastern parts of the country. Historical records testify that there were Ethiopian Muslims during the lifetime of Prophet Mohammned. History has it that when the early followers of the Prophet Mohammed were denied the right to pursue their religion, and were harshly persecuted by the mercantile rulers of Makkah. He pointed to the kingdom and said:
"A country wherein no one is wronged: a land of righteousness. Depart there and remain until it pleased the lord to open your way before you." Prophet Muhammed
This rich religious history is brought to life in the romantic walled city of Harar, considered by many Muslims to be the fourth holy city following Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.
Ethiopia is the home of diversified ethnics. The Cushitic, the Semitic, the Nilotic and the Omotic language groups live in harmony side by side. The lower Omo is the home of Omotic, Cushitic and Nilotic linguistic group with their untouched culture. It is situated following the vast Omo River, the sole contributor to the East Africa?s fourth largest lake ?Lake Turkana? in Kenya. Its landscape is diverse that boarders the Mago and Omo rivers. The Omo Valley is unique in that four of Africa?s major linguistic groups including the ?endemic? Omotic languages are represented within one relatively small area. To anthropologists; the Omo Valley is not far from being the ?Living Museum?. The area is home to many diverse and fascinating peoples and cultures.
A land of Beauty
Ethiopia is a land of natural contrasts from the tops of rugged Simien Mountains to the depths of the Denakil Depression, at 120 meters below sea level one of the lowest dry land point on earth. The abundance of the natural beauty that blessed Ethiopia offers an astonishing variety of landscapes: Afro-Alpine highlands soaring to around 4,300 meters, a chain of mountains, the splendour of the Great Rift Valley, white water rivers, savannah teeming with game, giant water falls, dense and lush jungle? the list is endless.
Ethiopia’s many national parks enable the visitor to enjoy the country’s scenery and its wildlife, conserved in natural habitats, and offer opportunities for adventure lovers unmatched in Africa.
The wildlife consists mainly of East African plains animals, but there are now no giraffe or buffalo, Oryx, bat eared fox, caracal, aardvark, Columbus and green monkeys, Anubis and Hamadryas baboons, klipspringer, leopard, bushbuck, hippopotamus, Soemmerings gazelle, cheetah, lion, kudu and 862 species of birds have been noted in Ethiopia among which 30 are endemic to the country
A Land of Discovery
Ethiopia is known the earliest the home of human race. A skeleton of an older human ancestor Australopithecus Afarensis was discovered in 1974 in the Afar region. Anthropologists have established that the skeleton covering 40% of the human body had belongs to a twenty years old female that lived 3.5 million years ago. Registered by the UNESCO as a world heritage, the site of the discovery called Hadar ? situated 160 kilometres northeast of Addis Ababa, the capital city of the country.
The skeleton is popularly known as Lucy or Dinkinesh. The Discovery has completed the missing link between apes and men ? paving the way for the search to human origins.
In addition, the earliest known hominid, 4.4 million years old Ardipithecus Ramidus was discovered in the Middle Awash in 1992. The recent discoveries include Australopithecus Garhi, 2.5 million years old hominid.
Garhi means ?surprise? in the Afar language- a language spoken in the internationally acclaimed archaeological site. Discovered by an international team led by Ethiopian Anthropologist Berhane Asfaw in the Middle Awash, Gahri is said to be a surprising hominid. Palaeontologist Tim White of the University of California at Berkeley was also the co-leader of the team. The species discovered by the team is descended from Australopithecus Afarensis and is a candidate ancestor for the early homo.
Bones from antelopes and horse were found 278 meters from the site of Garhi skull fragments at the same layer of sediment. The bones show unmistakable gashes left by stone tools; the animals were butchered, the meat cut away and the bones hammered open to extract stuff. This is by far the earliest proof of tool based butchery and may well provide the evolutionary theory that led to big brained humans.
For the above mentioned and other reasons, many people visit Ethiopia or hope to do so one day, because of the remarkable manner in which ancient historical traditions have been presented. And, indeed, the ceremonies and rituals of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church open a window on the authentic world of Old Testament. In no other country it is possible to find yourself so dramatically transported back in time or to participate with such freedom in the sacred rituals of an archaic faith.
And yet more to be discovered by you! A very warm welcome is waiting for you in the land beyond all your imaginations.
Calendar and time
Ethiopians are some seven years younger than the rest of the world! Ethiopia uses the Julian calendar whereas the rest of the world follows the Gregorian which is seven and a half years ahead. In the Julian calendar, a year comprises thirteen months; twelve of these months have 30 days. The 13th month has 5 or 6 days depending on leap year. While the rest of the world crossed over into the millennium in 2000, Ethiopia is still in the 1990's. Ethiopia's second millennium will take place in September 2007. Ethiopian time is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Days and nights are of equal length as in other equatorial countries. Each day is 12 hours long. An Ethiopian day starts at 7 am (counted as 1:00) and ends at 7pm (12:00 Ethiopian time). While you are in Ethiopia, in order to tell what the local time is, just add 6 hours onto your watch reading.
A number of colorful and cultural festivals are celebrated in Ethiopia. Among the most colorful are:
Enqutatash, Ethiopian New Year - 11 September
Meskel (Finding of the True Cross): 26/27 September
Genna (Christmas): 6/7 January
Timket (Epiphany): 18/19 January
Fasika (Easter): date varies
Hidar Zion (Axum): November 29/30
Palm Sunday (Axum): one week prior to Easter
Gishen Mariam: 1st October
In addition, there are other popular religious festivals connected to angels' and saints' days. The most celebrated are:
Saint Gabriel's day at Kulubi - 28 December
Saint Mary's day - 29 November
All Muslim holidays
Marriage, birth, other rituals, body adornment, housing styles, and other practices are expressions of Ethiopia's melting pot of tribal and cultural diversity.
Although capacity and size vary from region to region, medical facilities are found in almost every part of the country. However, it is advisable to carry a first-aid kit with preventative medicine (including anti-malarial tablets). Senait Ethiopia's clients won't be worried as our guides and drivers take in care of them while on tour. While camping we serve fresh and well cooked meals.
Telephone, internet, postal, telex and fax services are available in the capital, major cities and towns. The dialing code is +251. Major towns and cities are connected with properly maintained highways of asphalt and gravel. The road system covers about 30,000km.
Ethiopian Airlines is one of the most reliable airlines in the world and flies to 45 international and 29 domestic flight destinations. Major domestic destinations are Bahir Dar, Gondar, Axum, Lalibela and Dire Dawa, as well as daily flights south to Arba Minch, Jinka and Bale Goba
A valid passport with at least 6 months remaining is required. Visas can be obtained from any diplomatic mission, Ethiopian Embassy or Ministry of Foreign Affairs in your country, through your tour operator or at Addis Ababa airport. USD20 is required as your departure tax.
The Ethiopian currency is the Birr. (Currently 1USD is equivalent to about 17 Birr although rates do change from time to time.) Banks, which offer foreign exchange services, are found throughout the country but only in major towns and cities.
A range of hotels is available in Ethiopia, with some also offering camping. Hotels in Addis Ababa range from 3-star to 5-star and those outside Addis begin at 2-star.
Greenland offers you in the Greenland hotels and lodge sections some establishes of the group in different regions. Nowadays, Greenland tours has 5 hotels and lodges in Ethiopia, and during the next year we are going to open 5 new establishes.
Food and Clothing
Injera is a country-wide staple food served with a variety of fasting (vegetarian) and non fasting wots, or sauces. A sour pancake, injera is made with the endogenous grain teff. Deliciously prepared vegetarian dishes, raw meat, cooked meat and fish dishes are also served.
The food and drink of Ethiopia reflects the many different cultures. A typical dish is Wot, a hot spicy stew of meat or vegetables, seasoned with a blend of Berbere (chillie powder). It is made with Doro (chicken), and normally served with Injera, the traditional spongy pancake made from a fermented Teff flour batter. Ethiopia produces its own wines; Dukam and Gouder are fine reds, while Axumite is sweeter. Crystals is a dry white wine. The famous honey wine or Tej is found all over the country as is Tela, a local beer, and Katikala, distillated liquor.
Although you can easily find a variety of international and other specialty restaurants in all major towns of Ethiopia, it is part of your Ethiopian experience to try local dishes.
Traditional dress is commonly seen in the countryside and on festival days. However, in the towns and cities people tend to dress lightly and casually.
Amharic with its unique alphabet is the official language of Ethiopia; however English, Italian, French and Arabic are widely spoken. There are over 83 Languages with its 200 dialects throughout Ethiopia. Ethiopia claims to be the only country in Africa to have its own language, Amharic, with its distinctive Ge'ez alphabet and numerals. English, on the other hand, is the official language and it is spoken widely around the country.