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The cornucopia of natural beauty that blesses Ethiopia offers an astonishing variety of landscapes: Afro-Alpine highlands soaring to around 4,300 meters, deserts sprinkled with salt flats and yellow sulphur, lake lands with rare and beautiful birds, moors andmountains, the splendor of the Great Rift Valley, white-water rivers, savannah teeming with game, giant waterfalls, dense and lush jungle the list is endless.
Ethiopia's many national parks enable the visitor to enjoy the country's scenery and its wildlife, conserved in natural habitats, and offer opportunities for travel adventure unparalleled in Africa.

The Rift Valley

The Ethiopian Rift Valley, which is part of the famous East African Rift Valley, comprises numerous hotbabogaya-riftvalley springs, beautiful lakes and a variety of wildlife. The valley is the result of two parallel faults in the earth's surface between which, in distant geological time, the crust was weakened, and the land subsided. Ethiopia is often referred to as the " water tower" of Eastern Africa because of the many rivers that pour off the high tableland. The Great Rift Valley's passage through Ethiopia is marked by a chain of seven lakes.

Each of the seven lakes has its own special life and character and provids ideal habitats for the exuberant variety of flora and fauna that make the region a beautiful and exotic destination for tourists.

Most of the lakes are suitable and safe for swimming other water sports. Besides, lakes Abiata and Shalla are ideal places for bird watchers. Most of the Rift Valley lakes are not fully exploited for touristic purposes . The Rift Valley is also a site of numerous natural hot springs & the chemical contents of the hot springs are highly valued for their therapeutic purposes though at present they are not fully utilized. In short, the Rift Valley is endowed with many beautiful lakes , numerous hot springs, warm and pleasant climate and a variety of wildlife. It is considered as one of the most ideal areas for the development of international tourism in Ethiopia.

The Sof Omar cavesof-omar-caves-bale

Sof Omar, a tiny Muslim village in Bale, is the site of an amazing complex of natural caves, cut by the Wab River as it found its way from the nearby mountains. The settlement, which is a religious site, is named after a local Sheikh.
Armed with torches and official map, visitors to Sof Omar make their way underground, far into the bowels of the earth, beside a subterranean stream, and there can see an extraordinary number of arched portals, high eroded ceilings and deep echoing chambers

The Dallol (Danakil) Depressionertaale

Dallol is at the northernmost extension of the[Great] Rift Valley. It is below sea level and acts like a cauldron, trapping all the heat. Dallol is a field of phreatic craters in the barren salt plain NNE of the Erta Ale Range in one of the lowest (and hottest) areas of the desolate Danakil depression.
The Dallol craters are the Earth's lowest known subaerial volcanic vents. The most recent of these craters, Dallol, was formed during an eruption in 1926. Colorful hot brine springs and fumarolic deposits are found in the Dallol area.

dollo-sulfur-hot-springThis is a desert with some areas that are more than 116 meters (328 feet) below sea level. This is special because it is one of the lowest points on earth not covered by water. There are hot yellow sulfur fields among the sparkling white salt beds. Heat isn't the only thing people feel in the Dallol Depression. Alarming earth tremors are frequently felt. There are also several active volcanoes.

The active volcano Mount Erta Ale, (in whose crater lies the world's only below sea level land volcano, and world's only permanent lava lake), techno-coloured landscapes, incredible mineral deposits, sulphur lakes and bubbling sulphur springs, are facinating sights not to be missed.
Weather wise, the hottest places on earth are the Dallol Depression in Ethiopia and Death Valley in California. Temperatures can reach as high as 145 degrees Fahrenheit (63 degrees Celsius) in the sun, and top 93° Fahrenheit (34° Celsius) every day of the year. In the summer, not a single day dips below 104° Fahrenheit (40° Celsius). Dalol holds the record for the highest average annual temperature.

This festival celebrates both the New Year and the Feast of John the Baptist at the end of the long spring rains, when the Highlands are covered with wild flowers. Ethiopian children, clad in brand-new clothes, dance through the villages giving bouquets of flowers and painted pictures to each household.

September 11 is both New Year’s Day and the feast of St John the Baptist. The day is called Enkutatash meaning the "gift of jewels." When the famous Queen of Sheba retuned from her expensive journey to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem, her chiefs welcomed her back by replenishing her treasury with enku, or jewels. The spring festival has been celebrated since these early times and as the rains come to their abrupt end, dancing and singing can be heard at every village in the green countryside. In the evening every house lights a bonfire and there is much singing and dancing.

The main religious celebration takes place at the 14th-century Kidus Yohannes church in the city of Genet in the Gonder Region. Three days of prayers, psalms and hymns, and massive colorful processions mark the advent of the New Year. Closer to Addis Ababa, the Raguel Church, on top of Entoto Mountain north of the city, has the largest and most spectacular religious celebration. Enkutatash is not exclusively a religious holiday but is also a celebration of springtime and renewed life. Modern Enkutatash is also the season for exchanging formal New Year greetings and cards among urban people.

The festival of Timket falls on Tirr 11(January19) every year. It is observed in commemoration of Jesus Christ’s baptism in River Jordan. The celebration of Timket starts on the eve of the main festival.  The eve is known as ’Ketera’ and taken from the Amharic word ‘ketere’ meaning to  make a dam; it is usual to make a dam in some places where there is no enough river water for the celebration of Timket. 

In the afternoon of Ketera the tabots (holy Arks) from each of the churches are taken to a significant water body. Accompanied by a great ceremony, each tabot is carried overhead by a high priest. It is taken to spend the night there, an activity that helps in performing the timket ceremony, usually done early in the morning the time Jesus Christ was baptized. The ceremony extends throughout the night and the next day early in the morning the Timket celebration start. The ceremony begins with the pre-sun rise rituals which include the Kidane (Morning Prayer) and the KIdasie (the divine clergy). These rituals are followed by the blessing and sprinkling of the blessed water on the assembled congregation in commemoration of Christ’s baptism. 

According to the interpretation of the Ethiopian Church, the term Timket is taken from the Ge’ez word Asteryo meaning “reveal”. This meaning is associated with the revelation of the trinity, or the unity of God the father, the son, and the Holy Ghost during the baptism of Christ. In Greek language, the word “baptism” refers to immersion in water, thus Christ himself was baptized by being immersed in water, river Jordan. Consequently, Timket is supposed to be performed by immersion in a body of water. But, in most cases, priests usually sprinkle the blessed water over the congregation, except in few cases where a larger pool is available immersion or to swimming like that of the bathing Palace Fasiledes in Gondar.  

At about 10 or 11am, each tabot begins the journey back to its respective church. This involves an even more colorful ceremony with a variety of traditional and religious songs. The priests wear astonishing brocade ceremonial clothes and carry decorated umbrellas, while chanting to the accomplishment of drums and the rhythmic clink of the sistrum and other instruments. Although it is colorfully celebrated throughout the country, Timket is highly regarded in Addis Abeba, Lalibela and Gondar. 

In Gondar, the bathing palace of Fasiledas is still dedicated to this colorful ceremony. It is still filled with water each year by a canal from the River Keha for the colorful Timket celebration. Besides the baptism of Jesus Christ, the celebration of Timket in Gondar also commemorates the re-baptizing of thousands of people who have converted from Catholicism to the Orthodox faith. Even though Gondar can be visited at anytime of the year, the city is a wonderful place of visit during this season as it gives one a chance to witness the colorful ceremonies of the timket Festival. 

In Addis Ababa, Jan Meda is the ideal place of witnessing the colorful celebration of Timket. In Lalibela it is equally celebrated like that of Christmas with relatively less crowd-situations of the flocking pilgrims.  Traditionally, Timket was known as an important occasion for young adults to choose the would-be lovers.

Christmas (Genna) is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. This is a colorful festival celebrated by all Christian people in the country. The dancing of the priest with their great drums and prayer sticks by standing around the edge of the cliff surrounding the churches is so impressive, especially, at Lalibela.

The Ethiopian Christmas also called Lidet, is not the primary religious and secular festival that it has become in Western counties. Falling on 7th January, it is celebrated seriously by a church service that goes on throughout the night, with people moving from one church to another. Traditionally, young men played a game that is similar to hokey, called Genna, on this day and now Christmas has also come to be known by that name, Specially This celebration is unique to Lalibela

MESKEL is celebrated by dancing, feasting and lighting a massive bonfire known in Ethiopian tradition as "Damera". Meskel commemorates the finding of the True Cross in the 4th century when Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, discovered the True Cross on which Christ was crucified.

The feast is celebrated in Ethiopia on the 17th September Ethiopian calendar (27th September Gregorian calendar), 6 months after the discovery of the True Cross. The celebration of Meskel signifies the presence of the True Cross at mountain of Gishen Mariam monastery and also symbolises the events carried out by Empress Helena. Meskel_Celebration_1

According to tradition Empress Helena lit incense and prayed for assistance to guide her. The smoke drifted towards the direction of the buried cross. She dug and found three crosses; one of them was the True Cross used to crucify Jesus Christ. Empress Helena then gave a piece of the True Cross to all churches, including the Ethiopian Church.

This piece was then brought to Ethiopia. According to the Ethiopian legend, when people get close to the piece of the True Cross it made them naked by its powerful light. Because of this, a decision was made to bury it at the mountain of Gishen Mariam monastery in Wollo region.

 

Ethiopian cooking can be heavy on meat — but the east African country’s cuisine is also full of delicious and super-satisfying dishes that are perfect for vegetarian, vegan, and gluten and lactose-free eaters.

Ethiopian food is probably best known for the spongy sourdough flatbread called injera, which serves as the “spoon” for lentil, bean, meat, and vegetable sauces piled on top.

Part of what makes Ethiopian food perfect for so many diets is that there's always a "fasting" (or animal-free) option: Many Ethiopians are Orthodox Christians and traditionally eat vegan on Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as other special days.
Ethiopia’s cuisine is very similar to the food of its neighbor and rival Eritrea (which until 1991 was part of Ethiopia). Some of the country's culinary style also reflects the influences of neighbors like Sudan (where the sour bread is called kesra), and the lasting impact of Italy's partial colonial rule in the mid-1900's.

Ethiopia’s cuisine is very similar to the food of its neighbor and rival Eritrea (which until 1991 was part of Ethiopia). Some of the country's culinary style also reflects the influences of neighbors like Sudan (where the sour bread is called kesra), and the lasting impact of Italy's partial colonial rule in the mid-1900's.
So next time you eat out, order the bayenetu, a collection of meat-free dishes. And in the meantime, try a few of these delicious options:

Injera
Injera is a sour and spongy round bread, made of teff flour, that's naturally vegan and gluten-free. Sauces and dishes are commonly poured on top of the injera, which is then used as a vehicle to get the deliciousness from table to mouth.

Ethiopian culture is rich with artistic expression and traditional handcraft skills. From precious religious artifacts to everyday utilitarian objects, the Ethiopian aesthetic reflects a culture endowed with a profound history and human ingenuity. More than 80 ethnic groups make up the Ethiopian population. Each preserves its identity through food, language, and colors and translates their distinct traditions into handcrafts unique to each culture.

Historically local artisans manufactured most of the essential items used in everyday life. From textiles to furniture and cookery to utensils, artisans were an indispensable part of the village economy. They used their skills to bring color and excitement to simple objects like decorating natural grass baskets with colorful beads and cowry shells. Today Ethiopian artisans still create works of art, whether it be a simple woven basket to keep their injera fresh or an elaborate silver cross used by Ethiopian Orthodox priests during their most sacred ceremonies.

Although many traditions are fading due to the influx of imported objects, Ethiopian artisans continue to create beautiful crafts, allowing visitors to take home a bit of this wonderful country.

Land and landscape
The Ethiopian landscape is largely formed from a high volcanic plateau. It is surrounded on three sides by low-lying desert. The average height of the plateau (the Ethiopian highlands) is over 2000 meters. Moreover, there are more than 20 mountains over 4000 meters.

The Ethiopian highlands are bisected by the Rift (Rift Valley). This begins at the Red Sea, then runs across Africa and ends only in Mozambique. In addition to mountainous areas, southwestern Ethiopia has savannas and rainforests. Many rivers originate in the mountains, including the best known Blue Nile. There are also some very fertile areas with beautiful lakes and valleys.

Flora and Fauna
The flora of Ethiopia is breathtaking. The central plateau during the rainy season (July and August) is green, fertile and densely vegetated. In September and October you will find innumerable species of wild flowers in the highlands. In the rift valley south of Addis Ababa, you will find many acacia trees and steppe landscape.

In the highlands of Ethiopia there are still some unique animal species such as the guereza monkey and the Simien fox.Due to the isolated location of Ethiopia, they have not mixed with other species. The parks contain a huge amount of tropical birds.

In Ethiopia there are not many tourists. The national parks are therefore much less visited than the other parks of East Africa. The game has become less used to humans. Sometimes the game lovers will require a little more patience.

Wildlife

Ethiopia has a large variety of indigenous plant and animal species. In some areas, the mountains are covered with shrubs such as pyracantha, jasmine, poinsettia, and a varied assortment of evergreens. Caraway, carcade, cardamom, chat, coriander, incense, myrrh, and red pepper are common. The lakes in the Great Rift Valley region abound with numerous species of birds, and wild animals are found in every region.

Among the latter are the Sudan cheetah, Masai lion, civet, serval, African bush elephant, bushpig, gazelle, antelope, ibex, kudu, dik-dik, oribi, reedbuck, Somali wild ass, Grévy's zebra, hyena, baboon, and numerous species of monkey. As of 2002, there were at least 277 species of mammals, 262 species of birds, and over 6,600 species of plants throughout the country.

 

Ethiopia has the second highest population in Africa (after Nigeria), with 83 million people. This population comprises many different ethnic groups, including the Oromo, Amhara, Tigrai, Sidamo and Somali people.

Over 70 different languages are spoken across the country. Amharic/Amharigna is used as the language of communication in many parts of the country and also by the government. Oromifa/Oromigna is the second most widely-spoken language. From secondary-school level upwards, English is used as the language of education.

Because of the country’s complex history, its languages fall across four classification types – Semitic, Cushitic, Omotic and Nilotic.


Very old Christian and Islamic religions

Christianity came to Ethiopia in the fourth century and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church plays an important part in the country’s culture, festivals and visual arts.

Islam was introduced in the seventh century and is now practised by about one-third of Ethiopians, mostly in eastern regions. To reflect the importance of Islam in some areas of the country, major Islamic festivals (such as Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha) are also observed as holidays.

 

Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the oldest in the world. What are believed to be the oldest remains of a human ancestor ever found, which have been dated as being some five million years old, were discovered in the Awash Valley in Ethiopia. This beats the discovery of "Lucy", a 3.2 million year old skeleton, who was unearthed in the same area in 1974.

The Greek historian Herodotus, of the fifth century BC, describes ancient Ethiopia in his writings, while the Bible's Old Testament records the Queen of Sheba's visit to Jerusalem where "she proved Solomon with hard questions". Matters clearly went further than that because legend asserts that King Menelik - the founder of the Ethiopian Empire - was the son of the Queen and Solomon.

Remains of the Queen of Sheba’s palace can still be seen today in Axum, in the province of Tigray, northern Ethiopia. Axum is also home to many other extensive historical sites, including the home of the Ark of the Covenant, brought there from Jerusalem by Menelik.

Missionaries from Egypt and Syria reached Ethiopia in the fourth century and introduced Christianity. In the seventh century, the rise of Islam meant Ethiopia was then isolated from European Christianity. The Portuguese re-established contact with Ethiopia in the 1500s primarily to strengthen their control over the Indian Ocean and to convert Ethiopia to Roman Catholicism. A century of religious conflict followed resulting in the expulsion of all foreign missionaries in the 1630s.

This period of bitter conflict contributed to Ethiopian hostility towards foreign Christians and Europeans which persisted until the twentieth century and was a factor in Ethiopia's isolation until the middle of the nineteenth century.

From the 1700s, for roughly 100 years, there was no central power in Ethiopia. This "Era of the Princes" was characterised by the turmoil caused by local rulers competing against each other. In 1869, however, Emperor Tewodros brought many of the princes together, and was a significant unifying force. He was succeeded by Emperor Yohannes, who built upon the efforts made by Tewodros, as well as beating off invasion attempts by the Dervish and the Sudanese.

Emperor Menelik II reigned from 1889 to 1913, fending off the encroachment of European powers. Italy posed the greatest threat, having begun to colonise part of what would become its future colony of Eritrea in the mid 1880s. In 1896 Ethiopia defeated Italy at the Battle of Adwa, which remains famous today as the first victory of an African nation over a colonial power.

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