Ethiopia

 

Map of Ethiopia

 

Capital: Addis Ababa (and largest city)

Area: 1,104,300 km²

Population: 85,237,338 (2010 estimate)

GDP (PPP): US$85.119 billion – 2010 estimate

Per capita: US$1,000 nr 215 out of 230 countries.

NB:Drives on the right

Ethiopia is a landlocked country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 85.2 million people. The capital is Addis Ababa. Ethiopia is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Sudan to the west, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, and Kenya to the south.

Ethiopia was a monarchy for most of its history, and the Ethiopian dynasty traces its roots to the 2nd century BC. Ethiopia is also one of the oldest sites of human existence known to scientists today.

When Africa was divided up by European powers at the Berlin Conference, Ethiopia was one of only two countries that retained its independence. It was one of only four African members of the League of Nations. After a brief period of Italian occupation, Ethiopia became a charter member of the United Nations. When other African nations received their independence following World War II, many of them adopted the colors of Ethiopia’s flag, and Addis Ababa became the location of several international organizations focused on Africa.

The country is a land of natural contrasts, with spectacular waterfalls and volcanic hot springs. Ethiopia has some of Africa’s highest mountains as well as some of the world’s lowest points below sea level. The largest cave in Africa is located in Ethiopia at Sof Omar, and the country’s northernmost area at Dallol is one of the hottest places year-round anywhere on Earth.

The country is also famous for its Olympic gold medalists, rock-hewn churches and as the place where the coffee bean originated. Currently, Ethiopia is the top coffee and honey-producing country in Africa, and home to the largest livestock population in Africa.

Ethiopia, which has Africa’s second biggest hydropower potential, is the source of over 85% of the total Nile water flow and contains rich soils, but it nevertheless underwent a series of famines in the 1980s, exacerbated by adverse geopolitics and civil wars, resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands.

Ethiopia is often ironically referred to as the “water tower” of Eastern Africa because of the many (14 major) rivers that pour off the high tableland. It also has the greatest water reserves in Africa, but few irrigation systems in place to use it. Just 1% is used for power production and 1.5% for irrigation.

Ethiopia has its own calendar, which is based on the Coptic calendar, and is roughly eight years behind the Gregorian calendar.

Agriculture:

Ethiopia has great potential to be a producer, as it is one of the most fertile counties in Africa. According to the New York Times, Ethiopia “could easily become the breadbasket for much of Europe if her agriculture were better organized.”

Ethiopian constitution defines the right to own land as belonging only to “the state and the people”, but citizens may only lease land (up to 99 years), and are unable to mortgage or sell. Renting of land for a maximum of twenty years is allowed and this is expected to ensure that land goes to the most productive user.

Agriculture accounts for almost 41 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), 80 percent of exports, and 80 percent of the labour force. Many other economic activities depend on agriculture, including marketing, processing, and export of agricultural products. Production is overwhelmingly by small-scale farmers and enterprises and a large part of commodity exports are provided by the small agricultural cash-crop sector.

Principal crops include coffee, pulses (e.g., beans), oilseeds, cereals, potatoes, sugarcane, and vegetables.

Ethiopia is Africa’s second biggest maize producer. Ethiopia‘s livestock population is believed to be the largest in Africa, and as of 1987 accounted for about 15 percent of the GDP. Rinder Pest came to Africa when the Italians imported Brahman cattle to slaughter for their troops.

Ethiopia is also the 10th largest producer of livestock in the world. Other main export commodities are khat, gold, leather products, and oilseeds. Recent development of the floriculture sector means Ethiopia is poised to become one of the top flower and plant exporters in the world.

Religion:

Christianity      62.8%

Islam                33.9%

Traditional          2.6%

Others                0.6%

It was one of the first Christian countries in the world, having officially adopted Christianity as the state religion in the 4th century. It still has a Christian majority, but a third of the population is Muslim. Until the 1980s, a substantial population of Ethiopian Jews resided in Ethiopia. The country is also the spiritual homeland of the Rastafari religious movement.

Economy:

Ethiopia has shown a fast-growing annual GDP and it was the fastest-growing non-oil-dependent African nation in 2007 and 2008.

Today Ethiopia has the biggest economy in East Africa (GDP) as the Ethiopian economy is also one of the fastest growing in the world. It is a regional powerhouse in the Horn and east Africa and the country remains politically fragile, with the opposition struggling for democracy and with reports of human rights abuses.

With the construction of various new dams and growing hydroelectric power projects around the country, Ethiopia has also begun exporting electric power to its neighbors.

Most regard Ethiopia’s large water resources and potential as its “white oil” and its coffee resources as “black gold”]

In English, and generally outside Ethiopia, the country was also once historically known as Abyssinia.

History:

Ethiopia is widely considered the site of the emergence of early Homo sapiens in the Middle Paleolithic. Homo Sapiens Idaltu, found at site Middle Awash in Ethiopia, lived about 160,000 years ago.

There is evidence of a Semitic-speaking presence in Ethiopia and Eritrea at least as early as 2000 BC.

In 316 AD, a Christian philosopher from Tyre, Meropius, embarked on a voyage of exploration along the coast of Africa. He was accompanied by, among others, two Syro-Greeks, Frumentius and his brother Aedesius. The vessel was stranded on the coast, and the natives killed all the travelers except the two brothers, who were taken to the court and given positions of trust by the monarch. They both practiced the Christian faith in private, and soon converted the queen and several other members of the royal court.

In the early 15th century Ethiopia sought to make diplomatic contact with European kingdoms for the first time since Aksumite times. A letter from King Henry IV of England to the Emperor of Abyssinia survives. Ethiopia has fourty eight indigenous languages.

Haile Selassie era:

Haile Selassie’s reign as emperor of Ethiopia is the best known and perhaps most influential in the nation’s history. He is seen by Rastafarians as Jah incarnate. It was he who undertook the modernization of Ethiopia, from 1916, when he was made a Ras and Regent (Inderase) for Zewditu I and became the de facto ruler of the Ethiopian Empire. Following Zewditu’s death he was made Emperor on 2 November 1930.

In 1952 Haile Selassie orchestrated the federation with Eritrea which he dissolved in 1962. This annexation sparked the Eritrean War of Independence. Although Haile Selassie was seen as a national hero, opinion within Ethiopia turned against him owing to the worldwide oil crisis of 1973, food shortages, uncertainty regarding the succession,   border wars, and discontent in the middle class created through modernization.

Haile Selassie’s reign came to an end in 1974, when a Soviet– backed Marxist-Leninist military junta, the “Derg” led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, deposed him, and established a one-party communist state which was called People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Hundreds of thousands were killed as a result of the red terror, forced deportations, or from the use of hunger as a weapon under Mengistu’s rule. In 2006, after a long trial, Mengistu was found guilty of genocide.

In the beginning of 1980s, a series of famines hit Ethiopia that affected around 8 million people, leaving 1 million dead. Insurrections against Communist rule sprang up particularly in the northern regions of Tigray and Eritrea. Concurrently the Soviet Union began to retreat from building World Communism under Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika policies, marking a dramatic reduction in aid to Ethiopia from Socialist bloc countries. This resulted in even more economic hardship and the collapse of the military in the face of determined onslaughts by guerrilla forces in the north.

In 1994, a constitution was adopted that led to Ethiopia’s first multi-party elections in the following year. In May 1998, a border dispute with Eritrea led to the Eritrean-Ethiopian War that lasted until June 2000.

Moyale:

Population: – Total 34,314

Moyale is a market town on the border of Ethiopia and Kenya, which is split between the two countries: the larger portion is in Ethiopia (in the Oromia Region), and the smaller is in Kenya (the capital of the Moyale District). Moyale is the main border post on the Nairobi-Addis Ababa road, lying north of the Dide Galgalu Desert. It is known for its traditional architecture.

An early settler at Moyale was a Greek by the name of Zaphiro, who had a station which he had named “Fort Harrington”. When C.W. Gwynn visited in 1908, Zaphiro’s station consisted of a garden that covered several acres and his house, located on a spur projecting from the Boran highlands, and providing access through the line of cliffs that run along the border. “This route may well become some day a considerable trade artery,” Gwynn predicted. “Fort Harrington is therefore well placed as a healthy administrative post and as a possible commercial centre.”

Tensions rose in the Kenyan side of Moyale in early 1999, after an Imam was shot dead during an Ethiopian raid across the Ethiopian-Kenyan border in pursuit of rebels of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The Kenyan residents of the town, held demonstrations condemning the action, which they attributed to Ethiopian security men who believed he was a sympathizer of the OLF

MEGA:

Mega is a town in southern Ethiopia. It is located between Moyale and Yabelo on the paved highway south to Kenya, in the Borena Zone of the Oromia Region. Named for a nearby mountain, this town is the administrative center of Dire Woreda.

This town is reported to have telephone service and a post office, as well as at least one primary and one secondary school, but no financial institutions.

Mega came under Ethiopian control in 1897 when Fitawrari Habte Giyorgis built a fort nearby. In the early part of the twentieth century, it was important as the residence for Sir Arnold Weinholt Hodson, British Consul for Southern Ethiopia between 1914-1923. The British manned the consulate at least as late as the 1950s.

Mega was captured by the Italians on 25thJune 1936, it was then occupied by a South African Brigade in February 1941 after prolonged fighting with the Italian garrison. During the Italian occupation, Mega became an important hub of communications for this part of Ethiopia, but when David Buxton passed through in the later 1940s after the Italians had been defeated, he found that “there is little traffic in these days, and Mega has almost reverted to the sleepy remoteness of pre-Italian times.”

After a lack of success in Moyale, in 1951 the Norwegian Lutheran Mission moved their station from that town north to Mega, which continued at least as late as the 1970s.

Travellers going from Mega to Moyale were ambushed at a place named Karbete Bonaya Wale on 2 February 1999 by fighters of the Oromo Liberation Front. Amongst the six killed was a commander Abdulla Mohammed alias Aliyyi Mohammed.

AWASA(also spelled Awassa or Hawassa)

Awasa is on the shores of Lake Awasa in the Great Rift Valley.

Important local attractions include the St. Gabriel Church. Fishing is a major local industry.

ADDIS ABABA:

 

The modern capital Addis Ababa is situated on the foothills of Mount Entoto at an elevation of around 2,400m and experiences a healthy and pleasant climate year round.

Addis is the capital city of Ethiopia- “new flower. It is the largest city in Ethiopia, with a population of 3,384,569 according to the 2007 population census. It is where the African Union and its predecessor the OAU are based. Addis Ababa is therefore often referred to as “the political capital of Africa“, due to its historical, diplomatic and political significance for the continent.

The name changed to Addis Ababa and became Ethiopia’s capital when Menelik II became Emperor of Ethiopia. The town grew by leaps and bounds. One of Emperor Menelik’s contributions that is still visible today is the planting of numerous eucalyptus trees along the city streets.

On 5 May 1936, Italian troops invaded Addis Ababa during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, making it the capital of Italian East Africa. After the Italian army in Ethiopia was defeated by the British forces during the East African Campaign, Emperor Haile Selassie returned to Addis Ababa on 5 May 1941—five years to the very day after he had departed—and immediately began the work of re-establishing his capital.

Places to see:

The fossilized skeleton, and a plaster replica of the early hominid Lucy (known in Ethiopia as Dinkinesh) is preserved at the Ethiopian National Museum in Addis Ababa.

Meskel Square is one of the noted squares in the city and is the site for the annual Meskel festival at the end of September annually when thousands gather in celebration.

Notable buildings include St George’s Cathedral (founded in 1896 and also home to a museum)

Near Holy Trinity Cathedral is the Parliament building, built during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie, with its clock tower. It continues to serve as the seat of Parliament today.

In the Merkato district, which happens to be the largest open market in Africa, is the impressive The Grand Anwar Mosque, the biggest mosque in Ethiopia. Wading into the market chaos known as Merkato, just west of the centre, can be as rewarding as it is exasperating. You may find the most evocative aroma wafting from precious incense. You may find your wallet stolen and stinky shit on your shoe!

DEJEN:

Taken from a Blog :

Today was pretty much a pure drive day so supplies are always wise. We stopped at a place called Debre Libanos which is a monastery  set in beautiful landscape – there was a waterfall directly behind it as we approached it from the road – Breathtaking.

As we were leaving Debre Libanos the scenery started to be more spectacular – with the valley opening up below us, and flat highlands with sudden drops into lowlands as you came round a corner and vast lowlands in the valley and mountains just jostling for position.

We were heading down into the Blue Nile Gorge, and as I’ve given a brief taste of, neither pictures nor words can truly describe the stunning countryside, it was breathtaking, I took so many photos and just absorbed all I saw as we came down the side of the Blue Nile Gorge to the Italian Bridge and back up the other side, not wanting to take my eyes off the scenery.

Finally we came out of the gorge and back into the flatter highlands on the other side of the gorge and into the town of Dejen. It was decided we would stay in Dejen for the night as we were going to bush camp but it being the wet season made the scenery through the gorge the more stunning, but any off roading with the truck virtually impossible. “

Bure (Gojjam):

Population: – Total 23,292 (est)

Bure is a town in western Ethiopia and enjoys a flourishing small business and connection point of businesses between Wolega, Gondar and Shewa. An agricultural training college and Bure Baguna, a mineral water factory, are the main modern industrial opportunities in the town.

Bure is located at a group of hot springs that were popular during the 19th century for their therapeutic properties.In the late 1930s, during the Italian occupation, Bure was described as a large village with a market located on a ridge between the upper valleys of Fettam/Sarki and Selala.

BAHIR DAR is a city in north western Etiopia.

Bahir Dar is one of the leading tourist destinations in Ethiopia with a variety of attractions – Lake Tana and the Blue Nile River.

The city is distinctly known for its wide avenues lined with palm trees and a variety of colorful flowers. It is also considered as one of the most beautiful, well planned, and safest cities by many standards.

LAKE TANA is the source of the Blue Nile and is the largest lake in Ethiopia.

Located in Amhara Region in the north-western Ethiopian highlands, according to the Statistical Abstract of Ethiopia for 1967/68, the lake is approximately 84 kilometers long and 66 kilometers wide, with a maximum depth of 15m, and an elevation of 1,840m. Lake Tana is fed by the Lesser Abay, Reb and Gumara Rivers and its surface area ranges from 3,000 to 3,500 km² depending on season and rainfall. The lake level has been regulated since the construction of the control weir where the lake discharges into the Blue Nile, which regulates the flow to the Tis Abbai falls and hydro-power station.

Beginning of the Blue Nile River is by the outlet from Lake Tana. The monasteries are believed to rest on earlier religious sites and include the fourteenth century Debre Maryam, the eighteenth century Narga Selassie, Tana Qirqos (said to have housed the Ark of the Covenant before it was moved to Axum), and Ura Kidane Mecet, known for its regalia. A ferry service links Bahir Dar with Gorgora via Dek Island and various lake shore villages.

The Blue Nile:

The Blue Nile is a river originating at Lake Tana in Ethiopia. With the White Nile, the river is one of the two major tributaries of the Nile. The upper reaches of the river is called the Abbay in Ethiopia, where it is considered holy by many, and is believed to be the River Gihon mentioned as flowing out of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2.

The Blue Nile has a total length of 1,450km, of which 800km are inside Ethiopia. The Blue Nile flows generally south from Lake Tana and then west across Ethiopia and northwest into Sudan. Within 30km of its source at Lake Tana, the river enters a canyon about 400km long. This gorge is a tremendous obstacle for travel and communication from the north half of Ethiopia to the southern half.

The power of the Blue Nile may best be appreciated at Tis Issat Falls, which are 45m high, located about 40km downstream of Lake Tana. The River then loops across northwest Ethiopia through a series of deep valleys and canyons into Sudan, by which point it is only known as the Blue Nile.

After flowing past Er Roseires inside Sudan, and receiving the Dinder on its right bank at Dinder, the Blue Nile joins the White Nile at Khartoum and, as the River Nile, flows through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria. The Blue Nile is so-called because during flood times the water current is so high, it changes color to an almost black; since in the local Sudanese language the word for black is also used for the color blue.

The distance from its source to its confluence is variously reported as 1,460 and 1,600 km. The uncertainty over its length might partially result from the fact that it flows through a virtually impenetrable gorges cut in the Ethiopian Highlands to a depth of some 1,500m – a depth comparable to that of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River in the United States.

The flow of the Blue Nile reaches maximum volume in the rainy season (from June to September), when it supplies about two thirds of the water of the Nile proper. With the completion in 1970 of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt, the Nile floods ended.

The Blue Nile is vital to the livelihood of Egypt. Though shorter than the White Nile, 59% of the water that reaches Egypt originates from the Blue Nile branch of the great river; when combined with the Atbara River, which also has its source in the Ethiopian Highlands, the figure rises to 90% of the water and 96% of transported sediment. The river is also an important resource for Sudan, where the Roseires and Sennar dams produce 80% of the country’s power. These dams also help irrigate the Gezira Plain, which is most famous for its high quality cotton. The region also produces wheat and animal feed crops.

In 1968 at the request of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, a team of 60 British and Ethiopian servicemen and scientists made the first descent of the Blue Nile from Lake Tana to a point near the Sudan border led by the eminent explorer Captain (now Colonel) John Blashford-Snell. The team used specially built Avon inflatables and modified Royal Engineer Assault boats to navigate the formidable rapids. This expedition made many important scientific discoveries. They also had to fight off two attacks by bandits.

LALIBELA:

Lalibela is a town in northern Ethiopia. Lalibela is one of Ethiopia‘s holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and is a center of pilgrimage for much of the country. Unlike Aksum, the population of Lalibela is almost completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. Lalibela was intended to be a New Jerusalem in response to the capture of Jerusalem by Muslims, and many of its historic buildings take their name and layout from buildings in Jerusalem.

An ancient world, including 11 magnificent, medieval, rock-hewn churches, dimly lit passageways, hidden crypts and grottoes, was carved into the red volcanic rock underlying this remote Ethiopian town almost a millennia ago by the Zagwe dynasty. Today that world remains, frozen in stone.

 

What is special about Lalibela (as every tourist knows) is that it is the site of eleven or so rock churches, not just one — and they are all within more or less a stone’s throw of each other. This rural town is known around the world for its monolithic churches which play an important part in the history of rock-cut architecture. Though the dating of the churches is not well established, most are thought to have been built during the reign of Lalibela, namely during the 12th and 13th centuries. There are 13 churches, assembled in four groups: (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

The Northern Group: Bet Medhane Alem, home to the Lalibela Cross and believed to be the largest monolithic church in the world, probably a copy of St Mary of Zion in Aksum. It is linked to Bete Maryam (possibly the oldest of the churches), Bete Golgotha (known for its arts and said to contain the tomb of King Lalibela), the Selassie Chapel and the Tomb of Adam.

 

The Western Group: Bete Giyorgis, said to be the most finely executed and best preserved church.

The Eastern Group: Bete Amanuel (possibly the former royal chapel), Bete Merkorios (which may be a former prison), Bete Abba Libanos and Bete Gabriel-Rufael (possibly a former royal palace), linked to a holy bakery.

This freestanding, monolithic church is considered one of the Lalibela’s most finely carved churches. Some have suggested Bet Amanuel was the royal family’s private chapel. The most striking feature of the interior is the double Aksumite frieze in the nave. Although not accessible, there’s even a spiral staircase connecting the four-pillared walls to an upper gallery.

NB web Address about tours:

MAYCHEW:

Maychew ,”Salty water” is a town in northern Ethiopia. Located 190 kilometers north of Dessie on the Addis Ababa – Asmara highway in the Debubawi (Southern) Zone of the Tigray Region.,

Between February 1999 and April 2000, SUR Construction built a road segments connecting Maychew with Alamata by way of Mehoni about 68 kilometers in length. A notable landmark in this town is the church Maychew Mikael Bete Kristiyan.

In the early years of the Ethiopian Civil War, the Derg required that all vehicles travelling north from Maychew be restricted to convoys. By 1980, convoys were deemed necessary to move even the 20 kilometers from Maychew to Mehoni. During the 1984 – 1985 famine in Ethiopia, the commander of the First Division, Colonel Hailu Gebre Yohannis, ordered the theft of food stocks from the NGO World Vision in Maychew to feed his hungry troops. By 8 September 1989, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front forces had captured Maychew and Korem, and afterwards advanced along the main highway southwards.

SENKATA:

Very little information available – please let me know what you see there!

MEKELE:

Mek’ele is a city in northern Ethiopia and the capital of the Tigray Region. It is located some 650 kilometers north of the capital, Addis Ababa.

During the 1984 – 1985 famine in Ethiopia, Mek’ele was notorious for the seven “hunger camps” around the city. These housed 75,000 refugees with 20,000 more waiting to enter; during March 1985, 50-60 people died in these seven camps every day.

AKSUM:

Sprawling, dusty, and rural it’s hard to imagine that it was ever the site of a great civilisation. Yet Aksum is one of Ethiopia’s stars. Littered with massive teetering stelae, ruined palaces, underground tombs (most undiscovered) and inscriptions rivalling the Rosetta Stone itself, the town once formed part of the Aksumite kingdom described as ‘the last of the great civilisations of Antiquity to be revealed to modern knowledge’. It’s undoubtedly one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most important and spectacular ancient sites, and Unesco lists Aksum as a World Heritage site.

What to see in Aksum:

  1. Several Monastries
  2. Ancient Quarries of Aksum.
  3. Animal market: Aksum has a couple of sleepy markets that burst to life on Saturday. (You arrive on Saturday 30th April- perhaps you can see the market?)The Animal Market is ripe with camels, donkeys and fodder.
  4. Arbatu Enessa Church – a good example of traditional architecture.

5.  Enda Iyesus. Like Egypt’s pyramids, Aksum‘s stelae were like great billboards announcing to the world the authority, power and greatness of the ruling families. Aksum’s astonishing stelae are striking for their huge size, their incredible, almost pristine, state of preservation, and their curiously modern look. Sculpted from single pieces of granite, some look more like Manhattan skyscrapers than 1800-year-old obelisks, complete with little windows, doors and sometimes even door handles and locks!

  1. Great Stele:

Lying like a broken soldier, this massive 33m Great Stele is believed to be the largest single block of stone that humans have ever attempted to erect, and overshadows even the Egyptian obelisks in its conception and ambition. Scholars theorize that it fell during its erection sometime early in the 4th century.

Comparing the unworked ‘root’ to the sleek, carved base and the intricate walia ibex carvings near its top gives you a vivid idea of the precision, finesse and technical competence of Aksumite’s stone workers.As it toppled it collided with the massive 360-tonne stone sheltering the central chamber of Nefas Mawcha’s tomb.

  1. 7. King Bazen’s Tomb

Despite being the crudest of tombs, roughly hewn into solid rock instead of constructed with fine masonry, King Bazen’s Tomb has a slightly magical feel about it. Stand in its dark depths and look up its rock-hewn stairs through its arched entranceway and you’ll see why. It’s even better if explored by candlelight.

According to local tradition, King Bazen is thought to have reigned at Christ’s birth. The style of the tomb is likely consistent with that period.

DEBARK:

Info from Internet: “Debark is a town in Ethiopia”!!

Sight to see: Simien Mountain National Park – but tickets in Debark.

Most of the information comes from Wikipedia, Wikitravel and Lonely Planet.

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