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The name changed to Addis Ababa and became Ethiopia's capital when Menelik II became Emperor of Ethiopia


Even though much of Axum's history is still in semi-darkness, Axum is the capital of the Christianity religion


Bahir Dar is the third largest city in Ethiopia, after Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa, and has a population.....


Gondar previously served as the capital of both the Ethiopian Empire book this 8 days Ethiopia package|....
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In this note you will find useful travel facts, background information and our suggestions, that will help you prepare for and enjoy your travel. In this pre-departure guide we have covered details from currency and visas to suggest reading and responsible travel tips. Please note that things change rapidly in Ethiopia, so you should use this document as a guide containing information which is subject to change.
LOCATION Ethiopia is located in north-eastern Africa, between latitudes 4 and 18 north. It is a ruggedly mountainous country, covering 1,251,282 km. It is surrounded by Kenya, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Djibouti.
The capital city is Addis Ababa.
Prior to 1974, Ethiopia's government was more of a feudal empire, headed by His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie, who was overthrown and killed in the 1974 revolution, whereupon a military dictatorship known as the "Derg" (committee) was installed. In 1987 a leader of the Derg, Mengistu Haile Maryam, established the Workers' Party and a new constitution, making Ethiopia a one-party republic with himself as the formal President. He was ousted in 1991 by two rebel movements and a transitional government was installed. The transitional government, made up of an 87-seat Council of Representatives lead by chairman Meles Zenawi, established a new constitution and a more democratic and federal form of government. The new constitution (1994), decentralized the government, and subsequently the country has been divided into eight regions and three city-states, with borders based on ethno-linguistic lines. The regions are guaranteed political autonomy in most aspects of internal government, while the central government is responsible for national and international affairs and policies.

Ethiopia was among the first independent nations to sign the Charter of the United Nations, and it gave moral and material support to the decolonization of Africa and to the growth of Pan-African cooperation. These efforts culminated in the establishment of the Organization of African Unity and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, both of which have their headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Its territorial extent has varied over the millennia of its existence. In ancient times it remained centered around Aksum, an imperial capital located in the northern part of the modern state, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the Red Sea coast. The present territory was consolidated during the 19th and 20th centuries as European powers encroached into Ethiopia's historical domain. Ethiopia became prominent in modern world affairs first in 1896, when it defeated colonial Italy in the Battle of Adwa, and again in 1935-36, when it was invaded and occupied by fascist Italy. Liberation during World War II by the Allied powers set the stage for Ethiopia to play a more prominent role in world affairs.

Unique Ceremonies, Festival and Rituals: There are many great national and local holidays and celebrations throughout the year and all over the country. Every one of the 54,000 parish Churches and the 800 monasteries of the Orthodox Tewahido Church all have at least one minor monthly and one major annual festival.
These may share origins with Christian, Moslem and tribal festivals elsewhere in the world, but have unique indigenous characteristics in Ethiopia.

January 7 - Christmas
January 19 - Timkat (Epiphany)
February 8 (date varies) - Ramadan
March 2 - Battle of Adwa
April 17 - Il Al Adha (Arefa)
April 25 (date varies) - Ethiopian Good Friday
April 27 (date varies) - Ethiopian Easter
May 1 - Labor Day
May 5 - Ethiopian Patriots' Victory Day
May 28 - National Holiday (Downfall of the Derg)
July 17 (date varies) - Birth of the Prophet Mohammed
September 11 - Ethiopian New Year
September 27 - Maskal Day (Finding of the True Cross)

The main airport, with international connections to most parts of the world, is Bole Airport, just 8km from the center of Addis Ababa. Domestic services fly to all regions and most tourist sites.
Entry Requirements A valid passport is required by all visitors and a visa is required for all foreign visitors, except for citizens of Kenya, Djibouti, Sudan .Visas may be obtained by application to the nearest Ethiopian diplomatic
Visas are also available upon arrival at the Bole International Airport in Ethiopia (for citizens of the USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, China, Japan, Korea, Israel, Kuwait, Russia, the UK and most other European Union nations). Please bring with you $20.00 in cash. If you opt for this method, application forms will be handed out to you on your international flight. You must complete these and take them to the counter to pay and get the visa stamped into your passport. You then proceed to baggage claim.

If you intend to get your visa on arrival please ensure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months from your date of entry to Ethiopia and that you have at least 2 blank pages (both sides) per country to be visited.

Photocopy of picture page of passport showing number, etc. Keep this in a separate place in your baggage. If for any reason you lose your passport, this will expedite the process of replacing it enormously.
On the plane you will be given an Arrival Card to complete. After going through Immigration, you will collect your baggage and pass through Customs. Personal effects are admitted free, and a duty-free allowance of 1 liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes and X liter of perfume is permitted. If you have a computer, video camera or major electrical equipment you will need to declare them. You will also be expected to have those with you when you leave.
Flights within Ethiopia
Ethiopian Airlines operates an extensive and generally efficient and reliable domestic air service, but cancellations and delays do occur. Traveling by road allows visitors to experience Ethiopia's wonderful scenery, but road conditions are generally poor, and mountainous topography in the north will cut speed. The hour flight to Lalibela for example takes nearly two days by road.

Baggage weight restrictions within Ethiopia:
On all light aircraft domestic flights within Ethiopia the baggage weight allowance is 20 kgs per person including camera equipment and hand luggage. Flights to more remote areas, such as Gambella, may still impose a 10 kg limit depending on the plane being used. Only soft bags (no hard suitcases can be transported as they physically cannot fit into the aircraft) will be accepted and no excess baggage is allowed. Ethiopian Airlines does perform luggage and body searches. If you are carrying anything that could be perceived an antiquity, it will be confiscated, unless you produce a receipt.

The local currency is the birr. Notes are printed in denominations of birr 100, 50, 10, 5, and 1; and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 cent coins are minted. The birr is one of the strongest currencies in Africa. In general, the currency is not available outside of Ethiopia. The rate of exchange fluctuates moderately.

Traveler's Checks are not easily cashed outside of the larger cities, and many smaller towns have no bank at all. We would be remiss to not warn you that there is no way to replace Cash if it is lost or stolen. If you are carrying US dollars, bring plenty of 10's and 5's as they are needed for tipping and change is not always possible to get. In addition, whether you decide to bring Cash or Traveler's Checks, it is advisable to take small denominations and exchange only small amounts of money at a time. It is a very complicated and time-consuming exercise to change birr back to a hard currency so this should be avoided if at all possible, especially as US Dollars are accepted as readily as birr. In order to change birr back to dollars on leaving the country, visitors will be asked to produce bank receipts so if you think you might need to change money back please be sure to keep your bank receipts.

Credit cards are accepted in certain hotels and lodges and some shops. Be sure to ask if a commission is being added to your total.

Monday - Friday: 08:00 AM- 03:00 PM; not closed during lunch hours.
Saturday: 08:00 AM- 03:00 PM;
The Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) at the Bole Airport is open every day of the week.

Ethiopia is 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, 8 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, and 11 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time. Relatively close to the equator; there is an almost constant twelve hours of daylight. In Addis Ababa, the sunrise and sunset start at around 6:30am and 6:45pm respectively. Apart from a different calendar Ethiopia reckons the day in two 12 hour cycles (as in much of East Africa). Therefore midday could be 6 o'clock.

Lying between the Equator and the Tropic of cancer, Ethiopia's seasons are reversed: spring begins in September; summer runs from January to the middle of March. The first rainy season lasts from February to April; a more substantial rainy season lasts from June to September. The average rainfall between June and August is 39 inches, while the northeast and eastern plains receive less than 19 inches. The average rainfall in Addis Ababa is 49 inches.

The major portion of the country consists of a high plateau, which gives Ethiopia its mild, sunny climate. There are months of guaranteed sunshine, yet the altitude keeps the climate pleasant with upland temperatures rarely rising above 77 degrees Fahrenheit nor falling below 45 degrees. In Addis, the average temperature consistently remains around 59 Degrees throughout the year; however, you should not underestimate the intensity of the equatorial sun- it is essential to bring plenty of sunscreen, sun glasses and a hat.

While clothing will depend on the time of the year, it is best to remember that Ethiopians are fairly conservative in their dress, suits and ties being standard in offices. For tourists light cotton clothing with sunglasses and a hat will be required in the warm lowlands, while in the highlands light or medium-weight clothing is appropriate. During the rainy season a light raincoat and umbrella are essential, and a sweater is best for chilly evenings. The sun can be very strong in high altitudes, so a strong sunscreen is important.
Shoes must always be removed before entering churches and mosques-for getting around sites like Lalibela with its many churches airline socks are very useful. Dress is less conservative in Addis Ababa, where most people dress in Western fashion.
Because of its elevation, temperature rarely exceed 25C (80F) in most of the country, although in some of the lower lying areas (Awash, Omo and Mago parks) it can get considerably hotter, 90F - 95F. Pack light clothes for the daytime and a jacket or sweater for the evenings. A good pair of comfortable walking shoes is advisable.


Ethiopia has a good internal and international post service, which celebrated its centennial in 1994. Mail between Addis Ababa and most of Europe takes approximately one week, but it can take longer (2 weeks to a month) to reach elsewhere in the world. International postage rates in Ethiopia tend to be significantly less than elsewhere in Africa.

There are telecommunications centers in most towns, as well as functional phone booths. Ethiopia's telephone service is decent; however, expect to wait 10 minutes to an hour for your call to be placed. International phone rates are inexpensive from Ethiopia.

Internet and email
Reliable internet cafes are located throughout Addis Ababa and major cities outside of the capital. Elsewhere in the country, internet usage and access is rare, and slow..

Recognition of traditional courtesies is important when visiting another country. While Ethiopians are well aware of the form in other countries, they tend to be conservative at home. A handshake greeting is normal, with a pleasant discussion on personal matters before getting down to business. The offer of tea or coffee is normal, and time is not that important. Smoking is not popular amongst traditional people, or in front of priests.
Remember that you are a "guest" of the country and we encourage trip members to respect the indigenous cultures and customs. Also we want to underscore that trip members should respect the privacy of individuals (especially when taking photographs) and not make promises unless they fully intend to fulfill their obligation. In the same vein, bargaining is a serious matter in most countries and it is really not fair to bargain unless there is a genuine interest in buying. For example, if you are not interested in buying something then simply say "No" because in many places "Maybe" means "Yes".

85% of the population get their livelihood from the land. Coffee (the word originates from the name of the province Kaffa, in the south west of Ethiopia) provides 65% of foreign currency earnings.
The opening up of the economy since the overthrow of the previous government in 1991 has created more favorable grounds for development of Ethiopia's resources.
Ethiopia is the "water tower" of the region (the Blue Nile contributes to 85% of the main Nile flow) and plans are now in progress to better exploit the country's water resources both to boost agricultural production and for power generation.
Mineral exploration and mining has stepped up in recent years-there are reserves of natural gas, coal, Gold, copper, tantalum, potash, zinc, iron ore, marble, precious and semi-precious stones.
The export of livestock, skins and hides (Ethiopia has the largest domestic livestock population in Africa) oilseeds, pulses and animal feed makes up the rest of Ethiopia's foreign currency earnings, with tourism set to make an increasingly important contribution.
As a result of the 1998-2000 Ethiopian-Eritrean war, development of services and infrastructure suffered, as did foreign investment. Landlocked Ethiopia now uses the ports of Djibouti, connected to Addis Ababa by rail, and to a lesser extent, Port Sudan in Sudan. Of the 23,812 kilometers of Ethiopia's all-weather roads, only 15% are asphalt. Mountainous terrain and the lack of good roads and sufficient vehicles make land transportation difficult. However, the government-owned airline is excellent. Ethiopian Airlines has 42 international destinations, and is one of the largest airlines in Africa.

Electricity in Ethiopia is 220 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. If you travel to Ethiopia with a device that does not accept 220 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter. Outlets in Ethiopia generally accept 2 types of plug: Three round pins arranged in a triangle, or two round pins. If your appliances plug has a different shape, you will need a plug adapter.

Please be aware that the electricity service can be erratic. You should always travel with a flashlight and spare batteries, and do not rely on an electric razor or hairdryer.


Ethiopia's land is dramatic, with altitudes ranging from the lowest point on the continent of Africa (the Denakil Depression at 125 meters below sea level), to the fourth highest peak in Africa (Ras Dashan at 4533 meters). Thus, the ecosystems of Ethiopia are diverse and varied, ranging from arid badlands to extensive indigenous rainforests. 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 number of mammal species present in Ethiopia is not comparable to countries like Kenya and Tanzania; populations are generally lower and they tend to congregate in the most remote areas. The lakes in the Great Rift Valley region abound with numerous species of birds. The birds in Ethiopia are abundant, with over 800 species including 16 endemics as well as Palaearctic migrants and residents that are rare further south in Africa.

Most of Africa's predators have become endangered. This is a result of limited space in the farmer's constant search for agricultural and grazing lands. It almost goes without saying that you should not collect or purchase any items made from endangered plant or animal species.

Addis Ababa has three 5 star hotels: the Hilton, Sheraton and Radisson Blu Hotel-and a growing number of tourist class hotels.
Standards vary outside the capital (the hotels in the north are generally better than those in the south), but apart from the Omo and Mago areas where camping is unavoidable it is generally possible to get relatively clean rooms with en suite toilet and shower.

A traditional Ethiopian meal involves a gathering of people, who eat together from one large circular plate. The choice morsels of meat are placed in front of the guests. Guests wait to consume the meat until they have first filled up on injera and sauce. The most common meat eaten is beef (cooked, dry or raw). Mutton is eaten in the high altitudes, while camel and goat are eaten in the lower altitudes. Cooked and dried fish is also consumed in the coastal regions. Along with the traditional Ethiopian meal, one would typically drink either t'ej, a type of honey wine, or a local beer called t'ella. Ethiopia produces its own wines: Dukam and Gouder are dry reds; Crystal is a dry white; and Axumite is a sweet red.

You eat with your right hand, and you should wash your hands ahead of time. Typically, a jug of water and a bar of soap are brought to you for that purpose.

Some local specialties of Ethiopia are:

Injera: a flat, sourdough pancake made of the indigenous grain called t'ef, is the country staple. The injera is typically served with either meat or vegetable sauces. To eat it, you tear off a bit of injera and use it to pick up pieces of meat or to mop up the sauce.

T'ef: a grain containing 2-3 times the iron of wheat or barley. The calcium, potassium and other essential minerals are also many times what would be found in an equal amount of other grains. T'ef is the only grain to have symbiotic yeast. Like grapes, the yeast is on the grain, so no yeast is added in the preparation of injera. T'ef is milled into flour and made into a batter. The batter is allowed to sit so the yeast can become active. When the batter is ready, it is poured on a large, flat oven and allowed to cook.
Berbere: the blend of spices that gives Ethiopian food its characteristic taste, can be quite hot. A popular food called wot is a hot spicy pepper sauce, which is eaten with basic ingredients like vegetables, meat and chicken. Kotcho, another popular food, is a pancake made of "ensete" stem and root.
Vegetarians should try "fasting food" (for devout Ethiopian Orthodox Christians fast days make up nearly half the year), a colorful spread of Salads, vegetables and pulses, devoid of all meat and animal products.
The food served at hotels, lodges and tented camps is almost exclusively continental cuisine, and universally ample and healthy.
Everything being so completely different from what you are used to, can sometimes be as daunting as it is fascinating. Trying Ethiopian national foods and drinks may be a case in point.

Ethiopia supports a diverse mix of linguistic groups. Amharic is the official language, while English, French and Italian are widely spoken, especially in business and academic circles. There are over 80 different languages with 200 dialects spoken around the country. The many languages can be broken down into four main groups: Semitic, Hametic, Omotic and Nilo-Saharan.

The Semitic languages are related to both Hebrew and Arabic. They are mostly spoken in the Northern and Central parts of the country. The principal Semitic language is Amharic. The Hametic languages are found mainly in the East, West, and South. Of this group, Oromiffa is the predominant language. The Omotic languages are spoken in the Southwest and have been given that name in recent years because they are spoken in the general area of the Omo River. Finally, the Nilo-Saharan languages are spoken in a wide area along the Sudan frontier.

Some of the written languages use the Ge'ez alphabet, the language of the ancient Axumite kingdom. In fact, Ge'ez is the only indigenous written language in all of Africa. Today some of the written languages in Ethiopia are using the Latin alphabet.

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. It is now 2001 in the Ethiopian calendar.

It is not only its calendar that differentiates Ethiopia from its neighbors. Ethiopia is the only civilization on the continent with its own alphabet, chronology and calendar system and religious art.

Ethiopia prides itself for having its own lexicon of knowledge, especially in such celestial matters like astronomy, cosmology, mystical theology and the art of healing. These come, of course, with their own strongly distinctive symbols, arts and crafts and decor.

Ethiopia today possesses some 250,000 ancient books on parchment; some nearly 1000 years old (e.g. Ritu Haimanot from Narga in Lake Tana). Among them are very important works that Ethiopia shares with other traditions but copies of which were found only in the country's ancient liturgical language, Ge'ez': The Book of Enoch is a good example.

Ethiopia's unique character, its "Ethiopianess", makes it a fascinating destination. There are more than 80 ethnic groups and as many languages.
A proud, ancient and living history Ethiopia has the most extensive historic sites in Sub - Saharan Africa. Experts estimate that perhaps as little as 5% of the total has so far been discovered and excavated. The oldest hominid remains (Australopithecus ramidus, a new species, 4.4 million years old) were found here.

Some 1600 years before his counterparts in Europe, Ethiopian Saint Yared devised a musical notation in the 6th century for his stupendous repertoire of sacred music with finely choreographed sacred dance to go with it.

To this day, highland Ethiopian secular music and dances are based on Yared's legacy. The most common folk dance, the esskista has basic elements running through the traditional dances of all the various highland peoples. Mostly based on shaking shoulders, its combination of the religious, fetish and sensuous is as confusing as it is fascinating. The somersaults of the Welaita and the coquettish theatrics of the Omo people are in sharp contrast to this.

It has been ascertained that the gold with a platinum content used in Tutankhamen's statue could have only come from either Ethiopia or South Africa. Indeed, the legendary King Solomon's mines may have their origins in the Horn of Africa.
The oldest traditional gold mine in the world is supposed to be in the Nejo area of Western Ethiopia. The Dorze people of the Omo Basin still carry out the ancient iron working industry by melting iron from iron ore.

Though you will find Ethiopia to be rich in spirit and culture, in an economic sense it is far from that. We ask you not to give money, candy or gifts indiscriminately to children as this encourages begging. If you wish to do something for the children you meet, we suggest you bring pencils, pens, crayons, erasers, simple English books, "magic slates" etc. and give them to your guide who will distribute them to local schools where they will be much appreciated and of greater overall benefit to the community.

Gift articles
When it comes to shopping for rare gift articles and genuine souvenirs from Ethiopia there is an amazing selection of religious icons, crosses, antique jewelry of various metals, gold and silver jewellery, leather goods of all kinds and pure cotton textiles to choose from.

Ethiopia's population is thought to be nearly 82 million people. There are more than 78 ethnic groups in Ethiopia, with 69% of them found in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' State. The highest population percentages (according to the 1994 census) are Oromo, 32%; Amhara, 30%; Tigray, 6%; Somali, 6%; Guragie, 4%; Sidama, 3%; Wolaita, 2%; Afar, 2%; Hadiya, 2%; and Gamo, 1%.

For most photographers, lenses in the range of 135-300 mm are perfectly adequate, together with a good supply of 200 - 400 ASA film. Whatever you decide to bring, please make sure you have a decent bag which will protect your gear from the elements.

Ethiopia on the whole is fairly relaxed about photography, and apart from a few museums and sensitive government and military installations, you can photograph virtually everything. However, please note that flashes damage artifacts. Except in general street and market scenes, it is not appropriate to photograph people without permission. As a matter of courtesy, permission should be sought before photographing individuals and in many parts of the country, particularly among the Afar and among the ethnic groups living by the Omo River, people will demand a fee. In some sites (Blue Nile falls for example) there is a charge for video photography. Most will agree for a small payment (birr 5 is an accepted "fee"). Please respect the privacy of the local people, especially in remote areas, and do not intrude unduly with your camera. Use discretion and you should return with some marvelous photographs.

For security reasons, do not take pictures of military installations and personnel, airports, aircraft, bridges and government buildings.

Airport X-ray machines in Africa are not always "film-safe" so it is best to carry film separately and ask for it to be hand-checked, or store it in an X-ray resistant bag.

A good pair of binoculars is essential, particularly for bird watching.

The predominant religions in Ethiopia are Ethiopian Orthodox (or Monophysite Christianity) and Islam. Other religions that are also practiced include Judaism and Animism. The Animist faith is found mainly in southern regions of Ethiopia. Further south in Somali and surrounding areas, Islam is practiced. Christianity is more common in the northern and central parts of Ethiopia, where Judaism and Islam can be found as well.
HEALTH AND MEDICAL While both doctors and dentists are available throughout many areas of the Country, the major hospitals are located in the main towns. We recommend that visitors bring sufficient supplies of any drugs that they need regularly. A valid vaccination certificates against yellow fever, and vaccinations against hepatitis is recommended.
Malaria: in many sites malaria is not a problem because of the elevation - this is true of Axum, Gondar and Lalibela for example, but it can occur in Bahir Dar at the end of the rainy season and after unseasonable rains. Chloroquine resistant strains have been identified in some areas so you should consult your doctor about the prescription. Alternatively, you can keep mosquitoes and other insects at bay with repellent creams and sprays. (Climatic changes and phenomena such as el-Nino has meant the appearance of Malaria at unseasonable times, and its spread to areas previously malaria free)
Visitors should take a simple first aid pack, which would include: different size plasters, antiseptic cream, anti-histamine cream and/or tablets for insect bites, sun barrier cream (while temperatures are moderate the sun is strong) and anti diarrhea tablets such as Imodium for emergencies (they will not cure the problem but will control the symptoms). Generally, visitors should take out standard holiday health insurance in their home countries.
Ethiopia is generally a very safe country; however, casual theft and pick-pocketing are fairly commonplace in parts of the country. As a precaution, we recommend a lightweight passport pouch that can be worn under your clothing, either around your neck or waist. The pouch should hold only your passport, air tickets, a credit card and most of your travelers' checks. Be alert when in the cities, police are obvious in their uniforms.


In medium to large towns, you will find stationary shops, good pharmacies, music shops and general stores. Even in small towns you will find kiosks selling items such as batteries, pens, paper, soap, biscuits and bottled drinks. Most towns and villages have markets. In larger towns these will be open daily, but the main market day throughout the country is Saturday. Buying from markets rather than shops puts money directly into the hands of the local community.

Many antiques cannot be exported and may be confiscated if found in airport searches. The National Museum in Addis Ababa can issue a clearance certificate.

Some unique items to buy:
-Hand woven silk and cotton textiles
-Hand- made wooden furniture
-Gold, silver

Consular Information Sheet

Africa Guide: Ethiopia

Travellers' Reports on Ethiopia [Lonely Planet]

Ethiopia [Ethnologue Database]

Ethiopia [INCORE Internet Country Guides]

Ethiopia [Visible Earth]

The Addis Tribune Home Page

Ethiopia [Foreign Affairs Canada]

Embassy of Ethiopia

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Resource for determining correct times anywhere in the world:

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