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Ethiopia Facts and Information

Ethiopia Facts and Information


Bete Giyorgis, Rock Hewn Church
Jarek Winniczek/Moment/Getty Images

Ethiopia Basic Facts:

Ethiopia is one of East Africa's most popular cultural destinations. It's a country filled with interesting historical sights, lots of isolated tribes, interesting religious festivals, and excellent mountains for trekking as well as riding a motorcycle through.

Location: Ethiopia is located in East Africa, it's a landlocked country bordered by Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, Djibouti and Kenya, see map.

Area: 1,127,127 sq km, slightly less than twice the size of Texas, US.

Capital City: Addis Ababa

Population: Over 73 million people live in Ethiopia

Language: Amharic is Ethiopia's official language and the most widely spoken, others include: Tigrinya, Oromigna, Guaragigna, Somali, and Arabic. English is the major foreign language taught in schools.

Religion: Muslim 45%-50%, Ethiopian Orthodox 35%-40%, animist 12%, and other 3%-8%.

Climate: Ethiopia's climate is extremely varied and despite being close to the equator doesn't follow the typical tropical climate patterns. One the driest and hottest places on earth is the Danakil Depression in Northern Ethiopia. Central Ethiopia is a vast plateau known as the Ethiopian Highlands. Cool temperatures prevail here and the higher peaks have snow in winter. Southern Ethiopia and the surrounding lowlands enjoy a tropical climate with lots of heat and humidity. There is a rainy season from mid-June to mid-September and some rain also falls from February - March. See more details about Ethiopia's climate and average temperatures...

When to Go: The best time to visit Ethiopia is October to May, during the dry season.

Currency: the Birr. 1 Birr is divided into 100 cents. There are 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 Birr notes. The Birr is very stable and there is no significant difference between the official rate and black market rate, click here for a currency converter.

Ethiopia's Main Attractions:

  • Lalibela - in Ethiopia's central highlands, is now the size of a large village, but in the 12th century it was a major holy city. Today, visitors to Lalibela come to marvel at the unique churches built out of solid rock... more

  • Addis Ababa - Ethiopia's bustling capital is a sprawling city that takes some getting used to. Mud huts, Italian architecture, glitzy hotels, cathedrals and marxist billboards provide the backdrop to Africa's fourth largest city. More about Addis...

  • Simien Mountains - home to the rare Gelada baboon, the Simien Mountains in northern Ethiopia are a trekkers dream. Many summits rise above 4,000 meters, and there are plenty spectacular waterfalls and gorges.

  • Harar - Harar is a holy center for Muslims and is situated in Eastern Ethiopia. This walled city is a fascinating place, filled with Islamic and Christian history.

  • Omo River Region - home to more than 50 different tribes and accessible by 4x4 or white-water raft, this is the "other" Ethiopia, just being discovered ... read more

  • Gondar - Founded in 1635 Gondar is famous for its many medieval castles and beautifully decorated churches.

More Photos and information about Ethiopia's Top Attractions...

Travel to Ethiopia

Ethiopia's International Airport: Bole International Airport (Airport code: ADD) is where you are most likely to arrive in Ethiopia. The airport lies 5 miles (8 km) southeast of the city center (Addis Ababa). Taxis are available as well as a regular minibuses and coaches, to and from the city center.

Getting to Ethiopia: International flights into Addis Ababa arrive from Europe, US, Asia and the rest of Africa. There's a good regional network of flights on Ethiopia's excellent national airline. Long-distance buses travel to and from Kenya and Djibouti. The border crossings are not that safe in general. More about getting to Ethiopia.

Ethiopia's Embassies/Visas: All visitors to Ethiopia are required to have a visa unless you are a citizen of Kenya. Tourist visas are valid for 3 months and many nationalities can get one at the airport upon arrival. See Ethiopia's embassy/consulate web sites for more information about visas.

More Ethiopia Practical Travel Tips.

Ethiopia's Economy and Politics

Economy: Ethiopia's economy is based on agriculture, accounting for 45% of GDP, and 85% of total employment. The agricultural sector suffers from frequent drought and poor cultivation practices. Coffee is critical to the Ethiopian economy with exports of some $350 million in 2006, but historically low prices have seen many farmers switching to qat to supplement income. The war with Eritrea in 1998-2000 and recurrent drought have buffeted the economy, in particular coffee production. Under Ethiopia's constitution, the state owns all land and provides long-term leases to the tenants; the system continues to hamper growth in the industrial sector as entrepreneurs are unable to use land as collateral for loans. Drought struck again late in 2002, leading to a 3.3% decline in GDP in 2003. Although GDP growth has since rebounded, soaring commodity prices in 2007 and 2008 and the global economic downturn led to balance of payments pressures.

History and Politics: Unique among African countries, the ancient Ethiopian monarchy maintained its freedom from colonial rule with the exception of a short-lived Italian occupation from 1936-41. In 1974, a military junta, the Derg, deposed Emperor Haile SELASSIE (who had ruled since 1930) and established a socialist state. Torn by bloody coups, uprisings, wide-scale drought, and massive refugee problems, the regime was finally toppled in 1991 by a coalition of rebel forces, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). A constitution was adopted in 1994, and Ethiopia's first multiparty elections were held in 1995. A border war with Eritrea late in the 1990s ended with a peace treaty in December 2000. The Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission in November 2007 remotely demarcated the border by geographical coordinates, but final demarcation of the boundary on the ground is currently on hold.

More About Ethiopia and Sources

Ethiopia Map and Basic Facts
Ethiopia Travel Tips
Images of Ethiopia
CIA Factbook on Ethiopia
Addis Ababa
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