Ethiopia

Ethiopia has always held a special place in my imagination, and the urge to visit this country was definitely stronger than the desire to travel in France, England or America. I've always felt the need to find my roots and discover my african heritage.

Nelson Mandela

Tourism in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a country where travel conditions (reception, lodging, safety, quality of tourist sites) are constantly improving.

In 2010, Ethiopia hosted some 550,000 tourists (compared to 160,000 in 2000). Ethiopian authorities forecast around 2 million tourists annually by 2020.

This is a spiritual country with thousand-year-old traditions that, after a long period of being overlooked, has become a must-stop for those looking to discover Africa's last authentic civilizations.

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Geographical data

Ethiopia is an East African country covering a land area of 1.140 million square kilometers, located between Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya.

Its capital, Addis Ababa, is located in a dry tropical zone, at an elevation varying between 2,300 and 2,600 meters, making it Africa's highest capital.

Topography

Ethiopia features a high central plateau, located between 2,000 and 3,000 meters above sea level. In both the country's northern and southern zones, 25 peaks top 4,000 meters. Ethiopia's most famous river is the Blue Nile (ABBAY), which extends a distance of 1,450 kilometers from its source at Lake Tana before reaching the White Nile in Khartoum, Sudan.

Population

The population of Ethiopia is estimated at 91 million (2011 figure).

Savings

90% of the population lives off of the land.

Agriculture is the backbone of the country's economy, and the primary exports are coffee, flowers, vegetables, sugar and cattle feed.

Language

Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic country with 83 languages and some 200 dialects. Amharic is the official business language as well as the predominant language of North-Central Ethiopia. Oromiffa, Tigrinya and Guragina are also widely spoken.

English is fluently spoken in the major cities.

Climate

Ethiopia has two seasons, dry weather from October to May and the rainy season from June to September, though less intense rains begin to fall during March and April.

The average annual temperatures vary substantially due to the wide diversity of climate zones.

It is recommended to pack summer clothing as well as warmer clothes since the nighttime temperature can turn very cold.

Fauna

Ethiopia is home to many endemic species, including the Simien jackal, Gelada baboon, nyala, Somali wild donkey, Walia ibex and Ethiopian bushbuck.

Many species of birds also thrive here, with a good percentage of them endemic.

Religion

The religions practiced in Ethiopia are:

  • Islamic religion: 45%
  • Orthodox religion: 35%
  • Animists: 12%
  • Other: 8%

Schedule

Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which began 7 years after the Common Era. The year is broken down into twelve 30-day months and a thirteenth month lasting 5 days or 6 for leap years.

This explains the origin of the Ethiopian National Tourism Agency's slogan "13 months of sunshine" and incites Ethiopians to say that they're the only people to work 13 months a year to be paid just 12.

Time

Ethiopia is in the GMT+3 time zone. The time zone difference with France is thus +2 hours in winter and + 1 hour in summer since Ethiopia has not adopted daylight savings.

Electricity

Electricity is supplied at 220 volts.

Be sure to pack an electrical socket adapter and a flashlight, as electrical outages are common occurrences.

Currency

The local currency is the Birr, divided into 100 cents. The birr is pegged to the dollar.

  • 1 euro = 24.27 birr (24 Feb. 13)
  • 1 dollar = 18.41 birr

ATMs are installed in most hotels within the capital as well as at the BOLE Airport. Be sure to keep your receipts.

Customs

It is illegal to enter into Ethiopia with over 200 Birr, and it is necessary to file an official declaration for any sum held in excess of 3,000 dollars or equivalent.

A receipt from the exchange organization needs to be presented at the time of departure for any amount in excess of 3,000 dollars or equivalent.

Visas

Visas can be obtained in Ethiopian embassies.

Some foreign nationals, including the French, are able to obtain their visa upon arriving in Ethiopia, at a cost of €17 or $20.

Health

A cholera vaccination is mandatory for anyone who has stayed or stopped over in a region infected by cholera 6 days prior to arriving in Ethiopia.

For more information, please get in touch with the Foreign Affairs Ministry of your country.

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Ethiopian celebrations

According to the Ethiopian calendar, the year begins on September 11th (or the 12th for leap years). Throughout the year, major celebrations are open to the public where the faithful and pilgrims congregate.

These celebrations offer the occasion to discover colorful and captivating events, amidst an authentic spiritual atmosphere.

September

New Year in Ethiopia: September 11th

Meskal or the Celebration of the Cross: procession held on September 26th, day before the celebration. On September 27th, festivities commemorate discovery of the True Cross, widely observed in the Gurague region and village of Dorze.

October

Abreha Atsbeha: October 14th

Debre Damo: 25th October.

Yemrehanna Kristos: October 29th.

November

Sainte Marie de Sion: November 30th. Axum's biggest celebration.

December

Kulubi Gabriel: December 28th. One of the year's largest pilgrimage celebrations. Festivities take place in all churches dedicated to Gabriel and especially in Kulubi, near Harar. This holy event is also celebrated in July.

January

Ethiopian Christmas: January 7th. Celebration marking the anniversary of Christ's birth as well as the birth of King Lalibela. This holiday is celebrated with great splendor in Lalibela.

Timkat: January 18th/19th or 19th/20th depending on the year. Celebration of Jesus' baptism. The biggest holiday of the year throughout Ethiopia and especially in Gondar and Lalibela.

March or April

Hosanna: Palm Sunday weekend throughout the country and widely celebrated in Axum, Lalibela and Entoto.

Sek’elet: Good Friday celebration, widely observed in both Lalibela and Axum.

Fasika: Ethiopian Easter throughout the country.

August

Abuna Gebre Menfus Kuddus: August 11th, celebration at the Zuquala Abo monastery south of Addis Ababa. This ceremony is also celebrated on October 7th.

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