Discovering Ethiopian Culture

Ethiopia has a diverse mix of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, and cultural uniqueness. Its mosaic culture offers wonderful discovery for visitors. Cultural traditions are found from over 3000 years of history. Touring through Ethiopian culture brings beautiful pictures of monuments, as well as edifices, built in centuries past. The area is breathtaking and full of life along with discovery.

Over 80 spoken languages have been used in Ethiopia. Several of the main language groups include Omotic, Semitic, Nilo-Saharan, as well as Cushitic. The main Semitic language within Ethiopia – Amharic -  has Hebrew and Arabic roots.

Agricultural practice is strongly seen within the history of Ethiopian culture. Sorghum, wheat, maize and barley are produced. People in the South such as the Gurage farmers routinely grow enset plant, also known as “false banana.” Carbohydrate-rich food is used from the plant to make unleavened bread or porridge. Herdsmen and craftsmen are also a part of the Ethiopian culture.

Wonderful culture is also seen in the many types of clothing worn by the various ethnic groups of Ethiopia. Traditional dress made from white cotton is commonly seen among rural women. Men wear long trousers, snug fitting shirts, along with shamma (loose wrap).

Many Harar Muslims wear colorful attire within the region. Men generally wear short trousers, along with a colored wrap. Fine dresses in red, black, and purple are worn by the women. Oroma people wear leather, beaded dress representing their culture in working with livestock.

Festivals and ceremonies surround Ethiopian lifestyles, and showcase national dress styles. It is a beautiful sight to see when people wear finely woven dresses made of cotton, along with decorated wraps. Rural people within different Ethiopian groups wear distinctive jewelry, various hairstyles, and carry unique embroidery styles of dress.

Ethiopian culture is also rich in singing and dancing. Secular music can be heard, along with spiritual music. 

In discovering delightful Ethiopian culture, traditional instruments are used to make music. They include the massinko (violin of one string), the krar (lyre, six strings), washint (flute), as well as Ethiopian drums. Generally, three types of drums are seen: the negarit, the kebero, and the begena. 

Not only can you explore the wonderful colors in dress and attire, surrounded by traditional Ethiopian music, but you have the opportunity to discover the delightful scenery of animals and landscaping. The area is full of ancient history and archaeological sites.

Ethiopia is home to some of the wildest and most interesting habitats on the earth. Travelers to the country will enjoy a large variety of indigenous plant and animal species. The country is one of the favorite tourist destinations in the world for watching an astonishing range of wildlife. With 14 major wildlife reserves, Ethiopia provides a unique microcosm of tropical ecosystem. It offers an abundant bird life, indigenous animals, a land covered with flowers and native plants.


Ethiopia offers a number of peculiar mammals, and dramatic scenery, and amazing diversity of habitats that are hard to equal. While you can certainly see some of the larger and more obvious game animals such as lions and elephants in various regions of the country, the main attraction is the huge variety of smaller unique animals. Visitors can see lions, civet, serval, elephant, bush pig, gazelle, antelope, ibex, kudu, dik-dik, oribi, reedbuck, wild ass, zebra, hyena, baboon, and numerous species of monkey.


Ethiopia is best known for the enormous diversity and richness of its birdlife. The lakes in the Rift valley region have numerous species of birds.  According to researchers Ethiopia is one of Africa’s top birding destinations, housing over 30 endemic species, and a number of other regional specialties that cannot be easily seen anywhere else in the world.


Some sources indicate that there are 31 endemic species of mammals, meaning that a species occurs naturally only in Ethiopia. As of 2002, there were at least 277 species of mammals, 262 species of birds, and over 6,600 species of plants throughout the country. 


The Ethiopian Wolf is perhaps the most researched of all the endangered species in Ethiopia. There are multiple conservation organizations working towards persevering the Ethiopian Wolf, and supporting the World Wildlife Fund’s global conservation efforts. Several conservation programs are in effect to help endangered species in Ethiopia.


Visiting and Learning about Ethiopia

Ethiopia is situated in the horn of Africa, and contains a central plateau with a number of mountains and rivers. 


The average temperature ranges from 40 - 80°F during the sunny and dry season. The months of February through April are generally short rainy times. Larger rains come sometime in June, and 

generally end in September.


The people of Ethiopia are highly diversified. Multiple languages are spoken. Some community members are Christian, while others are Muslim. Many people in the area also speak English as a second language.


Ethiopia is a Federal Republic under the Constitution in 1994. The president and Council of State are part of the executive branch, along with the Council of Ministers. The Prime Minister holds the executive power.


Currently there is a gradual economic reform, while the government officials influence the economy. The economy is based on agricultural. A significant volume of goods are exported. 

The largest export product is coffee. Ethiopia also exports leather, oilseeds, skins, sugar, and gold. Ethiopia, at times, deals with periods of drought along with soil degradation.


Agricultural development is most promising for Ethiopia. Although there is over population as well as shortage of water resources, there is great potential for self-sufficiency. The country relies heavily upon the market products such as grains, livestock, vegetables, fruits, flowers and sugar. 


Ethiopia is also involved in the mining of gold, limestone, and marble. Small size of mining is done for tantalum. Natural gas and Iron core are also available. Ethiopia relies on imported oil. There are also several areas of potential development for commercial use.


Ethiopia has a strong partnership with the United States in training and assistance programs. Emphasis is placed on the Ethiopian economy and the well-being of the community. 


Ethiopia is a place rich in history, full of vibrant tradition. It a delightful place to tour, and take part in breathtaking views of nature. Visitors can experience first-hand traditions of the tribal members. Trekking and birding attract many visitors. The remote regions of the country offer a chance to see fascinating indigenous cultures. Individualized tour guides are available for many sight-seeing opportunities.


Quick Facts about Ethiopia


  • Official name: Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE)
  • Government: Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
  • Head of State: H.E. Girma Woldegiorgis, President
  • Head of Government: H.E. Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister


National Colours: Green, Yellow and Red

Land Area: 

  • 1.14mil Sq.kms (440.284 sq. miles)
  • 1.07 million sq. kms land 
  • 7.0 thousnad sq. kms water



  • Total Population: 76.5 million( July 2007 est.)
  • Rural population: 84.87%
  • Urban population: 15.13%
  • Growth rate: Total: 2.72%
  • Birth rate: 37.39 birth/1000 population
  • Death rate: 14. 67 deaths/1000population 



  • Amharic is the official language of the Federal Government. 
  • English is the medium of instruction at secondary schools, Universities and Colleges
  • Oromiffa, Tigrigna, Somali, Guragigna, Sidama, Afar are among the most widely spoken
  • Arabic, French and Italian are also spoken


Location: East Africa, Horn of Africa


  • Total length:  5, 311km
  • 337 kms with Djibouti
  • 1,626 kms with Somalia
  • 1,606 kms with Sudan
  • 830 kms with Kenya
  • 912 kms with Eritrea


Capital City: Addis Ababa

Dialing code: +251

Religions: Ethiopia is a Christian dominated country.

                 Other religions include Muslim, Catholics, Protestant, Jews, and traditional religions 

Economy: The economy is primarily based on agriculture.

Currency: 1USD = 17 Ethiopian Birr

The local currency is the Ethiopian Birr. 1 Birr = 100cents. 

Traveler’s cheques are best taken in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling. Cash is best taken in US Dollars. Some major credit cards are accepted at major hotels.


Electrical Power

  • Electric Power is 220V running at 50Hz. The Plug types used are:
  • Round pins with round grounding pin (offset) 
  • Round pins with round grounding pin (in-line)


GDP makeup (2006): 

  • Agriculture 46.7% 
  • Manufacturing 12.9%
  • Services 40.4%


Major Exports:

  • Coffee
  • Oil seeds and pulses
  • Hides and Skins
  • Livestock and Textiles


Major imports:

  • Machinery and Equipment
  • Industrial inputs
  • Pharmaceuticals and medical supplies


Ethiopia's many national parks enable tourists to enjoy the country's dramatic scenery and its unique wildlife, conserved in beautiful natural habitats. Interestingly, Ethiopia has been very forward-looking in its provision of national parks, and has designated a dozen regions as protected areas for wildlife. 


The Simien Mountain National Park 

The Simien mountain national park was created primarily to protect the Walia Ibex. It is believed that over 1000 Walia Ibex live in the park. In addition to that, some species of the unique Gelada Baboon with its scarlet ‘bleeding heart on its chest,’ and the rare Simien Fox live in the park. Over 50 species of unique birds have been reported in the Simien mountain area.


The Awash National Park

The Awash National Park lies in the lowlands, striding the Awash River. The dramatic Awash Falls offers a magnificent sight in the park. The park is a reserve of arid and semi-arid woodland and savannah, with riverain forests along the Awash river. Around the park, some 46 species of animals have been identified, including Beisa Oryx and Swayne’s heart-beest. The bird life is prolific especially along the river and in the nearby lake Basaka. There are fine endemic amongst the 392 species recorded. The beautiful clear pools of hot springs serve as a point of special attraction in the park.


The Omo National Park

The Omo National Park is home to an amazing range of wildlife. This beautiful national park covers an area of 4068 km of wilderness bordered by the Omo river. Some 306 species of birds have been identified in the area, while large herds of eland, some buffalo, elephants, giraffe, cheetah, lion, leopard, Burchell’s zebra are common.


Nechi Sar National Park 

Nech Sar National Park is one of the most visited parks in the country. It is situated between Lake Chamo and Lake Abaya in the Great Rift Valley. The park is located 500km south of Addis Ababa near the town of Arba Minch. With its fascinating backdrop of irregular hills, this park is one the most attractive national parks in Ethiopia. 


The park is easily accessible. Clear hot springs bubble in the eastern part of the park. The park has extensive plains of game wandering roaming freely amongst 514m2 of dry bush and groundwater forest. It is also home of around 188 recorded species of birds such as Red-billed Hornbill, Grey Hornbil,l Fish Eagle, Kori Bustard, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill. Some wildlife to be viewed in the park include, Bushbuck, Swayne's Hartebeest, Burchell's Zebra, Grant's Gazelle, Guenther's Dik-dik, Greater Kudu, Crocodile, Anubis Baboon, Grey Duiker. 


Mago National Park

The Mago national park is located on the eastern bank of the Omo River, and is one of the newest of all the many national parks of Ethiopia. It is situated in very remote region within the dense acacia scrubs, rolling grassland and deserts. The park covers an area of 2,162 sq. km, and offers one of the most magnificent wildlife sceneries in Ethiopia. 


The park is named after Mount Mago, the highest point in the park rising up to 2528 meters. The park is covered dominantly with grass savannah, with a few pockets of forest around the river. There are several wetlands along the lower Mago as well as scrub on the sides of the hills.


There is a massive concentration of buffalo, giraffe and elephant, and over 56 other species of wildlife including lelwel hartebeest and in the area. Leopard, gerenuk, lion, cheetah, burchell’s zebra, Oryx and greater and lesser kudu can be seen in the park.


Touring the Northern Countryside of Lalibela

Lalibela is a beautiful part of the northern Ethiopia, and is a very popular tourist destination. It is rich in history, and is a wonderful place to tour. The city is considered to be one of the holiest cities in Ethiopia. For much of the country, it is the center of pilgrimage. Most of the population in the region is of Ethiopian Orthodox Christian belief.

Lalibela was once known as Roha. During the birth of the saintly king, a host of bees surrounded him. His mother saw it as a sign of his future reign as an emperor.  Within the modern town, several places are named mimicking patterns observed at that time.

The community of Lalibela had seen Jerusalem, and desired to create and build a New Jerusalem around 1187. Many features within the area have biblical names. For example, the town’s river is Jordan River. Lalibela remained the capital of Ethiopia for some time.

Beautiful sites of rock-hewn churches are seen in Lalibela. It is part of the breathtaking view of existing culture during that time. This sight alone makes this tourist area, popular from around the world. Most of the churches carved from the living rocks during this time, around the 12th and 13th centuries. There are approximately 13 churches in the area.

It is believed the first European to see the churches was a Portuguese explorer named Pero da Covilha - Also, Francisco Alvares visited in the early 1500s. It is also believed that Miguel de Castanhoso visited Lalibela’s stone-hewn churches. After this time, it was nearly 300 years before another European visited the area.

Lalibela also homes a large market place, a hospital, as well as school. It has an airport within the city as well. Recent figures suggest that the population of Lalibela is estimated around 15,000. 

Lalibela’s view is breath taking, and its history is so rich and vivid. If you have not seen the area, then you are missing out on one of the most exciting views in northern Ethiopia.


Ethiopia is a place full of historical attractions with beautiful countryside and many ruins. Attractions include Aksum, Harar, Lalibela, Debre Damo, Mekele and Gonder. Each area provides a new and unique experience to visitors.

Aksum offers historical journeys with many ruins, dating back to 800 BC. One example includes the previous settlement of Yeha. Yeha is the country’s pre-Aksumite foundation during civilization of Ethiopia. The Ark of the Covenant has become a very important part of the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition. This covenant is highly treasured, and has a profound effect upon the spiritual beliefs of the Ethiopians.

Another historical attraction is the city of Harar. The main attraction of the area is the Wall of Harar which holds symbolism in Islamic architecture. Harar serves as the holy city of the Muslim community with the greatest concentration of mosques.

Lalibela is an area in northern Ethiopia, which stands for soft, red volcano rock. The area was originally known by the name of Roha. Lalibela is one of the greatest wonders of the world architecture. Ethiopian civilization is illustrated at great depths. Churches are constructed out of the volcanic rock, which represent Jerusalem. To this day, each church is used as a place of worship.

Debre Damo is located in a remote mountain of Tigray region. It is unique from most monasteries of Ethiopia, and was built in 6th century A.D. It is made of curved wood ceilings that are painted, and walls that are dedicated to St. Aregawi. Historically, the “Nine Saints” came spreading the word of Christianity to Ethiopia. Priceless manuscripts within extensive collections remain today.

Mekele is another site deemed a historical attraction. Salt slabs are brought in using camel caravans. Merchants visit the market of Mekele from all over. Rock hewn churches, as well as a museum, are also important attractions within the area. 

Gonder has history of war against Ahmed Gragn, a militant Muslim leader. Gonder as the capital of Ethiopia remained for two centuries as the political center full of culture. Through history, Prince Fasiladas built a castle during the time of restoration of peace to the area. The church was also reunited with the state during this time in history.

Each of the cities discussed provides opportunities to learn about Ethiopian history and development, and the wonders of the world. The view is breathtaking and full of richness. 


Ethiopia is strategically located in the Horn of East Africa, on 3' and 14.8’ latitude 33' and 48' longitude. It  is bordered on the north and northeast by Eritrea, on the east by Djibouti,  and on the southeast by Somalia, on the south by Kenya, on the northwest by Sudan and on the southwest by South Sudan; with a total border length of 5,311 km.  It is the 10th largest, the 3rd populous country in Africa. Its proximity to the Middle East and Europe, together with its easy access to the major ports of the region, enhances its international trade.


Ethiopia is truly the land of contrast and extremes, and has a variety of distinct geographical zones. It is a land of remote and wild places. The natural beauty of the countryside amazes first- time visitors. The physical aspect of the highlands is impressive. It is a land of rugged ill-defined mountains, broad savannah, lakes and rivers. 


The country has a high central plateau that rises to 3,000 m above sea level. Above the plateau rise several irregular and unusual-shaped mountains. The highest mountain, Ras Dashen, reaches an altitude of 4,600 m (15,092 ft.) above sea level.  The northern plateau gradually slopes to the lowlands of the west and the plains to the southeast. 


Hikers love to explore this beautiful country which is marked by rugged mountains, wide spread Savannah grasslands and endlessly flowing lakes and rivers. Tissisat, the Blue Nile Falls, ranks as one of the greatest natural spectacles in Africa. Ethiopia’s great lakes and rivers allow any tourist to enjoy hiking, water sports and recreation. Unique mountain regions such as the Bale Mountains separated from the larger part of the Ethiopian highlands by the Great Rift Valley, offer an excellent opportunity for outdoor activities, camping and hiking.


The Rift Valley is one of the longest and most profound chasms in East Africa, and splits the plateau diagonally. It is a remarkable region of volcanic lakes, with their famous collections of bird life, great escarpments and stunning vistas. You will see areas of historically active volcanoes and the Afar Triangle - a triple junction where three earth plates are pulling away from one another.


The Splendor of Gondar in Ethiopia

Gondar is located in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia, within the Semien Gondar Zone. The population of the area is approximately 230,000. The splendor of Gondar is a wonderful place to see, as it was once the imperial capital of the Begemder Province.  Due to the presence of royal castles, it has been nicknamed “The Camelot of Africa.”

Prior to the 16th century, there was no fixed capital for the Solomonic Emperors of Ethiopia. They were housed in temporary tents and moved around the region. Gondar was founded approximately in 1635 by Emperor Fasilides who known to have visited a hermit which allowed the capital to be established. Fasilides built his castle on site and filled the pool near Angereb. He also built seven churches in the area, including Fit Mikael and Fit Abbo. These were put in place to stop ongoing epidemics. Five other emperors worked with Fasilides, and built their personal palaces nearby.

In 1668, the population of Gondar was ordered to be separated by religion from the church council. Muslims then moved into their own quarters, known as the “House of Islam,” which is known today as Addis Alem. The population of the area exceeded 60,000 during the 17th century, but much of the buildings have survived many of the changes that have occurred. Once the capital moved, the city was plundered, burnt, and invaded. 

There are several points of interest available to tour in the city of Gondar which is known for its ecclesiastical learning. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church inhabited over 40 churches in the area. The Gondar area was the home land of the most Ethiopian Jews.

When touring the splendor of Gondar, visitors can view the ruins of the Royal Enclosure where the emperors once reigned from this enclosure. The Royal Enclosure includes Fasilides castle, Iyasu Palace, Mentewab’s Castle, as well as Fasilides Bath. Dewit’s Hall, which is a banqueting hall, can also be seen. Stables, chancelleries, churches and a library are nearby as well. 

In downtown Gondar some Italian influence can be seen. Italian occupation took place in the late 1930s. Shops and public buildings are present. Currently, the town also holds Gondar Medical University.  The city also has an airport and intercity bussing system. 


Ethiopia is well-known as the land of discovery, and is a popular tourist destination. It is a very beautiful region that is full of rich culture and traditions that date back to over 3,000 years. Many people desire to visit the area based on how remarkable the preservation is. 

Various ceremonies and rituals take place which bring the individual back into ancient times. There is no other place in the world to be a part of the sacred traditions first hand.

Photographically Exploring Ethiopia

Tourists have the ability to take photographs during their visit to Ethiopia. There are a variety of internet cafes which allow travelers to burn digital photographs to CDs through USB ports. There is a small cost depending on the needs of the tourist. Various cities within Ethiopia also have provision of decent print film.

Popular Ethiopia Destinations

There are a variety of destinations to see in Ethiopia. See the charts below to learn some of the destinations in each area.


Lake Tana Churches

Tis Isat Falls

Local Restaurants

Blue Nile River

Mount Gishe

Beautiful Scenery

Polytechnic Institute

Ura Kidane Mehrat

Palm Trees

Historical Areas

Mango Park


Bahir Dar University

Local Restaurants






Dire Dewa - Sites to See


Dechatu River

Pre-historical Caves

Italian Mosque

Tea Leaf Cliffs

British & African Cemeteries

St. Michel’s Catholic Church

Railway Station


Historical Landmarks

City Workshops

Magnificent Culture





Addis Ababa - Sites to See


Capital of Ethiopia

Ethiopian National Museum

National Postal Museum

Imperial Palace

Ethiopian Railway Museum

District of Piazza

Fossil Discoveries

Addis Abba Museum

Clock Tower

Australopithecine Lucy

St. George’s Cathedral

Entoto Mountains

Eucalyptus Trees

Addis Ababa University

Holy Trinity Cathedral





Axum - Sites to See


The Dome

Ethnographic Museums

Bath of Queen Sheba

The Belltower

Rock Art

Abba Pentalewon Monastery

Ethiopian-Orthodox Church

King Bazen’s Tomb

Abba Liquanos Monastery

Northern-Stelae Park

Beautiful Architecture

Other Historical Landmarks

Great Stelae

Axum University


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