1. An ancient history
Yeha, one of Ethiopia’s ancient civilization that dates back to the 5th century BC. It is a spectacular Axum stelearcheological complex and a magnificent temple located about 54km north east of Aksum.

As the Portuguese missionary Father Francisco Alvarez who visited the place in 1520 described it, “a very great and beautiful tower, noticeable both for its well-proportioned height as for its thickness and exquisite masonry.”

Following Yeha, the Aksumite kingdom was the greatest African civilizations after Egypt and Meroe. It flourished in the 1st millennium BC and its rule encompassed part of present Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and reached as far as part of the southern Arabian Peninsula.

2. The Ark of the covenant, Judaism, Christianity
Located between the Arabian Peninsula in the east from which it is separated by the Red Sea; Arab Africa in the north; and Sub Saharan Africa in the south; Ethiopia could not escape significant interactions with these three rather different cultural regions.

Ethiopian Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, religions are superimposed on the pre-existent Ethiopian diversity as greater unifying factors.

The story about the Ark of the Covenant was based on the bible when Queen of Sheba paid tribute to King Solomon as told in the book of Kings 10:1-3.

Ethiopian version of the story tells that Sheba, who is also referred to as Makeda, was an Ethiopian queen; that she gave birth by Solomon to a son called Menelik.

Menelik subsequently visited his father in Jerusalem after which he returned to Ethiopia taking with him the Ark of the Covenant. In which it is believed to be kept in Aksum. Then Menelik founded a dynasty from which all later Ethiopia monarchs were descended.

3. Unique cultural and tribal groups
Hamer initiationHamer and Mursi people who live in the South Omo have an important practice signifying an initiation in one’s life – an essential step and a condition to be able to marry or the inclusion in a generation set.

The ukuli, or ‘jump over the cattle’ ritual is performed amongst the Omotic groups (Benna, Bashada, Hamer and Karo).

The ritual is spread over a number of weeks and ends on the day that the young man jump over the backs of a number of cattle. The man may only marry after the jump but many postpone the jump until the moment every thing is ready to complete the weeding.

The distinctive trait of the Mursi shared by other Surmic groups is the lower lip and ear lobes of a young Mursi girl during initiation rituals. A small wooden or ceramic disc is inserted into the incision and gradually replaced by larger ones until the full sized disc can be worn.

The men display bodies naked except for the paintings of part or all of the skin white. Living in hostile areas and being pressured by neighboring groups, these men proudly show off their scars as proof of their courage and strength.

4. The cradle of man kind
Ethiopia is well known for its human fossil especially the world famous Lucy (Dinknesh). The newer discoveries extend Ethiopia’s fossil record further back in time and include the 4.4 million years old Ardipithecus Kadaba and Selam the 3.3 million years old first child.

Lucy, Dinknesh in Amharic, meaning you are wonderful – was found in the Afar region. She is a 3.2 million years old, classified within the Australopithecus genus and the Afarensis Species.

5. A land of dramatic landscape
At the north, you will be captivated by a far ranging view of the Simien Mountains and especially a view from the summit of Ras Dashen, Ethiopia’s highest summit, 4,543m asl, covers a span of more than 10,000 sq. km.

At the North-East is Danakil depression in one of the planet’s most striking geographical feature, the Greatdanakil depression Rift Valley, a giant tear across the earth’s surface visible even from space.

It encompasses some of the world’s last true wildernesses in which the walls rise sheer on either side to towering heights of 4000 meters and a floor of 50 km.

Danakil is an inhospitable desert with many points more than 100 meters (328 feet) below sea level and noon-time temperatures soaring above 50C (122F).

The landscape of the Danakil seems carved from the infernos of hell; with frequent Earth tremors and several still-active volcanoes. Erta-ele is the only permanent lave lake in the world.

6. A home to over 830 bird species and some of rarest mammals
the walia ibexEthiopia inhabits over 830 species of birds of which no less than 23 are endemic.

Among the endemic mammals, one is Walia, a type of wild goat. There are six wild species of the genus Capra scattered throughout different parts of Europe and some in Siberia.

Another endemic one is Simien fox, one of the most beautiful and spectacular among members of the dog family. It has a bright ruff coat, white under markings, and black tail. It occupies a niche of its own and is the only member of its genus.

The Gelada baboon, bleeding heart baboon or lion monkey – these monkeys are representatives of an ancient group once wide spread in Africa.

They have a heart shaped patch of bare, reddish skin on their chests, from which the name bleeding heart baboon is derived.  It is the only surviving representative of once widespread group of primate of the genus Theropithecus.

7. Injera and coffee
Ethiopia is a place where one can find delicious food. Teff is the staple grain of Ethiopia a seed much smallerEthiopian coffee than the size of a white grain, but is the basis of Ethiopian traditional cookery.

There are great number of restaurants that serve injera and all the tasty wots that go with it.

Treat yourself to some wonderful cuisine at the traditional restaurants that feature live singing and dancing to keep your eyes and ears happy as well as your taste buds.

Ethiopia is a country many authorities believe ‘the origin of coffee’. In fact some say that the word ‘coffee’ comes from Kaffa, the Ethiopian region most famous for its wild coffee forests.

Coffee grows wild in many of the western and southern parts of Ethiopia. ‘Come and have coffee’ (note that we do not say a cup of coffee because Ethiopian do not drink only one cup of coffee), is a common invitation  from a neighbor.

If there is nothing else, there will always be coffee in the house of an Ethiopian.

8. Ethiopia has 8 world heritage sites

  • Axum steles:  A total of about 120, their features vary, ranging from rough stones to huge masterpieces one of which, is the world tallest standing stele.
  • Lalibela churches: They are believed to be the Eighth Wonder of the world. At Lalibela you can wonder the built up cave churches; rock hewn cave churches; and rock hewn monolithic churches.
  • Gonder castles: a peculiar architecture of the medieval capital of Ethiopia where royal castles and successive palaces, churches, libraries built on a large area surrounded by twelve gates.
  • Harer: A 13th century walled city considered to be one of the holy cities of the Islamic world.
  • Simien Mountains National Park: The Simien highlands constitute one of the major mountain massifs in Africa usually nicknamed as “the roof of Africa”.
  • Tiya Steles: a site contains around 40 ancient stele, 32 of which are engraved with mysterious symbols notably swords.
  • Omo Valley: The lower Omo Valley is recognized for its huge collection of fossils has been recovered (more than 40,000 fossils) by international teams.
  • Awash Lower Valley paleontological and prehistoric sites: An area recognized for its pre human species known to date.

9. Colorful festivals
Timkat (Ethiopian Epiphany – Jan 19), is colorfully celebrated all over Ethiopia and most importantly in Gonder and the small town Lalibela.

At Lalibela it is a living phenomenon as the 600 priests and Deacons wearing their embroidered fabric cotton and velvet carrying the arks out of the 11 churches and escorting them all the way to the baptismal pool.

The local people around the country side are the other striking features of this occasion. They with their typical hairstyle, combs hanged on their hair escort the ark singing and dancing.

The next day people gather at the baptismal pool and the locals wait patiently for the holy water to be blessed by the bishop of Lalibela. Then the sprinkling begins until all take their share over their body.

10. A much improved infrastructure and a growing economy
ethiopian airIn the past few years the country is experiencing an economic growth as never before.

Witnessed by many international organizations, the country has become one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

Lots of improvements particularly in the infrastructure have been witnessed especially in the past 10 years. One of the most important companies is Ethiopian airlines, an airline that connects Ethiopia with the rest of the world.

Its extensive and convenient route network is an attraction even to many heads of state and governments who used its services to fly to and from Addis Ababa.

The airline has been voted several times “Best Airline of the Year” in recognition of the quality of services, number of passengers, route network and frequencies.

Eskinder Hailu - Manager, Highway Tours

Eskinder Hailu
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