Ethiopia is the “Land of Thirteen Months”. This magical country brims with ancient and spiritual roots, rich in significant religious history and that has a fabulous story to tell. The beauty of wild mountains is only surpassed by the awe-inspiring religious architecture that draws visitors to this amazing country. It’s where legends of the Ark of the Covenant live side by side and in harmony with ancient Islamic mosques. From thundering waterfalls to its vibrant and modern capital city, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is a place you have to see to believe. It a place of ancient culture, sharing a border with Kenya to the south, Eritrea to the north, the de facto state of Somaliland and Somalia to the east, to the west is the South Sudan, and Sudan to the northwest.
Addis Ababa is the capital of Ethiopia which means “New Flower” in Amharic. Addis Ababa Mercato is the largest open-air market in Africa. Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia. Birr (ETB) is its official Currency. The inhabitants of this region are called Ethiopians.
TOP TOURIST DESTINATIONS
- Blue Nile Falls
The locals call it Tis- Isat Falls (translated as “Smoke of Fire”) and it is the most impressive sight on either the Blue or White Nile. The Blue Nile Falls are a majestic spot to rival Niagara. Locally known as Tis Abbay, or ‘great smoke,’ the falls are about 45 meters high during the rainy season. The scenery here is truly breath-taking and just downstream from the falls you’ll find Ethiopia’s first stone bridge, built in the 17th century.
- Danakil Depression
Positioned on the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Danakil Depression is officially one of the driest and hottest places on Earth where temperatures soar over 45°C in summer. As one of the most surreal and harsh places on the planet, the Danakil also includes Africa’s lowest point, at 155m below sea level.
- Churches of Lalibela
Lalibela pretty much blows your mind with its unique architecture. This medieval settlement was designed to be a kind of second Jerusalem its inhabitants remain proud of this distinction to this day. Lalibela is perched in the middle of a broad church complex made entirely of rock. There are 11 churches in the settlement, monolithic and grand, all built by King Lalibela as early as the 12th century. Remarkable because of the architectural design, the churches are actually dug into the ground. Lalibela is one of the most visited Ethiopia destinations.
- The Omo Valley
Similar to the Maasai tribe in Kenya, the villages in the Lower Omo Valley have hardly been influenced by the outside world. Visit Daasanach village, where you’’ be fascinated by the Mursi’s unbelievable lip-plates, or view the jumping of the bull’s ceremony with the Hammar tribe. You can visit a number of tribes that reside in the valley and learn about their unique cultures.
Gondar is a relatively ‘new’ city by Ethiopian standards. The Royal Enclosure is a complex of impressive buildings including churches, palaces, castles, a ceremonial bath, and a banqueting hall. Today, Gondar is also known for its huge Timkat celebrations in January.
- Simien Mountain
The Simien Mountain range is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and is rightfully known as God’s playground thanks to its unique formations. During your tour of the Simien National park, you’ll come across a wide variety of wildlife, including the Walia ibex, a goat found nowhere else on Earth and the Simien fox.
UNIQUE FACTS ABOUT ETHIOPIA
- Ethiopia is the only country in the world that follows the Julian calendar having 13 months in a year.
- Ethiopia has a different way of measuring time from the rest of the world 6 am is considered to be 12 and is seen as the start of the day.
- Ethiopians celebrate their New year on 11 September. They call it Enkutatash.
- The National dish of Ethiopia is Wat, a type of spicy stew.
- Coffee, one of the world’s most popular beverages, was discovered in Ethiopia, in the Kaffa region.
- Apart from Arabs, Ethiopia is the only people to have an indigenous written alphabet.
- Ethiopia remains the only country in Africa never to be colonized and defeated Italy twice when it attempted to invade the country.
- Ethiopia is home to 9 UNESCO World Heritage Site, more than any other country in Africa.
- The oldest fossil skeleton was found in Ethiopia and is over 3 million years old.
- Ethiopia claims to hold the ark of the covenant as well as the true cross on which Jesus was crucified.
Best time to visit Ethiopia
For many people, the best time to visit Ethiopia is during the dry season which runs from October through early February. Visitors from most countries will need a Visa to enter Ethiopia, which can be obtained in advance from the Ethiopian Embassy or purchase on the arrival at the airport. The International gateway to Ethiopia is Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (AAD). Requirements differ depending on your Nationality, so make sure to check which ones apply to you.
Ethiopia definitely may not be the first place you think of when booking your next holiday destination, but it should be. The country has been in peace for more than 15 years and its economy is one of the fastest-growing in the world. So what are you waiting for? Book a flight now to Ethiopia, and do well to make sure you ask if the departure time is Ethiopian or Western time. And don’t forget to pick up a souvenir while you’re in the country!