General Facts

map-ethiopia

General Facts:

Population: 94.1 million (2013)

Official Languages : Amharic

Capital: Addis Ababa

Area:1.104 million km²

Introduction

Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa, is a rugged, landlocked country split by the Great Rift Valley. With archaeological finds dating back more than 3 million years, it’s a place of ancient culture. Among its important sites are Lalibela and its 12th-13th century rock-cut Christian churches, and Aksum, the ruins of an ancient city with obelisks, tombs, castles and Our Lady Mary of Zion church.


Currency: The Ethiopian Birr is the currency of Ethiopia. The currency code for Birr is ETB, and the currency symbol is Br.

 

Culture
Ethiopia has a diverse mix of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. It is a country with more than 80 different ethnic groups each with its own language, culture, custom and tradition. One of the most significant areas of Ethiopian culture is its literature, which is represented predominantly by translations from ancient Greek and Hebrew religious texts into the ancient language Ge’ez, modern Amharic and Tigrigna languages.

Ge’ez is one of the most ancient languages in the world and is still used today by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has its own unique customs and traditions, which have been influenced by Judaism.

The Tigrayans’ history and culture is derived from the Aksumite Kingdom tradition and culture whereas the history and culture of the Amhara people is derived from the post Aksumite imperial reign of Menelik II and Haile Selassie.

The Ethiopian traditional costume is made of woven cotton. Ethiopian men and women wear this traditional costume called gabbi or Netella. Women often wear dresses (Kemis) and netella with borders of coloured embroidered woven crosses, but other designs are also used.

Other ethnic groups and tribes in the south and west of the country wear different costumes that reflect their own traditions. Some tribes partially cover their body with leather but others do not wear any clothes at all, merely decorating their faces and bodies with distinctive images.

Economy

Ethiopia’s economy is based on agriculture, but the government is pushing to diversify into manufacturing, textiles, and energy generation. Coffee is a major export crop. The agricultural sector suffers from poor cultivation practices and frequent drought. Although recent joint efforts by the Government of Ethiopia and donors have strengthened Ethiopia’s agricultural resilience, changes in rainfall associated with world-wide weather patterns continue to create food insecurity for millions of Ethiopians.

Government

Ethiopia adopted a new constitution that established the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) in 1995.The federal government is responsible for national defense, foreign relations and general policy of common interest and benefits. The federal state comprises nine autonomous states vested with power for self-determination.  The FDRE is structured along the lines of bicameral parliament, with the council of Peoples’ Representatives being the highest authority of the federal government while the federal council represents the common interests of the nations, nationalities and peoples of the states. Members of both councils are elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term.

The federal state is headed by a constitution president and the federal government by an executive prime minister who is accountable to the council of peoples’ Representative.  Each autonomous state is headed by a state president elected by the state council.  The judiciary is constitutionally independent. The Federal Democratic Republic is composed of states which are delimited on the basis of settlement patterns, language, identity and consent of the peoples concerned.

Education

The current system follows school expansion schemes which are very similar to the system in the rural areas during the 1980s, with an addition of deeper regionalization, providing rural education in students’ own languages starting at the elementary level, and with more budget finances allocated to the education sector. The sequence of general education in Ethiopia is six years of primary school, four years of lower secondary school and two years of higher secondary school.

Time

Time in Ethiopia is counted differently from in many Western countries. The Ethiopian day is reckoned as beginning at 6 AM as opposed to 12 AM, concurrently with sunrise throughout the year. To convert between the Ethiopian clock and Western clocks, one must add (or subtract) 6 hours to the Western time. For example, 2 AM local Addis Ababa time is called “8 at night” in Ethiopia, while 8 PM is called “2 in the evening”.

Health & Safety

Be careful of the food you eat, and don’t stay in the sun too long. If you get sick, go to one of the big private hospitals, eg. Korean, Hayat, St Gabriels.

Do not drink tap water. Bottled water for drinking is available almost everywhere in small, medium and big bottles. Addis tap water is better than in many other cities, but even there hotels generally recommend guests not to drink it, nor to eat salads or other uncooked food that is commonly washed in tap water. Make sure you drink enough water, especially when the weather is hot.

Consult a doctor before going to Ethiopia and stock up on prescription drugs you require. The risk of malaria is low in the capital and the highlands, but high in the lake regions and lowlands. Doxycycline for malaria prevention is cheap in Addis.

Ethiopia is a relatively low-crime country compared to Kenya, South Africa and some other countries in Africa. Avoid traveling to the eastern part of the country beyond the city of Harar. Somali separatist groups occasionally launch guerilla attacks. Armed insurgent groups operate in the Oromiya and Afar regions.

Transport

By Flights: Ethiopian Airlines is the sole operator and has fairly comprehensive domestic services and network. Flights are often overbooked and schedule adjustment occurs frequently, so it is essential to reconfirm your tickets at least one day in advance and show up at the airport on time. If you forget to reconfirm or fail to show up on time, your seat may be given to somebody else.
By Bus: There is a comprehensive network of cheap buses along the major roads, although these are slow and basic. Buses travelling shorter distances generally leave whenever they have filled up with passengers (in practice, this means once an hour or so); nearly all long-distance buses leave at dawn (06:00, and 12 o’clock according to the Ethiopian way of reckoning time). Buses do not travel at night; they will stop before sundown in a town or village with accommodation for the passengers, or, between Dire Dawa and Djibouti, by the roadside in the country. Between some cities (e.g. Adama and Addis Ababa), minibuses will run after the larger buses have stopped for the night. Everyone on the bus must have a seat by law — this prevents overcrowding, but often makes it difficult to catch a bus from an intermediate point on a route. The bus stations usually open somewhere around 05:00. The ticket will be in Amharic, but there will be a legible bus number written on it somewhere.
By Train: Ethiopia is undergoing a vast modernisation of its railways. Currently, the only long-distance service open to passengers is the train from Dire Dawa to Djibouti on the old metre-gauge line. A new standard-gauge railway has recently been built from Addis Ababa to Djibouti via Dire Dawa; limited freight operations commenced on the line in 2015. Two other railways are currently under construction – these will link Mek’ele with Awash and Addis Ababa with Bedele.

 

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