a country of many origins

Ethiopia is one of the oldest, most diverse and contrasting countries in the world. Its more than two thousand years of history date back to ancient times.

Ethiopia is one of only two countries in Africa that have never been colonized, and Ethiopia is the only consistently independent country in Africa. Ethiopia stands for many other African countries as a symbol of self-confidence, resistance and independence and is often referred to as the Mother of Africa. Its culture and traditions have never been forcibly changed or even destroyed. Ethiopia is also one of the oldest Christian countries in the world As early as the fourth century, Christianity became the official state religion of the Abyssinian Empire of Aksum. Many Christian customs and traditions are still practiced today largely as they were hundreds of years ago. 

But also the world famous fossil skeleton of Lucy (remains of Australopithecus afarensis) and other fossil finds show: Ethiopia is old, ancient and can rightly be called the “cradle of mankind”. Because the small, petite lady proves that human history began here 3.2 million years ago and that the people of the world have the same origin.” “Lucy’s” real name, by the way, is Dinkinesh, which means “you are wonderful” in Amharic.

The nickame “Lucy” came about because the scientists digging her up were playing the Beatles song “Lucy in the sky with diamonds” on continuous loop at the time. Lucy is an icon in Ethiopia, known to almost every child. She is celebrated and also by giving the national women’s soccer team, the name “Lucy Team”.

Ethiopia is a landlocked country located on the Horn of Africa in the northeast of the continent, bordering Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti. It is about three times the size of Germany. Five percent of its total area is above 3500 meters. The highest elevation in the country is Ras Dashen Mountain at 4550 meters above sea level, but also one of the lowest and hottest places on earth, the Danakil Depression which is below 125 meters of sea level is located here in Ethiopia. The different altitudes are responsible for three climate zones in Ethiopia. Up to an altitude of about 1500 meters, mainly in the north and east of the country lies the tropical hot zone, which is called Qolla by the locals. The average annual temperature is around 27 degrees or higher.

Between 1500 and 2500 meters above sea level is the warm-temperate zone (Woyna Dega). It is located in the center of Ethiopia. Average temperatures range between 20 and 25 degrees. At even higher altitudes, the climate is cool with an annual average of around 16 degrees (Dega). At altitudes above 3900 meters, night frosts and snowfall also occur. Generally speaking, the Ethiopian climate is rather temperate. There are two seasons: the rainy season from June to September, when the southeast trade wind with humid air from the Indian Ocean provides great rainfall; and the dry season from October to May, when apart from the so-called small rainy season in February and March, almost no rain falls at all. Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, is the highest capital in Africa, with an altitude between 2200 and 3000 meters.

Ethiopia is a unique country not only geologically, but also because of its diverse cultures, ethnicities and languages. Depending on the definition, the country can be said to have more 80 different ethnic groups. The population is estimated at more than one hundred and seventeen million (as of 2022). 

In direct comparison, Switzerland has a population of approximately 8,698,000. The population of Addis Ababa alone is an estimated 5.3 million in 2022. Of the total population, however, more than 80 % live in rural areas and are predominantly dependent on agriculture.

In Ethiopia, the clocks literally tick differently. The Ethiopian calendar is a variant of the Coptic calendar and has 13 months instead of twelve. The first twelve months have 30 days each, plus the 13th month, which lasts only five days (six in leap years).Another peculiarity is the calendar. The Ethiopian calendar is a little more than seven years behind the Gregorian calendar. So when you visit the country, you are at least 7 years younger.

But also the clocks run differently in Ethiopia. Since the country is located near the equator, the days and nights are about the same length throughout the year. The days are divided into 12 daytime hours and 12 nighttime hours. The day begins with sunrise at 6 a.m. our time. Throughout the country there is a “coexistence” of both calendars and times, just make sure everyone knows what time or date is meant.

According to the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Tourism, UNESCO has recognized four intangible and nine tangible Ethiopian (a total of 13) heritages.: Aksum, Fasil Ghebbi in the Gondar region, the historic city of Harar, the cultural landscape in Konso, the lower Awash and Omo valleys, the rock-hewn churches in Lalibela, Tiya, Simien National Park, Meskel, Irreechaa, Fichee-Chambalaalla and TIMKET, Ethiopian Epiphany .

On the tentative list are the Bale Mountains National Park, the religious, cultural and historical site of Dirre Sheik Hussein, the sacred landscapes of Tigray, Melka Kunture and Balchit, the cultural landscape of Gedeo, the cultural heritage of Yeha and the island monasteries in Lake Tane.

Just two years ago, in 2020, Ethiopia was one of the fastest growing economies. Ethiopia extracts natural resources such as gold, manganese, platinum, copper, potash, natural gas, and crude oil, the size of which varies widely. Exports include oilseeds, legumes, flowers, the stimulant drug khat, leather and leather goods, gold and, of course, coffee. 

This is without question the country’s most important export, with Germany being the largest importer of coffee. In Ethiopia itself, agriculture is the most important sector of the economy. Agricultural production is responsible for food security in Ethiopia. Four-fifths of the Ethiopian population is employed in this sector.

Ethiopia is the country of origin of coffee and world famous for its different types of coffee. Coffee in Ethiopia is mostly harvested in natural forest gardens and dried in the sun. The different varieties are named after the regions of origin, such as Yirgacheffe, Sidamo and Limu. Most coffees come from the mountainous regions east of the capital Addis Ababa and are called Harrars – after the town located there. The washed and wild coffees come from the highlands, the mountain rainforests in southwestern Ethiopia. The wild coffee trees bear their red fruits about nine months after flowering. Inside the coffee cherries are two seeds – these are the green coffee beans that form the basis for the popular hot beverage. While dry-processed coffees from the Harar region taste distinctive and mysterious, the country’s washed coffees are simply elegant: their aroma is bright, high-toned, with notes of lemon and flowers. Drinking coffee together is an essential part of Ethiopian culture and tradition and is done about three times a day as a ritual of friendship, coming together and sharing. Strict rules apply. Coffee preparation begins with washing and carefully drying the green, raw beans, which are then roasted in a pan over a fire.

Using an iron hook and a metal sieve, the beans are stirred back and forth and roasted evenly until they smell deliciously aromatic. The sieve with the roasted and steaming beans is passed around in a circle, and everyone taking part in the ceremony fans themselves with the wonderful aroma and praises it clearly. Subsequently, the roasted beans are pounded (not ground!) in a mortar while water is heated in what is called a “jebena,” a bulbous clay vessel. Once the water boils, the coffee grounds are poured into the opening of the slender neck of the pot and boiled. After that, the coffee grounds must settle and are then poured in a thin stream from a height of about 30 cm into the handleless coffee bowls. Wild herbs are often added to the coffee or it is refined with butter and salt. During a coffee ceremony, three cups of coffee must be drunk. Each cup of coffee has a special meaning. The first one is called Abol and is the strongest cup of coffee. It is drunk only for enjoyment. The second, somewhat weaker cup is called Tona and gives time to talk about problems and worries. Bereka, the third cup, is used to bless everyone present. It is considered impolite to leave the ceremony without drinking at least three cups. Ethiopians believe that when they have completed all three rounds, their spirit will be transformed.

Injera is a sour, fermented, pancake-like flatbread with a slightly spongy texture that is baked in special ovens and usually eaten cold. In Ethiopia, injera is a staple food, as rice, bread or potatoes are elsewhere. A day without injera is not a good day for an Ethiopian. The basis of injera is teff, a dwarf millet that is endemic to Ethiopia. Injera, that is at least the size of a dinner plate, is usually eaten together with spicy meat sauces or vegetarian sauces (wot) and a spicy Berbere sauce. Eating together means eating with hands from a plate or even being fed. This custom is called gursha, meaning “mouthful,” and is a way of paying special tribute to someone.

Teff grain has been grown in Ethiopia for thousands of years. “Teffa,” the Amharic word for teff, means “lost” – which is not surprising, since a teff grain is only the size of a grain of sand and is often lost during harvesting and threshing. Teff is gluten-free, rich in protein, fiber and minerals. It can help regulate blood sugar levels and curb appetite, thereby aiding weight loss. It speeds up the digestive process, provides more calcium than most other grains, regenerates muscles, tissues and joints, and has anti-inflammatory effects. For some time now, teff has become a real superfood in Europe.