Ethiopia

Quick Facts

Region: Africa

Population:
85,237,338

Religion:

The main religions are Ethiopian Orthodox Christian, Islam and animist beliefs. Most of the Christian people belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, whose 4th Century beginnings came long before Europe accepted Christianity. The Ethiopian Orthodox Union church is an autonomous Christian Church headed by a patriarch and closely related to the Coptic Church of Egypt. This was the state church of Ethiopia until 1974. About 40 percent of the people of Ethiopia are Christians, and Christianity is predominant in the north. All the southern regions have Muslim majorities, who represent about 45 percent of the country's population. The south also contains considerable numbers of animists. A further small percentage of the population adheres to traditional and other beliefs, including Judaism. A sect known as Beta Israel or Falashas, who practice a type of Judaism that probably dates back to contact with early Arabian Jews, were airlifted to Israel in 1991 during Ethiopia's civil war.

Language:

Amharic is Ethiopia's official language but Tigrinya, Oromigna, Guaragigna, Somali, Arabic and other local languages are also spoken. Of the 70 or more languages spoken in Ethiopia, most belong to the Semitic and Cushitic families. The Semitic cluster of languages, which include Amharic, Tigrinya, and Tigre, are derived from the language of the Ethiopian church liturgy - Gecez. Amharic, the country’s official language, is spoken by more than half of the population. English and Arabic are also spoken by many people. English is the major foreign language taught in schools. Primary school education is free to all children but the reality is that only two in three children are within access of a school. This probably accounts for Ethiopias low literacy rate of just under 50 percent.

Area (sq. km):
1,127,127 square meters

Time:

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +3 although time is expressed using a 12 hour day system meaning that their day starts at sun rise being 1 o’clock (7.00am our time) and ends when dusk falls at 12 o’clock (6.00pm our time).

When To Travel

The climate of Ethiopia is varied. Elevation and geographic location produce three climatic zones: a cool zone above 2,400 meters where temperatures range from near freezing to 16° C; a temperate zone at elevations of 1,500 to 2,400 meters with temperatures from 16° C to 30° C; and a hot zone below 1,500 meters with both tropical and arid conditions and daytime temperatures ranging from 27° C to 50° C. Normally the rainy season occurs from mid-June to mid-September (longer in the southern highlands) and is preceded by intermittent showers from February or March. The remainder of year is generally dry. October is the shoulder season for trekking. The nights are warmer but rainfall is common for a few hours in the afternoons and in the late evenings. However the highlands are extremely green and the wildflowers (including the vivid yellow meskel flowers) are in abundance. January and February tend to be about 25 degrees during the day but may drop to minus 3 or 4 degrees at night. The air is clearer and the views are more extensive but the highlands are not nearly as green.

Ethiopia is pretty pleasant all year round, with temperatures in Addis Ababa averaging around 20°C (68°F) no matter what season it is. The main rainy season is from June to mid-September.

Useful Travel Facts

Airports:

Bole International airport in Addis Ababa is located 8km south east of Addis Ababa city centre. The airport has banks that are open 24hrs, a post office, duty free shopping and a café. All accept US dollars cash or birr. There are facilities for internet and faxing. Trolleys are free but remember if you use a porter to help with your luggage they will expect to be tipped around birr 2 per bag.

Telephone:

The international dialing code for Ethiopia is +251 The telephone system is pretty basic. Telephone calls, especially international ones, can be expensive when made from a hotel. We suggest you check the price first. Whilst mobile phones are common among Ethiopians a local sim card needs to be applied for well in advance (often months) and therefore is not an option to the traveller. International roaming for your own phone is a simple procedure to arrange ‘global roaming’ with your service provider; however, charges are generally very high so be sure to check this option thoroughly. You should also check with your service provider to see if your mobile phone is compatible with the networks used in Africa. If you need to call international while in Ethiopia it is suggested that you make your call from telecommunications offices found in most towns. It can be a lengthy process so be prepared to wait for and hour or so and check the fees for the call prior to making the call.

Electricity:

The supply is 220V. There are a few different sockets still in working order throughout the country. It is advisable to take an international plug. Most of the sockets used are the 2 round prong type – continental style. Travellers from America and Canada need to take an adaptor. Power failure is common in Ethiopia during the wet season.

Food:

Most travellers do not ‘take’ to the local fare of Ethiopia. However it is well worth trying. The local speciality is 'injera' which is served as a large sharing plate. Injera is a type of maize pancake with a range of spices and/or cooked meats piled in the centre. You simply start from the edge, pulling off pieces of the pancake base with your hands and use this to scoop up the spices and meats. For those that don’t want to eat Ethiopian food, Addis Ababa offers Indian, Chinese, Italian and American restaurants to name a few. The standard of food in these restaurants is generally high as Addis has a large number of expats from a number of countries. Outside of Addis hotels serve basic western food and usually only have one or two choices on the menu. Vegetarians will struggle to find western meal options.

Shopping:

Like all countries in Africa there is always a bargain to be found, Ethiopia is no exception. Souvenir prices vary depending on the quality and where it is purchased from. In shops most prices are fixed but in the markets it’s good to have a bit of barter.

Visa: Australians, Americans, Canadians, British and New Zealanders currently require a visa for Ethiopia. For all other nationalities please reconfirm your visa requirements with your travel agent. Tourist Visas may be granted for visits of up to one month, three months, or six months. The period of the visa begins on the date of issue, so please ensure the visa is valid from the date of issue until the final date of departure from Ethiopia. If you have visited Ethiopia in the last six days prior to your date of return to Australia, Australian Customs officials will ask you to present a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate on entry into Australia.

Useful Words & Phrases

Further Reading

Ethiopia & Eritrea - Lonely Planet

The History of Ethiopia - Harold G Marcus

The Ethiopians - Richard Pankhurst

The Sign and the Seal - Graham Hancock

The Life of My Choice - Sir Wilfred Thesiger

Ethiopia with a Mule - Dervla Murphy

Ethiopia with Love - Thelma Tolstoy

Sheba: through the desert in search of the legendary Queen - Nicholas Clapp

The Pale Abyssinian - Miles Bredin

When the Emperor Dies - Mason McCann Smith