Ethiopia, situated in the Horn of Africa, is the second-most populous nation in Africa (after Nigeria) with over 90 million inhabitants. With no coast, Ethiopia is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, and Sudan and South Sudan to the west.
It is the oldest independent country in Africa and the second oldest official Christian nation in the world after Armenia. Ethiopia is also the place for the first Hijra (615 AD) in Islamic history, where the Christian king of Ethiopia accepted the Prophet Mohammed’s first followers who fled persecution in Mecca.
Ethiopia has a proud and rich history. The Old Testament of the Bible records the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Jerusalem and that King Solomon was the father of her son, King Menelik the first. Menelik was the first emperor of Ethiopia. Ethiopia remains the only African country that was never colonized, except for five years (1936-41) of Italian military occupation. Ethiopia is a founding member of the United Nations and home to the African Union’s headquarters. The find in 1974 of a 3.2 million-year-old fossilized “Australopithecus afarensis” nicknamed “Lucy” (in Amharic “Dinkinesh”), was followed by more finds of hominoids dating back as far as 7 million years ago.
In 1974, at the end of Haile Selassie’s reign, power fell to a communist military junta known as the Derg, backed by the Soviet Union until the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The Derg was defeated by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which has ruled since that time. In the last 10 years, the country’s economic growth rate has been 10% per annum and Ethiopia is now the largest economy (by GDP) in East Africa and Central Africa. Currently at 173/187 on the Human Development Index – a composite measure of prosperity – Ethiopia is set to become a middle income country by 2025.
Addis Ababa, the capital, is situated in the foothills of Mount Entoto at an elevation of 2,400m (8,000’). With fairly uniform year-round temperatures, there is a dry season from October to February, and a heavy rainy season from July to September. On average, there are 7 hours of sunshine each day. The Ethiopian calendar dates back to 25 BC and has 13 months – hence their tourist slogan “13 months of sunshine.”
Both geographically and culturally, Ethiopia is a diverse land. The central part of the country is a high plateau, with a mountain range and divided by the Great Rift Valley, arid low lands in the east and lush riverine lowlands in the westernmost parts. Three major crops are believed to have originated in Ethiopia: coffee, grain sorghum, and castor bean. Teff is also a grain that came from Ethiopia. It is a country of outstanding beauty and a generous hospitable people.
There are 90 languages spoken, and more than 200 dialects. Amharic is recognized as the official working language of the Federal Government. The various regions of Ethiopia are free to determine their own working languages, with Oromiffa, Somali and Tigrinya recognized as official working languages in their respective regions.