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Ethiopia Country Information

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Gelada Baboon in Simien MountainsEthiopia is situated in North Eastern Africa bordering Sudan to the north and north west, Eritrea to the north and north east, Djibouti to the east, Somalia to the east and south east and to the south lies Kenya.

Ethiopia has a variety of distinct geographical zones and contrasts, varying as much as 120 metres below sea level in the harsh salt flats of the Danakil depression, to a 4618 meter peak - Ras Dashan, the fourth highest peak in Africa, in the Simien mountains .

The most distinctive feature is the northern part of the Great Rift Valley, which runs through the entire length of the country in a northeast-southwest direction. In the centre of the country is a high plateau region. This rugged tableland is bordered by steep slopes on the northwest; gradual slopes lead from the centre to the Western Plains and, on the east, through Somalia to the Indian Ocean.

Lalibela, Ethiopia  PriestThe lowlands are hot and arid. One semi-desert region, the Ogaden, covers the entire southeastern section of the country. In the north, the Danakil Desert reaches to the Red Sea and the coastal foothills of Eritrea. The western boundary of Ethiopia follows roughly the western escarpment of the central plateau, although in some regions the Sudan plains extend into Ethiopian territory.

Ethiopia's largest lake, Lake Tana, is the source of the Blue Nile River. This river, which winds around in a great arc before merging with the White Nile in the Sudan, travels through great canyons, which reach depths of more than 4,000 ft. Several rivers in the southwestern regions also comprise a system of tributaries to the White Nile.

Ethiopia is home not only to nearly a hundred different tribes, each with its own language, and also to an astonishing array of animal and bird life, much of it unique to this wonderful country.

Ethiopia is the cultural bridge between Africa and the Arab north and east, and is one of the oldest established territories in the world. It is principally a highland region with a deep fringe of arid desert and semi desert to the south and east. It is a land of stark beauty and savage contradictions, home to some of Africa’s rarest and most endangered species, and yet a country of acute population pressure, straining natural resources and perennial political instability.

The Ethiopian Highlands form the northernmost African feature of the Great Rift Valley, a geological formation that runs from the Levant, down the eastern quadrant of Africa, and ending in the vicinity of northern Mozambique. The Great Rift Valley has been the conduit of much social migration since the dawn of humankind, and many of the oldest traces of human development in Africa have been found in Ethiopia. Perhaps the rarest distinction Ethiopia enjoys among other African nations is that it was never effectively colonised, and despite concerted efforts from many quarters, primarily Italy, she remained substantively independent throughout the colonial period.

Notwithstanding this Ethiopia has experienced a troubled history, which in the modern context has seen the nation reel under brutal communist dictatorship, disastrous social engineering and a propensity for famine on a biblical scale.

Why Travel to Ethiopia

Axum in EthiopiaSince the collapse of the Soviet Union Ethiopia has been groping its way towards functional multi-party democracy, and has increasingly since then emerged as a safe and rewarding international tourist destination.

It is still fundamentally a fringe travel venue, which, assuming a certain amount of resilience, offers a number of varied and extremely worthwhile destinations for the venture traveller.

One of the main reason to go is to step back in time to the biblical period of nomads, orthodox Christianity, walled towns and settlements, and the images, sights and sounds of a nation and landscape touched only very lightly by modernity. From the highlands to the desert, this is a land of ecological diversity and dense human activity. There are several national parks and sanctuaries scattered across the country that cover all its varied ecological zones, and where many among the long list of Ethiopia’s threatened and endangered species can be found.

Ethiopia is making a great effort to build itself up as a mainstream tourist destination, and enjoys established facilities in the main cities and a growing spectrum in the countryside. With the rather depressing statistics of environment and wildlife threat in the country, one of the surest ways to support conservation, be it in terms of wildlife, environment or monuments, is to go there and spend your tourist dollars.

When to Visit Ethiopia

Ethiopia experiences climatic conditions that vary according to the landscape, which is nothing if not varied. Since most of the country lies at altitudes above 1 500m, conditions in most places are agreeable throughout the year. This is distinctly not the case in the Ogaden region and the extreme south, however, which is arid desert and semi-desert lying below 1 500m, and which can get extremely hot during the summer months.

Most of the country, and in particular those areas at higher elevation, experience summer rains between June and September, with a few showers early in the year, and usually very little outside these periods.

As is the case anywhere in the African highland belt, the period immediately after the rains is the most pleasant, with spring like air clarity, general inflorescence and a landscape freshly greened. If you are planning to visit during the festival periods of Timkat or Meskel then book in advance, and of course the European holiday seasons can be particularly congested in Addis Ababa.

People and Culture

The Amhara

Ethiopia People & CultureAre the politically and culturally dominant ethnic group of Ethiopia. They are located primarily in the central highland plateau of Ethiopia and comprise the major population element in the provinces of Begemder and Gojjam and in parts of Shoa and Wallo.

In terms of the total Ethiopian population, however, the Amhara are a numerical minority. The national population has usually been placed at between 14 and 22 million.

It is generally estimated that the Amhara, together with the closely related Tigre, constitute about one-third of this total population. One of the most recent estimates gives the number of native speakers of Amharic, the language of the Amhara, as approximately 7,800,000.

Their national clothes are basically white, whether the shawls and light blankets worn over the shoulders by the men or the white dresses and wraps worn by the ladies.

In comparison, there seems to be general agreement that the Oromo peoples form the largest ethnic component in the country, comprising around 40 percent of the population. They are a pastoral and agricultural people who live mainly in central and southwestern Ethiopia, constitute about 40 percent of the population.

The Shankella, a people in the western part of the country from the border of Eritrea to Lake Turkana, constitute about 6 percent of the population.

Feedback From Clients

Lucy Fonda

Dear Davies, We had an absolutely incredible time....lodging, guiding, etc. was more than we could have hoped for...especially at Selati Lodge at Sabi Sabi... Phinda was also great... would love to repeat the experience. Incredible service!!!! Best vacation we ever had.....!!!!!!!!

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