ABOUT ETHIOPIA

ETHIOPIA

The history of this country begins with a legend. The legend tells of the mythical Queen of Sheba, of King Solomon of Jerusalem and their son Menelik I. Ethiopia was known from the dawn of civilization. The ancient Egyptians already knew that their sacred river originated from a lake on a plateau in the country of Punt, “Land of Gods” in their language, and they knew of a garden existing beyond the desert.

However, historical sources bear witness to the existence in pre-Christian times of a rich and powerful kingdom, with a high level of civilizations.

Ethiopia was isolated for many years and is only now opening to the world its historical and artistic treasures, which are unquestionably unique and of great interest for the study of human history.

With its ancient traditions, this country is an example of how the world can still be deeply various. The numerous existing cultures living together there allow us to experience our journey as a beautiful human opportunity, a great chance for knowledge.


      HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY OF ETHIOPIA

Ethiopia lies between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn with a rainy season lasting from May to September; Ethiopia is a green country for most of the year. It is a large country (1.251.000 km2), with diverse and extreme natural surroundings. The main part of the country is an immense table land, where you can find mountain massifs reaching 4533m, and where rains and big rivers such as the Blue Nile, Tekeze, Omo and Awash have carved out small and deep canyons.

The Ethiopian plateau slopes downwards towards its western Sudan borders, where there are rainforests and large coffee plantations, and eastwards towards the desert depression of Danakil (115m below sea level) in whose lunar landscapes, criss-crossed by salt caravans, are salt lakes and active volcanoes. To the south is the great divide of the Rift Valley, which runs from the Red Sea to Mozambique. It hosts a beautiful sequence of lakes, abounding in fish and inhabited by different species of birds.

In this east African country 84 diverse ethnic groups live together peacefully, each with its own language and traditions. It is almost certain that human beings and their hominid ancestors evolved in the eastern zone of the Rift Valley: Lucy, our most distant ancestor, who lived 3.5 million years ago, was found in the Awash Valley. Ethiopia has a very strong cultural identity, which has been preserved thanks to a long period of independence, lasting practically until present times.

 

Ethiopia has a 3000 year-old history. Historical documents proved that the Axumite Empire dates back to 300 A.D.  From its capital city in the north-eastern part of the country, not far from the Red Sea, it controlled a vast territory that included part of the present Yemen. The empire had a high level of civilization, a written language, Ge’ez, and its own coins which were employed in trade.

 

With the conversation of King Ezana in 330 A.D., Ethiopia can be considered one of the first Christian states. From that time on Christianity becomes a major component of Ethiopian culture. After the decline of Axumite civilization, from 1137 to 1270 A.D., the Zagwe dynasty developed in the present region of Gojjam, in the northern part of the country. King Lalibela belonged to their dynasty. It was he who ordered the construction of the sacred town of “Lalibela”, the New Jerusalem /the second Jerusalem/. He had built 11 churches, all carved in the pink tuff stone of the mountain, and they are still places of worship.

 

When the Zagwe dynasty declined, it was not until the Fasiledes kingdom (1632-67) that the small village of Gondar was made into a great religious and artistic centre.

In the recent history, there was other great king who was able to unify the country and oppose foreign invasions and interference. Kassa Hailu (Kassa of Quara) was crowned in 1855 as the “king of kings” with the name of Tewodros (Tewodros II). He built his stronghold in the mountains of Meqdela in the Tigray region and committed suicide in 1868 to avoid falling into English hands.

 

Menelik II, the founder of the new capital city Addis Ababa, defeated the Italians in the historical battle of Adewa. Haile Selassie that means “Strength of Trinity”, the last great king crowned in 1930, reigned for half century.

The past remains ancient and glorious monuments: the monolithic churches of Lalibela, the carved obelisks and churches of Axum, more than 120 monasteries and rock churches in the Tigray region, as well as those scattered here and there along Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile. In each of these sacred places ancient paintings, manuscripts and sacred objects are preserved.              

 

People of Ethiopia

Ethiopia had 87 different ethnic groups live together; socially organized on a federal basis. The three most numerous ethnic groups that have had a preponderant role in the national history are the Amhara, the Tigray and the Oromo. Among these, the Amhara were in power until a few years ago and their language, Amharic, is the official national language of Ethiopia. In the present government all three ethnic groups are represented.

The Other ethnic groups are the Gurage and Sidamo, dwelling in the western and southwestern territories respectively.

 

Toward the borders with Eritrea and Djibouti, in a half independent position, amongst the deserts of Danakil lives the Afar, a half nomadic people which has almost entirely converted to Islam.

Along the banks of Omo River there are several animistic peoples: the Nyangatom, the Karo, the Dassanech, the Bodi, the Mursi, the Surma, the Erbore, the Hamer...

 

They have lived isolated until a few years ago and have preserved their own lifestyle practically intact up to the present. Most of these peoples express their creativity and their aesthetic sensibility by painting their body and by creating fancy hair-dressings. Towards the west, near the Sudan borders live the Annuak and Nuer peoples. They are tall and famous for their beauty, and customarily decorate their body with incisions in their flesh aimed at forming decorative patterns on the skin.

  TRIBES OF THE SOUTHERN ETHIOPIA

 

Mursi

The Mursi live between their dry and wet season range on tame plains, north of Mago National Park in the Omo river region of south-western Ethiopia. They care for livestock and plant some crops.

The men practice light scarification on their shoulder after killing an enemy, and shave geometric patterns on their head. During dances and ceremonies they adorn literally every part of their body with white chalk paint. Young unmarried men practice group stick fights. The winner is carried on top of poles to girls waiting beside the arena, who decide among themselves which of them will ask his hand in marriage.

 

Karo

The karo, which counts about more than 3000 peoples, mainly live on the practice of flood retreat cultivation on the banks of Omo River in South- Western Ethiopia.

The karo excel in face and body painting, practiced in preparation of their dances and ceremonies. They decorate their bodies, often imitating the spotted plumage of a Guinea Fowl. Feather plumes are inserted in their clay hair buns to complete the look. The clay hair bun can take up to three days to construct and is usually re-made every three to six months. Their painted face masks are spectacular.

Karo women scarify their chests to beautify themselves. Scars are cut with a knife and ash is rubbed to produce a raised welt.

Being the smallest tribe in the area, this group obviously struggles with direct threats from nearby tribes that have more gun powder: greater numbers, and likely coalitions with one another

 

Hamer

The Hamers are pastoralists and their populations about 30,000.They are known for their practice of body adornment and wearing a multitude of colorful beads. Women adorn their necks with heavy polished iron jewelry. Hamer society consists of a complex system of age group. To pass from one age group to another involves complicated rituals .The most significant ceremony for young men is the “jumping of the bull”-the final test before passing in to adulthood.

Several days before the ceremony, initiates pass out invitations in the form of dried knotted grass. The ceremony lasts three days .Late in the afternoon on the final day; ten to thirty bulls are lined up side by side. The naked initiate rushes towards the animal, vaults on to the first bull’s back and runs across the line of animals .At the end of the line ,he turns back to repeat the performance in the opposite direction. He must make this unstable journey without falling.

 

The Hamer men have a reputation of being less than adoring husbands. The women submit to the ritual floggings proudly and love to show the deep scars that are regarded as a proof of devotion to their husbands.

 

Bumi

Also known as the Nyangatom or the Bume, the Bumi live South of Omo national park and occasionally migrate in to the lower regions of the park when there is a shortage of water or grazing. Numbering around 7000, the Bumi are agro-pastoralists, relying on cattle herding and flood retreat agriculture (consisting mainly of Sorghum harvesting on the Omo and Kibish rivers).The Bumi tend to indulge in honey and frequently smoke out beehives in the park to get to the honey inside the nests. The Bumi are known to be great warriors and, quite frequently, active warmongers, they are often at war with the neighboring tribes including the Hamer, the Karo and the Surma.

Small groups of Bumi living along the Omo are specialized crocodile hunters using harpoons from a dugout canoe. The elders of both sexes wear a lower lip plug, the men’s being made from ivory and women are made from cooper filigree.

 

Bodi

The Bodi are pastoralists living close to the Omo River in south-western Ethiopia.

The Bodi are of Nilo-Saharan stock and pastoral back ground, although they do cultivate sorghum along the banks of the Omo River. Their culture is very much cattle centered .Similar to the Mursi, livestock plays a significant role in marriage, devotion and name giving rituals. The Bodi classification of cattle is complex, with over eighty words to denote different colors and patterns. Bodi dress is simple. The women wear goat skins tied at the waist and shoulder, while men fasten a strip of cotton or bark-cloth around their waist.

 

Ari

Ari women are famous for their pottery which they sell to support their families.

The Ari inhabits the northern borders of Mago national park in south western Ethiopia. Ari villages have neat compounds in fertile and scenic land with coffee plantations. They have large livestock herds and produce large quantity of honey. The women wear skirts from the false banana tree called ‘Enset’. Ari women are famous for their pottery which they sell to support their families.

 

Banna

Are practice agriculture and hunting; once they hunt they decorate themselves with clay and prepare dancing and fest.

 

Tsemay

Are peoples in the south some parts of them are farmers & parts pastoralists.

 

Erbore tribes

They are peoples in the southern Ethiopia known by their beads & Aluminum jewels.

 

Dizi peoples

They practice terracing on the mountain slopes.  

 

Koygu

Koygu peoples are mostly known by fishing and their fish market in their home compound.

These peoples, among the most fascinating in Africa, have maintained their ancient traditions almost completely unchanged to this day.


HISTORIC SITES:-       ADDIS ABABA (African Diplomatic city)

 

Among the 10 world capital cities need to be visted in your entire life due her stages of transformation ; recommended by lonely planet travel guide (on 2012).

 

The name of the city, in Amharic, means “new flower”. Founded in 1886 by Menelik II, it is located at 2,500 metres above sea level in one of the highest parts of the Entoto mountain chain (3,000m above sea level). It enjoys an excellent climate all year round, with an average temperature of 250C.

 

Walking along the street starting from Meskel Sq. to Sidest Kilo is very safe and entertaining. It will give you the chance to see the Africa Hall, the palaces and the Parliament building, the Hilton Hotel, the marvelous architectural adventure of a building hosting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Sheraton Hotel, the first modern school (which Menelik the II built in the 1880s), the Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, the National Museum, and the Addis Ababa University (which also hosts a former palace and museum). Arat Kilo Avenue is marked by a statue built in commemoration of the Ethiopian V-day during the Second World War, while Sidest Kilo Avenue is marked by a statue commemorating the 39,000 residents of Addis Ababa killed by Italian fascist troops. Around Arat Kilo, you will find part of an old town known as Serategna Sefer (literally, the residential area of laborers). If you want to proceed past Sidest Kilo, the road becomes steeper and many of the attractions will be on the right side of the road.

 

The Entoto College (previously Teferi Mekonnen School) and the American Embassy are found on this side of the street. After the American Embassy there is an open market called Shiro Meda where traditional craftsmen sell their homemade fabrics, pots and other crafts. The marketplace is at the foot of the Entoto Mountains that rise up to 3,300 m (10,827 ft) above sea level. You can take a taxi or a bus to the mountain unless you are of a mind to try it yourself. On the mountain, you will find the first churches of Addis Ababa called St. Mary and St. Raguel as well as smaller palace of Menelik the II. Walking on the mountain, especially between the churches, is refreshing and gives you the chance to see rural life, the city itself, forest and unbelievably beautiful landscape intersected by farmlands and trails of farmers. It is from here that Menelik II and Queen Taitu conceived of the establishment Addis Ababa. You can get a sense of the city plan yourself by looking from here at the current city.

 

  1. Ethiopian National Museum, (Between Arat Kilo Avenue and the University of Addis Ababa Graduate School). Although the museum is unknown to most, the Ethiopian National Museum is a world-class museum; truly a hidden gem! The most famous exhibit is the replica of Lucy, an early hominid, but the museum offers much more. With Ethiopian civilization being one of the oldest in the world, the artifacts within the museum span thousands of years, including some from its earliest days. A wide variety of artifacts are featured, from sculptures to clothing to artwork. Both traditional and modern art are featured.  
  1. Red Terror Museum (2010), Bole Rd (very near Meskel Square end).

 

  1. Africa Hall, (located across Menelik II Avenue from the Palace). This is where the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa is headquartered as well as most UN offices in Ethiopia. It is also the site of the founding of the Organization for African Unity (OAU) which eventually became the African Union.  
  1. Parliament Building, (Near Holy Trinity Cathedral). Built during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie, with its clock tower, it continues to serve as the seat of Parliament today.
  1. Shengo Hall. Built by the Derg regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam as its new parliament hall. The Shengo Hall was the world's largest pre-fabricated building, which was constructed in Finland before being assembled in Addis Ababa. It is used for large meetings and conventions.  
  1. Medhane Alem, (Near Bole International Airport). This cathedral, whose name means "Saviour of the World" is the second largest church on the continent.  
  1. St George's Cathedral, (North end of Churchill Road). 8AM-9AM, noon-2PM. Built in 1896 to commemorate Ethiopia's victory over the Italians. The cathedral is a circular building that does not look very impressive when you approach it. As you walk around the building, you will notice people praying besides the walls, but it is unlikely that you will find an entrance. The Cathedral houses a small museum and close to it you will likely meet one of the archdeacons of the Cathedral. If he offers to be a guide, take his offer and visit the Cathedral with him. The interior is beautifully decorated with huge paintings and mosaics, and will make the trip worthwhile. It is worth visiting the museum with a guide as well to see ceremonial clothes and ancient manuscripts.  
  1. Anwar Mosque. In the Mercato district, which happens to be the largest market in Africa. It's quite impressive.  
  1. Roman Catholic Cathedral of Nativity. In the Mercato district  
  1. Menelik's old Imperial Palace. It remains the official seat of government.  
  1. National Palace. Formerly known as the Jubilee Palace, built to mark Emperor Haile Selassie's Silver Jubilee in 1955, which is the residence of the President of Ethiopia.  
  1. Ethiopian National Library.  
  1. Ethiopian Ethnological Museum. A fascinating museum with exhibits relating to the history and culture of Ethiopia. There are many displays of the various ethnic groups found in Ethiopia with information about each of their lifestyles. A large amount of ethnic outfits, instruments, tools, and other artifacts accompany each ethnic exhibit, making it one of the most interesting museums in the city!  
  1. Addis Ababa Museum. While the national museum houses artifacts from all over Ethiopia, this museum focuses solely on artifacts and exhibits from Addis Ababa. The building itself was once a palace where Ras Biru Habte-Gabriel, a former Minister of War, resided.  
  1. Ethiopian National History Museum.  
  1. Ethiopian Railway Museum.  
  1. National Postal Museum. Next to the main post office. A small but good collection of Ethiopian stamps.  
  1. Netsa Art Village. Authentic and interesting art in a beautiful park across from the French Embassy. * Holy Trinity Cathedral. It was once the largest Ethiopian Orthodox Cathedral. It was built to commemorate the country's liberation from the Italians, and many victims killed by the Italians during occupation are buried here. The locals call the church *Haile Selassie Church, because Emperor Haile Selassie's body was moved here in 2000.  
  1. Gola St. Michael Church (See), At the centre of the city (Next to the Federal immigration office). a very interesting place to visit and it is one of the many old churches found in Addis Ababa. One can see old paintings painted by many Ethiopian celebrity artists. In addition the church has a museum displaying church articles given by many famous people of the country including the emperor Haile Selassie and his Empress.  

Other features of the city include the large Mercato Market, the Jan Meda Race Ground racecourse, Bihere Tsige Recreation Centre and a railway line to Djibouti while the Entoto Mountains start among the northern suburbs.

  1. The Hager Fikir Theatre, the oldest theater in Ethiopia, is located at the Piazza district.
  1. Suburbs of the city include Shiro Meda and Entoto in the north, Urael and Bole (home to Bole International Airport) in the east, Nifas Silk in the south-east, Mekanisa in the south, and Keraniyo and Kolfe in the west.

 

GONDAR (African Camelot)

Gondar offers fairy-tale castles dating back to the 17th-century that seem to belong in an Arthurian Romance. Gondar was founded by the emperor Fasiladas in 1636 and was the capital of the country for the next two centuries. The city contains a dozen of castles built by various emperors over the course of 236 years.

Gondar seems more European than African and its architecture has some Islamic influences. Besides the castles, baths and houses of Fasiladas, another significant sight is the church of Debre Birhan Selassie (Light of the Trinity), which is located on the summit of a hill and surrounded by fortified walls. The interior is decorated with beautiful frescoes dating back to the 16th century.

 

YEHA

The six century BC, Ethiopia’s historic route begin with a glance at the tantanizing remains of yeha the country’s earliest high civilization. In the remote part of Tigray region, Yeha rests several hours drive from the more accessible city of Axum. The journey takes you on rough tracks through dramatics high land scenery and eventually ends in a beautiful and serene agricultural. It is there, close to a much more recent Christian church, that you may see the towering ruins of Yeha’s temple of the moon-built more than 2500 years ago, in Sabean times.

 

The temple is an imposing rectangular edifice, though it has been long since it’s lost its roof and upper storey. The ruins stand some twelve meters in height.

 

Three archaeological excavations were done in 1909, 1947 and 1973 respectively; reveal that this beautiful temple was destroyed by fire. Treasures such as gold rings, golden lions, stone-engraved inscriptions written in Sabean, stone-carved animals like the Waliya Ibex (one of Ethiopia's endemic mammals), pottery works and others were uncovered. Some of these findings are displayed in the 4th-century church museum found in the same compound as the temple while others are displayed at the National Museum in Addis Ababa. The twelve underground formations and four other very deep cave structures (which seem to lead to Yemen, Lalibela, Jerusalem and Axum), increase the area's importance in terms of both archaeological research and tourism as well.

 

AXUM

Local legend recounts how in the first century A.D., Axum was founded by the brothers Abreha and Atsbeha; it is not until midway through the fourth century that we have records of the first historical king, Ezana. The African’s nation historic route begins in the ancient city of Axum, dates back to 100 B.C.

This particular area is however linked to the legend of the enchanting queen of Sheba, who, after having met King Solomon in Jerusalem, on her return gave birth to Menelik-I, who was the founding father of the family known as the Kings of Kings.

 

The origins of this ancient city are lost in legend. About one thousand years before Christ it is known that some tribes originally from Southern Arabia settled on this side of the Red Sea; one of these tribes was known as the Habasciat (the possible origin of t he name Abyssinia).

The latter converted to Christianity after the arrival of Fremenatos (Frumezio), who was sent by the Patriarch of Alexandria and who later became the national saint, Abba Selama, Father of Peace. Axum was the capital city of the longstanding Axumite kingdom, one between Africa and Asia almost for a thousand years.

The ruins still visible in Axum stand as testimony to an exceptionally high level of civilization, notably the stone monoliths which are dotted throughout the city and are among the most mysterious monuments in the world.

Axum is also the site of the church of Hidar Tsion Mariam (16th century), in front of which kings were crowned even as late as the last century. Inside, there are displays of golden crowns and crosses, the latter of which are still used during the major festivals of the Coptic Church.

Legend has it that the original Ark of the Covenant is housed in a chapel near the church. The Ark is believed to have been brought back by Menelik I on his return from Jerusalem.  

 

BAHIR DAR, THE WATERFALLS OF THE BLUE NILE AND LAKE TANA

Bahir Dar is a well master planned city, its avenues lined with palm trees and plants. It is located on the south bank of Lake Tana. Of note are its main market and the former palace of Haile Selassie, from which there is a splendid view over the Nile Valley.

Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia. Just 30km from the city are the water falls of the Blue Nile or “Tis Isat” (smoking water).

 

Excursions may be made from Bahir Dar to explore the islands of Lake Tana. There are 37 islands dotted all over the lake and 30 of them house churches and monasteries of great cultural and historical interest. They contain beautiful manuscripts, objects of worship and crosses dating back to the dawn of Christianity.

Religious sites in Lake Tana: the islands of Zeghie with the monastery of Ura Kidane Mehret and the church of Bête Giorgis, the monastery of Narga Selassie and Daga Istifanos (accessible only to men) on the island of Dek, the monastery on the island of Kibran Gabriel, which is one of the most fascinating on the lake (also accessible only to men).

 

LALIBELA (African Petra)

Located in the north-east of Ethiopia, Lalibela is another renowned historical destination. Placed third in historic sequence, its site hosts the “Eighth wonder of the world”, the Lalibela rock-hewn churches. UNESCO has recorded this site as one of the world wonders. It is also holy land for Ethiopia's Orthodox Christians.

The city was constructed by king Lalibela of the Zagwe dynasty around the time of the fall of the Axum Empire in the 13th century. It was built in order to become the “new Ethiopian Jerusalem / second Jerusalem” and is characterized by its eleven churches carved out of the pink granite rock of the mountain. The churches are divided into two groups according to their location with respect to the river Jordan and are connected to each other by means of narrow underground passages. Each church has its own unique architectural style; all are superbly sculpted and most are decorated with well-preserved paintings.

 

Bete Giorgis

Decided to the national saint of Ethiopia,is isolated from the other two groups of churches .The church is described as Lalibela’s “most elegant ”and “refined  ” in its arctecture.

 

The two groups of churches in Lalibela:

The first group of churches

Each sub group has a courtyard of its own,the whole complex is surrounded by a deep outer trench.

The churches of the first main group lie in their rock cradle one behind the other north of the river Jordan

Bete Medhanialem (The House of Redeemer of the World)in the east

Bete Maskel (The House of the Cross)

Bete Denagel (The House of the Virgins)

Bete Debre Sina (House of Mt.Sina)

Bete Golegota (The House of Golegota)

The Selassie Chapel (The place of greatest sanctity in Lalibela)

The Tomb Of Adam (Impressive in its simplicity)

Bete Debre Sina and Bete Golegota with the Selassie Chapel and The Tomb of Adam.This is the most mysterious complex in Lalibela.

 

The second group of churches

 

This group comprises from east to west .The original function of this complex of churches has not yet been clarified.

Bete Emanuel-Art historians consider Bete Emanuel to be the finest and most impressive church in Lalibela.

Bete Mercurios-Rich in painting once adorned the church but for preservation they have been removed and are now to be seen in the National Museum in Addis Ababa.

Bete Aba Libanos-Lalibela’s wife,Maskal Kebra,with the help of angels,is said to have created this church in one night.It is dedicated to one of the most famous monastic saints of the Ethiopian churches,Abba Libanos.

Betelehem (The Chapel Of Betelehem)-The shrine has been shaped in to a cone by the central trench:the tunnel still winds up in spiral form with in the hill and ends in a low,round room. A tree-trunk in the room serves as a central pillar.

Bete Gebriel-Bete Rufael(The House Of Gebriel and Rufael or The House Of  Arc Angel)-the most impressive part of the church is the monumental facade.

Other churces near Lalibela-The Church Of Yemrehane Kristos,the tiny rock churches Arbatu Ensessa,Bilbila Giorgis & Bilbila Cherqos and also the church of Sarsana Mikael.

 

TIGRAI, DEBRE DAMO AND THE ROCK HEWN CHURCHES

The monastery of Debre Damo is located 86 km to the north-east of Axum on the peak of Debre Damo at a height of 2,800 m above sea level and is one of the most important holy places of Ethiopia.

Local legend has it that the monastery was founded by Abuna Aregawi, one of the nine saints, with the aid of a serpent. There are still some 80 monks living there and access to the monastery itself is gained by climbing up with the help of a rope (only men are permitted to enter)

Between the cities of Adigrat and Mekelle there are over one hundred  twenty rock hewn churches, including some that are older than the churches in Lalibela. Most are carved out of the rocky walls of pre-existing caves. Local tradition attributes most of the churches to the Axumite kings Ezana and Atsbeha of the fourth century, but historians are convinced that they date from a later period.

 

One of the most famous of the churches, Abune Yemata Gerhalta, may be reached only after a climb of about an hour, the willingness to undertake which is said to be “proof that you truly believe in God”. The church is famous for its extraordinary view and for the splendid frescoes it contains dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, which are well preserved.

 

Abraha Atsbeha and Wukro Cherkos are two of the most accessible churches. The former is dedicated to the brothers Abreha and Atsbeha, the mythical founders of the Axumite kingdom. The church is noteworthy for its structure and the fine frescoes it contains.

Wukro Cherkos is located 500 meters from the village of Wukro and is dedicated to St. Cyriacos. Although damaged, it contains Axumite friezes of great interest.

 

DIRE DAWA AND HARAR

Dire Dawa which is part of the railway line stretching from Addis Ababa to Djibouti, it was built at the beginning of the 20th century with the co-operation of the French government. The market in Kefira is very interesting, providing an opportunity to mingle with peoples of the region: the Afar, Somali and Oromo. Located 50km from Dire Dawa and at a height of 1,870m above sea level is the city of Harar. Founded in 1500, the city was once a Muslim fortress and one of the most dynamic markets in east Africa.

Harar is one of the most impressive Ethiopia’s historic destinations pulls remoteness and ancient history as part of the long and colourful existence of the country Ethiopia. Today, Harar, next to Mecca Medina, is one of the main Muslim pilgrim sites in the world. Harar’s most determined attraction, the old and walled town of Harar, was particularly established in 1540’s following the downfall of the Imams’ rule with the defeat of the strongest Imam who ruled Harar.

 

In Harar there are 87 mosques and various sanctuaries within the old city walls. The poet Rimbaud spent some of his last years here and made it the headquarters for his arms dealing, which involved trading in arms destined for the emperor Menelik. The city now contains a museum in his honour.

 

NEGASH

Negash is a small village located 60 kms north of Mekelle, the capital of Tigray region. This place is mostly related with Islam, is the first place mosque was constructed in Ethiopia.

 

JIMMA AND SURROUNDING

Jimma is one of the famous coffee growing areas of western Oromia; located at 335 km south west of Addis Ababa. Owing its origin and establishment to the early Oromo monarchy (one of the five Gibe kingdoms) whose capital was at the site called Jiren (9km north of Jimma town). Places of interest: Abba Jefar Palace (1853-1925), Historical Museum, Sor waterfalls…

 

From Jimma 25 km and 27 km from Metu, visitors can walk through the forest and coffee plantations, on a narrow path, for about an hour, to one of Ethiopia’s most magnificent water fall of Sor river which pours over the lip of a broad chasm over 20 meters deep, where a natural amphitheatre, heavily overgrown with the ferns and grasses, form a delightful scenery.

 

DANAKIL DEPRESSION

Danakil is the lowest part of Ethiopia at 116 m below sea level; it stretches between the Red Sea and the foothills of the eastern slopes of the Ethiopian plateau.

The area contains marvelous examples of volcanoes, although currently only minimally active. The rock surfaces are colored in spectacular hues due to the emissions of various chlorides from geysers. There are 30 salt lakes in the north of the region, which are home to an enormous variety of birds. The whole region is inhabited by the Afar people, proud nomadic shepherds. They carry salt in their camel caravans up to the Ethiopian highlands.           

 

SOF OMAR CAVE

It is the largest cave in Africa. The area of the cave is typically characterized by flat topography and deep gorges cut by the river Web which forms the cave. The beauty of the cave consists in the untouched and wild aspects of the huge main passages, the shape of the galleries and the white color of the lime stone basalt forming the walls. This is in marked contrast to what you will experience in the Bale Mountains at up to 4,000m.Very different animals occurring along the way. The cave itself carries the whole flow of the Web river that rises in the Bale Mountains, underground through wonderfully carved caverns for the distance of one and half kilometers. There are over fifteen kilometer of associated passages, which require skill, time and special equipment for the full exploration.


NATIONAL PARKS  

THE SIMIEN MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK

‘Simien’ means ‘North’ in Amharic. Six hundred million years ago, the mountains were an enormous volcanic mass; rain and ice have carved deep fissures into them and rivers have continued the work of erosion, creating an incredible landscape: peaks and deep gorges. In the steep slopes may be seen the Walia Ibex of the Simien Mountains.

Apart from the wildlife experience, the Simien Mountains provide some of the most breath taking scenery in the world. That is probably the reason why UNESCO considers it a world heritage site. It is easily accessible from the historic towns of Gondar and Axum.

 

The park extends over the entire mountain mass of the Simien, the highest peak of which is Ras Dejen at 4430 m, the fourth highest mountain in Africa.  Beside the Walia, other protected species found in the park such as, the rare Abyssinian fox and the Gelada baboon.

 

BALE MASSIF NATIONAL PARK

This park is home to the endemic mammal species of the mountain Nyala, Ethiopian Wolf (Simien Fox), Menilik’s Bushbuck, Lion, Bhor Reedbuck, Greater and Lesser kudu, Leopard, Warthog...In the South-East of the country is Bale Park, which extends over the massif of the same name. The mountain reaches a peak of 4,377 m above sea level and the second highest mountain in Ethiopia.

It is also one of the greenest areas of Ethiopia with an abundant supply of water, vast pasturelands and forests of incomparable beauty alternate with moors of heather and Juniper.

 

AWASH NATIONAL PARK

The Awash National Park is located about 150 km from Addis Ababa. Awash National Park is geographically located in the main Rift Valley system. Dominated by Savannah vegetation, it is home to various mammal and bird species. It consists of 120,000 protected hectares, which extend down to where the Rift Valley flows into the Danakil plain on the edge of the desert. The park is crossed by the deep-cutting path of the river Awash, a river with neither source nor outlet.

The land within the park, centered on the Fantale Volcano, is an endless plain, dotted with Spiny Acacia trees and Spurges, the home to Antelopes and Gazelles, as well as 400 species of birds.

The nomadic Kurrou people lives around the river Awash and one begins to see the Afar shepherds, the proud inhabitants of Danakil.

 

NETCH SAR NATIONAL PARK (SOUTH)

This park is found near the southern end of the Rift Valley system. Bordering the two beautiful Rift Valley lakes, Abaya and Chamo, it possesses extraordinary landscapes as well as exotic flora and fauna. The endemic mammal Swayne's hartebeest is exceptionally found in this park; lion, leopard, gazelle, baboon and other mammals are also commonly sighted here. The two lakes in the park are also home to exotic marine life. Hippos and Crocodiles live here in colonies.

 

THE RIFT VALLEY LAKES, ABIATA AND SHALA and THE PARK

This park is located about 200km south of Addis. Situated in the main Rift Valley, it has two beautiful lakes, Abijatta and Shalla. The park is home to a few mammal species and many birds. The two lakes in the park are found side by side yet have different features. Lake Shalla is the deepest lake in the Rift Valley (260m) and Lake Abijatta is the shallowest (13m). Lake Abijatta is home to enormous numbers of nesting birds whereas Lake Shalla is devoid of birds. An Ostrich farm is another charm in this national park and it is the only park where Ostriches can be seen in large numbers.

 

MAGO NATIONAL PARK

The park extends towards the South of Ethiopia, on the east bank of the Omo River. The latter river is 1,000 km long and reaches all the way to Lake Turkana in Kenya, of which it is the only affluent.

The park, with its typical African environment, is mostly interesting because of the wide range of peoples that inhabit it, including the Mursi, Karo, Hamer, Banna, Dizi and Bodi.

 

GAMBELLA NATIONAL PARK

Gambella National Park lies along the river Baro, near the town of Gambella. The large conservation area contains many endemic species. The peoples of this area are the Annuak and the Nuer, peoples of Nilotic origin that practice a style of decorative skin-carving on their bodies.

The most common species observed are Nile Lechwe, Buffalo, Giraffe, Tiang, Waterbuck, Roan Antelope, Zebra, Bushbuck, Elephant & warthog. 154 bird species have been recorded. An outstanding feature of this area is the spectacular migration of herds of white-eared Kob.

 

OMO NATIONAL PARK

Located on the west bank of the river Omo and running next to the border with the Sudan, in the Kaffa region, is the Omo National Park. The park is little-known, still wild and home to a large variety of animals. Although not easy to access, it is possible to visit it by trekking through the territory of the Surma tribe, a people of Nilotic origin, similar to the Mursi. Like the Mursi, the Surma women wear a disk on their lower lip and dye their bodies with white-colored decorations.

And the two newly registered and structured national parks are:

 

GIBE NATIONAL PARK

Found in Gurage zone around Wolkite

 

LOOKA NATIONAL PARK

This is found in Sidama zone around Blate River.

 

EVENTS AND FESTIVALS

The religious festivals and events of the Ethiopian Coptic church are the most interesting events in the country. The origin of these archaic rites, really unique in the world, lose themselves in the legend told in Kebra Negest (the book of Kings), a sort of legendary saga of Ethiopian history.

According to the myth of Menelik I, the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, Menelik went to visit his father in Jerusalem, and on his way back to Ethiopia brought the “Ark of the Covenant”, containing the tables of law God had given Moses. Based on this legend the Ark is remained in Ethiopia and after various adventures it is said to be still preserved in Axum. Every Ethiopian church has a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, called “Tabot”. During religious ceremonies these replicas are often brought out, hidden in heavy and colorful brocades and taken in procession.

Mostly those ceremonies celebrated for two days.

 

The major celebrations in Ethiopian Coptic church are:

  1. Enkutatash (Gift of Jewels ),Ethiopian new year, September 11th  ,
  2. Gena, Christmas, January 7th,
  3. Timket, Epiphany, January 19th,
  4. Fasika, Easter, the date changes from year to year.
  5. Meskel, celebrations of the finding of  the True Cross, September 27th,

 

The Ethiopian New Year also called Enkutatash or Kidus Yohannes is celebrated on Maskaram 1 or September 11. It is primarily secular and a time for people to put on new clothes and if they can, visit friends and relatives.

Meskel (The Finding of the True Cross (Sep 27)

MESKAL is an ancient national celebration and an important date on the Christina calendar, commemorating the Finding of the True Cross. The eve of Meskel, September 26, has  been a national holiday for centuries and is one of the most important of all Ethiopia’s festivals.

Should you chance to arrive on this day, you will see people of all ages in the streets carrying fresh bunches of daisies, which we call “The Meskel Flower”. Many are dressed in traditional white costumes, and the jubilant atmosphere is instantly infectious.

By the middle of the afternoon, the celebrations are truly underway. In Addis Ababa’s Main Square, The Meskel  Square, a colorful procession of priests, deacons, and choir  boys and girls wearing embroidered robes walk around a huge pyre, bearing ceremonial crosses and wooden touches decorated with olive leaves. As the sun begins to set, the torchbearers move forward in unison to set alight the slender, pyramid-shaped structure, topped with a Cross woven from Meskel daisies. The name of the structure is called BONEFIRE or local DAMERA.

The origins of Meskel are cloaked in the Christian legend. The festival is said to date back to the discovery by the Byzantine Queen Helena of the Cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. According to the legend, the 20th year of the reign of her son Constantine.

The most unusual of the country’s festivals are KULUBI GABRIEL the place for Kulubi Gabriel is at a place called Kulubi  near Harar and Dire Dawa it is celebrated two times in a year first on the 28th of December and second on the 26th of July , SHEIKH HUSSIEN, GISHEN MARIAM and SOF OMAR.

The Ethiopia X-MAS celebrated every 07th of January and it is best in Addis Ababa and also Lalibela.

Ethiopian Christmas JAN.7
While excitement over Christmas festivities dies down in the other parts of the world, it marks the beginning for many Ethiopians. The name 'Genna' is used to refer to the nativity because the shepherds to whom the Angel heralded the birth of Christ were playing Genna, traditional Hockey, at the time. The place and time for which many folks travel up to a month and more on foot to get to yes, Lalibela is the place to be at Genna, no matter what your religious persuasion or intellectual orientation

FEAST OF EPIPHANY-TIMKAT JAN 19

TIMKAT , the Ethiopian Epiphany is the most celebrated festival. It falls between 18 - 20 January (that means, it will be on the 18th & 19th of January and 19th & 20th January one in four years time during the leap year).

This is the easiest for visitors to enjoy and witness. The holy TABOT, (The Ark of the covenant) is removed from each church around the country the day before the celebration and taken to a central area where the ceremony will take place.

The following morning, the church officials, resplendent in their gorgeous regalia, assemble around the "Tabot" and sprinkle holy water over all the Christians present. After this, the "Tabot" will be taken back to the church where it came from carried by the priests and followed by the congregation with much singing and dancing.

The Ethiopian EASTER
The most solemn of Ethiopia's festivals is EASTER, when the celebrations include the sacred music and dance unique to the church, later accompanied by the most solemn and moving rituals during the midnight Mass. It is locally called FASICA/TNSAIE meaning the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the death.

These entire celebrations take place everywhere in the country, in every town and village.

Besides these more famous celebrations, there are some rituals which are held only in a specific church.

 

The most interesting among these are:-

  1. Hidar Tsion, St. Axum, Tsion Mariam Church(Dec. 1)
  2. Gishen, October 1st
  3. Ura Kidane Mihret, February 23th
  4. Debre Damo, November 25th
  5. Hosaina, one week before Easter, Axum.

 

The most important Islam events, celebrated in the eastern part of Ethiopia are: Sheikh Hussein and Sof Omar festivals.