ETHIOPIA, “THE ORIGIN OF MANKIND”
Ethiopia — an inexhaustible source of wonder for travellers, a sprawling country with an ancient African civilization, colourful festivals, breathtaking landscapes, diverse tribal culture and amazingly friendly peoples. Dating back to the very beginnings of mankind, Ethiopia is old, old beyond imagination. It is also the land of Queen of Sheba, a place of legendary rulers, fabulous kingdoms, and ancient histories. Mother Nature was in a playful mood when she created Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is the earliest known home of humankind. What is believed to be the oldest remains of a human ancestor ever found, which have been dated as being some 5 million years old, were discovered in the Awash Valley in Ethiopia. This recent discovery beats the discovery of "Lucy", a 3.2-million-year-old 40%-complete skeleton of a 20-year-old female Australopithecus Afarensis, which was discovered in 1974 in Hadar, in the Afar region. Registered by the United Nations Education, Science, and Culture Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site, Hadar is situated 160 kilometres northeast of Addis Ababa. The skeleton is now found in the National Museum in Addis Ababa.
ANCIENT CULTURE AND CIVILIZATION
Ethiopia has the most extensive historic sites in Sub-Saharan Africa. These include the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, often referred to by many as “a living wonder of the world”, and the oldest hominid remains (Australopithecus Ramidus, a new species, 4.4 million years old).
DIVERSE TRIBAL CULTURE AND FRIENDLY PEOPLE
With more than 80 ethnic groups and some 200 dialects, Ethiopia is filled with various cultures preserving their own unique customs and traditions. In the remote mountains and in the Great Ethiopian Rift Valley you will find unique tribes living a lifestyle they were living thousands of years ago. You will also find many of the major religions of the world in Ethiopia. But for all the exotic variety, the people of Ethiopia are as one in their friendliness and hospitality.
In 1582 when the rest of the Christian world adopted the Gregorian calendar, Ethiopia stayed with the Julian calendar. With the passage of time, seven and a half years have somehow dissolved in the intervening centuries.
UNIQUE LANGUAGE AND WRITING
Ethiopia is the only African country with its own alphabet and numbers that trace their origin back to a very ancient time. The alphabet consists of 33 letters, each with 7 forms.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the oldest Christian church in Africa and officially the third oldest in the world. Christianity became the state religion in the Axumite Empire in 330 AD., even before Rome.
Muslim refugees were given asylum in Ethiopia, established communities, and were free to worship before Islam triumphed in its birthplace, Arabia.
3000 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa with 3000 years of independence.
ORIGIN OF COFFEE
The story of coffee has its beginnings in Ethiopia, the original home of the coffee plant, coffee Arabica, which still grows wild in the forest of the Ethiopian Western Highlands including Kaffa. Those who can’t face their day without a cup of coffee may be surprised to know that in its birthplace in Ethiopia’s Kaffa region — from which it gets its name — the berries were originally only eaten, never roasted and ground for a drink. Only since the 13th century has coffee has been made as a hot drink. Holding a coffee ceremony is a traditional Ethiopian way of welcoming a guest and giving the guest the best hospitality. It is probably one of the most celebrated and widespread Ethiopian traditions.
In elevation, Ethiopia ranges from 120 meters below sea level in the harsh salt flats of the Danakil Depression, to the 4624-meter peak of Ras Dashen in the Simien Mountains.