About Ethiopia

Brief History of Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s earliest history is rooted farther north. The ancient town of Axum , which was one of the very first capitals of Semitic culture in northern Ethiopia, was founded in 1000BC and is the first stage in Ethiopia’s famous ‘historic Route’. The earliest capital city was actually at nearby Yeha. The Axumite Kingdom was known as one of the 4 most ancient powerful states Roman Empire, Persia and China being the three.

Much earlier records show that the Egyptians knew the Ethiopia lies somewhere south in ‘the land of Punt’ also known as ‘the Land of the Gods’, and, from around 3000 BC they had obtained gold, ivory, fragrant woods and slaves from there. Later, Egyptian ships sailing to India and back called at the Red Sea Port of Adulis, which served as Axum’s main outlet to the sea, just south of modern Massawa. Axum went into decline between the 7th and 8th centuries AD, when power moved south to another remarkable site- Roha, later named after its inspired ruler, king Lalibela. The project he supervised 800years ago-eleven remarkable churches, hand-carved out of the living bedrock some 250 kilometers south east of Axum- remains today for all to see. Described as ‘a creating of angels’, however, the very advanced architecture technology used suggests these churches were built by more earthly beings.

Gonder is 50 km north of Lake Tana, 500 kilometers north of Addis Ababa and situated in the foot hills of Simien Mountains at 2,200 meters above sea level .Gonder was the capital of Ethiopia from the rise of Fasiladas (1632 -1667) to the fall of Tewodros (1855-68), which is reflected in the many castles and palaces in the city. During the long years when it was a capital the settlement emerged as one of the largest, and most populous, city in the realm. It was great commercial center trading with the rich lands south of the Blue Nile, as well as with Sudan to the west inhabitants include many rich Catholic and Muslim merchants as well as a number of Falashas or Judaic Ethiopians also known as Bet Israel’ who were predominantly weavers, black smiths and potters as well as palace and church builders.

Over the centuries the country has had many capitals, from Yeha, Axum, Lalibela, Gondor and long periods of encampments. It was some centuries before the present capital Addis Abeba was found in late 19th century by Menelik the second. At an altitude of 2500 meters (8000ft), Addis Ababa is the third highest capital city in the world, after La Paz and Quito in South America. It stands more or less at the centre of this vast sprawling country with its many contrasting landscapes.

Ethiopia’s historic route does not end at Addis Ababa. Some 500 km to the east of the capita, perched at the end of a spur projecting from the central plateau, lays the old walled city of Harar dating back to medieval times, a city redolent of the Middle Eastern world. Its history has been almost as violent and bloody as that of the north, but there the centuries have been marked by wars between rival Muslim factions and against the Christian Orthodox church. Five massive gates in the walls of the city center stand testimony to the need for strong defense against past invaders. It was long the custom for the gate keys to be kept overnight only by the city’s commander.

Culture of Ethiopia
Ethiopia is anchored in an ancient, cultured society. The rich culture of its affluent society is prominent. Its societies comprise a mosaic of over 80 ethnic groups each with its own languages, cultural heritage, crafts and costumes make the country a museum to be frequented.

The strong religious setting, celebrations and festivals play an important part in every ones daily life. Church ceremonies are a major feature of Ethiopian life. The events are impressive and unique. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has its own head, follows its own customs, and is extremely proud of its fourth century origins.

Foreign visitors are often intrigued by the promise of ‘Thirteen months of Sunshine’ in most brochures. Ethiopia steel follows the thirteen –month Coptic calendar, instead of the twelve-month Gregorian calendar used in most parts of the world. Twelve months each consists of thirty days. The other five days of the year make up the thirteenth month. Ethiopia is also seven years and eight months behind that of the Gregorian calendar, so that 2001 only 1994. Twelve public holidays are observed in Ethiopia with the New Year starting in September. Please see unique holidays.

The Lower Omo is home to a remarkable mix of small, contrasting ethnic groups. Their lifestyles are as varied as the tribes themselves. Lacking any material, culture and artifacts common to other cultures, these tribes find unique ways in which to express their artistic impulses. Both the Surma and the Karo, for example, are experts at body painting, using clays and locally available vegetable pigments to trace fantastic patterns on each other's faces, chests, arms, and legs. These designs are created purely for fun and aesthetic effect, each artist vying to outdo his fellows.

Nature of Ethiopia
Ethiopia is well endowed with a wide variety of experiences in natural spheres to explore. The country boasts some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery, and features an extraordinary variety of wildlife species, as well as a spectacular variety of plants.

Ethiopia is truly a tourist paradise- beautiful, secretive, mysterious and extraordinary. With diverse landscape, fauna & flora, and welcoming people, it offers nature tourism. Ethiopia enjoys an amazing scenic beauty. It is rich in mountains, rivers, lakes, wildlife, plants, birds, waterfalls including the famous Blue Nile Falls, and many more. The country has nine national parks and 36 game reserve areas. For instance, the Semien and Bale mountains are the most spectacular and magnificent adventure sites.

Ethiopia is a land of rugged mountains (some are over 4000 meters high) broad savannah, lakes and rivers. The unique Rift Valley is a remarkable region of volcanic lakes, with their famous collections of birdlife, great escarpments and stunning vistas. Tisisat, the Blue Nile falls, must rank as one of the greatest natural spectacles in Africa today. With 14 major wildlife reserves, Ethiopia provides a microcosm of the entire sub-Saharan eco-system. Birdlife abounds and indigenous animals from the rare Walia Ibex to the shy wild ass roam free just as nature intended. Ethiopia, after the rains, is a land decked with flowers and with many more native plants than most countries in Africa. Among the many natural tourist attractions, only the principal ones are briefly given below.

Travel Tips
Visa and Immigration Requirements:

Visa applications may be obtained at Ethiopia's diplomatic missions overseas. However, nationals of 33 countries are now allowed to receive their tourist visas on arrival in Ethiopia at the regular charge. The list includes Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sweden,
Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom and United States

Time difference in Ethiopia:

Ethiopia has a different time calculating system and three hours ahead of Green witch Mean time (GMT). The Ethiopian day is calculated in a manner similar to that in many equatorial countries, where day and night is always the same length. Time remains constant through the year counting starts from western 6 and 6 Western 7 is there fore one o'clock, noon is 6 o' clock and 6 is 12 o'clock. In Addis Ababa, then sunrise and sunset at around 6:30 and 18.45 respectively.

When to visit Ethiopia:

Ethiopia can be visited at any time of the year. People are often advised against traveling during the rainy season, which normally runs from June until early October. But it has its own advantages. The scenery is particularly wonderful green in September and early October. At this time the whole country will be a riot of wild flowers. The ideal time to visit Ethiopia is between October and April, when the rains are over but the countryside is still green.

Tips (restaurants, luggage, and hotels):
Giving tip is depending on your interest. There is no formula for it, Your level of satisfaction will determine how much you will tip. There are no fixed amounts for tipping in Ethiopia. Try to obtain small changes for tips to bar staff, waiters, and porters. It is customary to tip drivers and guides as they will be escorting you throughout the tour.

Health conditions:
Medical facilities whilst limited are of a good standard. It is recommended that tourists and non-citizens should only use private hospitals and clinics.
It is highly advisable to consult your own doctor at least two months before travelling about any immunizations you may need.
Vaccination against Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, Typhoid and Polio with optional vaccination against Meningitis and Rabies are strongly recommended.
Malaria can be a problem in Ethiopia at the lower altitudes, say through the Rift Valley, so also consult your doctor for a prescription for both chloroquine and paludrine. Insect repellent cream or spray are also extremely useful (but not always effective) for mosquito bites.
If you choose not to take anti-malarial drugs, you should consider bringing Malarone, Quinine or Fansidar tablets as a cure. The side effects of some of these malaria pills can be greatly enhanced by altitude.
You should also ask your doctor about your blood group in case of emergency and about any pre-existing medical conditions which might affect you on tour. You should notify us about any known medical conditions at the time of booking.

It is also necessary to obtain an International Certificate of Vaccination before travelling showing each injection is dated, signed and stamped.
It is also advisable to have a dental check-up prior to travelling.

Electricity: 220 volts

Best time to visit Ethiopia:

Ethiopia can be visited at any time of the year. People are often advised against traveling during the rainy season, which normally runs from June until early October. But it has its own advantages. The scenery is particularly wonderful green in September and early October. At this time the whole country will be a riot of wild flowers. The ideal time to visit Ethiopia is between October and April, when the rains are over but the countryside is still green.

Domestic flights:
Ethiopian’s domestic route network is spread all over the country bringing provincial and administrative cities within easy reach of the capital and the region’s commercial centers. In addition, there is a daily "Historic Route Service" for tourists to the country’s world famous ancient historic sites of Axum, Bahr Dar, Gondar and Lalibela .
An Ethiopian airline also flies to the South and South –west of Ethiopian Tourist destination areas like Jimma and Arba Minch. All in all, the airline flies to 17 cities of Ethiopia.

Destinations List (16 Cities)

Most of the domestic flights are operated with the two propellers, Fokker 50 Luggage allowance 20 kg for check in luggage and 7 kg for hand luggage. You have to keep all your valuables in the hand luggage.

Most of Ethiopia’s tour operators arrange your travelling programs and they assign a guide for you. The guides in Addis are mostly well read and comptent who could speak different languages like English, French, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, German and Italian Languages. You just have to inform your ground agent which kind of language you choose so that the chosen guide will be booked for you ahead of time. In the local tourist destination areas, most of the tourist guides speak only one Language; English and if you need more explanation with a fluent language, about the places you are going to visit, you have to take an escorting guide from Addis Ababa.


Do not drink tap water unless boiling it first, or having it filtered, or chemically disinfected. Do not drink unbolted beverages or drinks with ice. Avoid unpasteurized milk and products such as ice cream.
Do not eat fruits or vegetables unless they have been peeled or cooked. Avoid cooked foods that have been left at room temperature and are no longer hot. Do not eat raw or undercooked meat or fish.

Shopping in Ethiopia is a great but taxing experience. If you are a type who does not like to haggle then you are in trouble. About 99% of the cases, the price of items /goods is not displayed anywhere, so you have to ask for it. Haggling is very common in many traditional clothes and articraft stores in Mercato, Piazza, Shiro Meda and the Main Post Office area.

Most shops are already open by 9:00 am, and closed by 7:30 pm. A token few supermarkets are open 24 hours as well.

If wanting to experience a traditional open market in Ethiopia, they are common in towns within close proximity to Addis Abeba. However, Bati Market in South Wollo in Amhara Regional state, where locals bring marketable goods every Monday , is also popular . Open –air markets are where the best deals and the most original items are found. The largest open market in East Africa; Mercato is found in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa and you will find everything that you’re looking for in this big market.


Artists make different kinds of souveniers from wood, fiber and other materials. Those souveniers are placed for sale at different locations in Addis Ababa. Most frequented shopping area for souveniers is actually at the shops near the Head Post Office on Churchill Street.

There are also different items to choose from in those shops. They also have locally made fabrics, paintings with traditional style, locally made jewelries and different kinds of apparels, which are good for gift.

Art Galleries:

Art galleries are also a good place to consider for anyone interested in paintings. There are different art galleries with collection of works from a number of artists. Some art galleries also provide you with comfort of a restaurant and impression of different art works under the same roof. Makush, St. Giorgis and Asni Art Galleries are among the notable Art Galleries in Addis Ababa.

Traditional Clothes:

Ethiopia has a traditional way of producing fabrics and those fabrics are made into different styles and design. Shiro meda is a neighborhood in Addis Ababa, where well known market for local fabrics serves customers every day. In shiromeda, there are shops, which have different locally made clothes and fabrics of different style for casual wear or for special occasions. The fabrics are made from cotton though small amount of other matterial could be used to make patterns on clothes.

If you are looking for the best coffee in town, go to Tomoca Coffee, located at four and more branches: down the Churchel Avenue, off the churchel Avenue, In front of the Canadian Embassy, Inside the Raddison Blu Hotel and others.