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Map over Africa

Map of Africa showing the geographical location of Ethiopia

Occupying an area of 1,100,000 km2 Ethiopia or officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is approximately double the size of France. Ethiopia is landlocked between kenya, Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea and with over 84,320,000 inhabitants Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second most populated country in Africa.

The capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa is often called the ‘political capital of Africa’ as it houses the head quarters of numerous international organizations. For example the secretariat of the African Union (AU) is situated in Ethiopias capital Addis Ababa.

Sunrise over Addis Ababa

View over the rusty tin roofs of Addis Ababa

Copperstone street in hawassa at night © mikkel grabowski

Copperstone street in hawassa at night

The AU is a union consisting of 54 African states and was established on 26 May 2001 in Addis Ababa and launched on 9 July 2002 in South Africa to replace the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

Despite its geographical location close to the Equator most of Ethiopia is not situated directly in the tropical zone because of the many mountainous areas with high altitudes and therefor cooler climate.

Acacia trees and flowers fringing lake Awassa reflecting the hot and dry tropical climate in the Great Rift Valley. Similar climate, landscapes, flora and fauna is found further south in the Rift Valley around some of the Kenyan and Tanzanian lakes.

Yet some parts of Ethiopia in the Great Rift Valley situated at about 1,000 to 1,500 meters above the sea level can get exceedingly hot. And in the northern Afar region temperatures easily reach 50 degrees Celcius, making it one of the hottest places on earth. The capital Addis Ababa has average temperature between 21 degrees Celsius and 25 degrees Celsius, which can still fall to a chilling temperature of 5 to 10 degrees Celsius during the night on the month of December. Due to hot and dry weather that is mostly experienced in Ethiopia, there can be severe droughts.

The earliest history
Earliest history of Ethiopia shows monarchial rule with the country being one of the major powers of the world in the 3rd century. With the passage of time, Ethiopia reverted to sovereignty to become an independent country.


Italians attempted in 1936 to colonize Ethiopia, and their military occupation lasted six years. In 1941, with an Allies offensive during WWII, British and Ethiopians defeated the would-be colonists and restored Emperor Haile Selassie’s rule.

lake awasa

In lake Awasa in southern Ethiopia fishermen still uses boats made of papyrus

Ethiopia is by some scientists believed as the birthplace of human kind. “Lucy” – one of the oldest hominid findings in the world – a skeleton of a female Australopithecus afarensis was discovered in 1974 at Hadar in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia’s Afar Depression.

The governance and regions
Ethiopia is a federal parliamentary republic. The Prime Minister is the head of the government. The parliament consists of two houses with 547 representations. The first parliament general election was held in 1995.

Harar, Ethiopia

Girl running towards the house in Harar, Ethiopia

This effort to choose a popular government did not succeed as the major opposition parties boycotted the election.

People in a small village 40k outside Arba Minch

People in a small village 40k outside Arba Minch

This decision was much maligned by the national and international agencies who felt that the opposition participation could have been beneficial in the long run.

Fishermen and lake and mountains in Ethiopia

Fishermen checking their nets in Lake Chamo where both 7m long crocodiles and dangerous hippos splurge

Naturally, this led to the unilateral winning of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. The government, which was installed as a result of this election, was headed by Negasso Gidada as the President. The new government perpetrated ethnic federalism through which of power and authority were handed over to the ethnic powers in the country.

couple married

Mursi people in street while market day in Jinka. These people are basically Nubians originating from southern Sudan but living in this part of Ethiopia for centuries, sometimes crossing back into Sudan or Kenya as they are semi nomadic people

Presently, Ethiopia is divided into 9 administrative regions, which have semi-autonomous powers. The constitution also gives them the power to raise their own finances and spend it as per their wishes. The 9 regions or killoch are based on ethnic territoriality; Afar, Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambela, Harari, Oromia, Somali, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region and finally Tigray.

Population Ethiopia

Population size (in thousands) in Ethiopia and neighboring countries, WHO 2008. As is shown, Ethiopia houses more than double the size population of any of their neighbours

The respective regions refer to different regional capitals; Semera, Bahir Dar, Asosa, Gambela, Harar, Addis Ababa, Jijiga, Hawassa and Mek’ele. Three regions accounts for about 75% of the population of Ethiopia and it is Amhara Region (population: 17,214,056), Oromiya Region (population: 27,158,471) and Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (population: 15,042,531)

The post Zenawi Ethiopia
With Meles Zenawi’s death, the path has been cleared for a much needed change. The successor to Zenawi, Hailemariam Dessalegn seems to lack the political clout that his predecessor enjoyed. Hence an immediate change for the better would be too much to ask for. Factionalism is bound to increase with the absence of a strong leader. The immediate need of the hour is an attempt to alleviate the economic disparity between the Tigreans and the non-Tigreans, which if not carried out, could worsen an already tense situation.

Cross, kids, children, shying, awasa

Despite the relatively unstable political situation, travelling in Ethiopia is usually without much hassles, as the Ethiopians are most welcoming people with a culture and history that give them good reasons to celebrate their country.

Green field in Ethiopia

Green fields with cattle in the mountains close to Harar

And celebrating their beloved country can be seen on almost every TV, on which music videos showing Ethiopians singing and dancing in the countryside. And every Ethiopia love their songs and dances, the coffee ceremonies with incence from glowing coals. All these things shine through the Ethiopians and forms a unique Ethiopian or Habeshian identity.

Traditional coffee ceremony in a modern shopping mall

The taste of Ethiopian coffee is amazingly good and drinking coffee is part of a daily ceremony that is part of that unique Habeshan warmth and hospitality

A real adventure
Ethiopia is easily one of the most fascinating countries in Africa to visit due to the extremely dramatic landscapes and incredible cultural diversity. In the Simien Mountains National Park and Bale Mountains National Park tremendous trekking can be done and in many places you can have innumerable interactions with dozens of animals and birds seen nowhere else on earth. When travelling to the Danakil Depression in Northern Ethiopia you will be met by an enchanting and unforgivingly hostile environment offering extreme adventure and striking natural beauty. The remote Omo valley in the southwest is also home to untold adventures and house some of Africa’s most fascinating tribes.

Boy with a wooden cross by the river in Omorate © Mikkel Grabowski

Boy with a wooden cross by the river in Omorate © Mikkel Grabowski

In Lalibela you can wade through incense into a medieval world hewn from stone and watch the line between past and present blur while taking part in striking Christian ceremonies that haven’t changed in more than 1000 years. And in Ethiopia’s fertile highlands there are historical treasures like the ancient tombs and obelisks of Aksum to 17th-century castles.

Thimkat celebration

Friends greeting eachother at Thimkat in Addis Ababa. In Ethiopia religion plays an important role for most people and throughout the year there are various religious celebrations and festivals. Thimkat or Epiphany is one of the most important religious celebrations.

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