Lets find out some facts about this unique country – and some of them might surprise you!
Ethiopia is home to the lowest place on the African continent, the Danakil Depression.
The depression is at the junction of three tectonic plates in the Horn of Africa, and sits at approximately 125 metres below sea level. At 200 kilometres long by 50 metres wide, this relatively small desert is also home to roughly 25% of Africa’s volcanoes!
Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression is the hottest place on Earth.
The average year-round temperature is 34.4 degrees Celsius making it the hottest place on Earth. On top of that, it is also extremely dry, receiving between just 100 and 200mm of rain per year. Despite these extreme conditions, it’s often referred to as the cradle of humanity, with many ancient hominin fossils having been found here over the years.
They run on their own calendar
Like a number of other cultures and countries around the world, Ethiopia runs on its own calendar. We won’t get into the nitty gritty details of it, but essentially its calendar has 13 months in the year, meaning at the moment they are technically in the year 2012. Let’s hope when they get to 2020 they have a better year than us!
And they run on their own time!
Not only is the calendar different to ours, they also use their own clock. In a system that really makes perfect sense, the day starts when the sun rises. 1 o’clock is sun rise, and 12 o’clock is sunset, then they have a 12 hour night clock as well. When someone tells you the time when you’re there, just make sure you check if its Ethiopian time or Western time!
It was the birthplace of coffee!
There are many legends about the origins of coffee, but it is thought that its heritage can actually be traced back to a goat herder on the Ethiopian plateau. The legend goes that the herder noticed his goats had an affinity for the berries from a certain tree, and that when they had eaten them they were so energetic they couldn’t sleep at night. After experimenting with turning the berries into a drink at his local monastery, he found it kept him alert through the long hours of the evening prayer. The drink was shared with monks at the monastery and from these humble beginnings, the coffee industry exploded. It is now estimated that 500 billion cups of coffee are drunk each year, and we are forever grateful to that goat herder!
Ethiopian man, Abebe Bikila, was the first black African to win gold at the Olympics!
The odds were against Abebe Bikila when he participated in the marathon at the 1960 Olympics. He only made it into the team because another athlete had broken their foot, and then chose to run the marathon barefoot as his new shoes were giving him blisters. Despite that, he managed to win the race in world record time, and also went on to win in 1964 as well. He has a pretty incredible story so if you’ve got some time, definitely look it up.
Addis Ababa is the highest capital city in Africa
Located in the highlands bordering the Great Rift Valley, the capital city of Addis Ababa sits at 2,355 metres above sea level – the highest in Africa. This sprawling city is also the fourth largest on the continent and is one of the best places to sample the delicious Ethiopian cuisine.
You’ll find lots of vegetarian cuisine in Ethiopia
We touched on it in our previous point, but the food in Ethiopia is delish, and it’s also a great place to visit if you’re a vegetarian. Many Ethiopians follow an Orthodox Christianity religion which prohibits eating any animal products on Wednesday and Friday, which means you’ll almost always find vegetarian dishes on the menu. The base of just about every Ethiopian meal is a delicious pancake-like bread called injera, which you’ll find mounded with tasty stews and curries.
Ethiopian food by Dion Hinchcliffe
Ethiopia was never colonised by the Europeans
Ethiopia is one of just two African countries that are considered to have never been colonised. That being said, Italy did occupy the country between 1936-1941, however the Ethiopians continued to fight back, and the country was never fully under Italian control. The turning point of the campaign was the start of World War II. England chose to come to the aid of Ethiopia and after beginning their attack, had retaken Addis Ababa within three months.
Over 80 languages are spoken in the country
Ethiopia has upwards of 80 languages spoken across its regions, and as of 2020 it even has five official working languages: Amharic, Afaan Oromo, Tigrinya, Somali and Afar. English is the most commonly spoken foreign language, and University classes are all taught in English.