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Honeymoon in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a country situated in the Horn of Africa. It is the 2nd-most populous nation in Africa ( after Nigeria ), bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, and Sudan to the west. Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and the second-oldest official Christian nation in the world after Armenia. Ethiopia is also the 10th richest country in Africa.

History

Ethiopia is one of the oldest independent nations in the world. It has long been an intersection between the civilizations of North Africa, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. Unique among African countries, Ethiopia was never colonized, maintaining its independence throughout the Scramble for Africa onward, except for a five-year period (1936-41) when it was under Italian military occupation. During this period, the Italians occupied only a few key cities and major routes, and faced continuing native resistance until they were finally defeated during the Second World War by a joint Ethiopian-British alliance. Ethiopia has long been a member of international organizations: it became a member of the League of Nations, signed the Declaration by United Nations in 1942, founded the UN headquarters in Africa, was one of the 51 original members of the UN, and is the headquarters for and one of the founding members of the former OAU and current AU.

Ethiopia was also historically called Abyssinia, derived from the Arabic form of the Ethiosemitic name modern Habesha. In some countries, Ethiopia is still called by names cognate with "Abyssinia," Turkish Habesistan, meaning land of the Habesha people. The English name "Ethiopia" is thought to be derived from the Greek word Aithiopia, from Aithiops ‘an Ethiopian’, derived from Greek terms meaning "of burnt visage . However, this etymology is disputed, since the Book of Aksum, a Ge'ez chronicle first composed in the 15th century, states that the name is derived from "'Ityopp'is", a son (unmentioned in the Bible) of Cush, son of Ham who according to legend founded the city of Axum.

By Martino's doodles from London, UK (None) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Climate

The predominant climate type is tropical monsoon, with wide topographic-induced variation. As a highland country, Ethiopia has a climate which is generally considerably cooler than other regions at similar proximity to the Equator. Most of the country's major cities are located at elevations of around 2,000-2,500 metres (6,600-8,200 ft) above sea level, including historic capitals such as Gondar and Axum.

The modern capital, Addis Ababa, is situated in the foothills of Mount Entoto at an elevation of around 2,400 m (8,000 ft), and experiences a healthy and pleasant climate year-round. With fairly uniform year-round temperatures, the seasons in Addis Ababa are largely defined by rainfall, with a dry season from Oct-Feb, a light rainy season from Mar-May, and a heavy rainy season from Jun-Sep. The average annual rainfall is around 1200 mm (47 in). There are on average 7 hours of sunshine per day, meaning it is sunny for around 60% of the available time. The dry season is the sunniest time of the year, though even at the height of the rainy season in July and August there are still usually several hours per day of bright sunshine.

By T.Voekler (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The average annual temperature in Addis Ababa is 16°C (61°F), with daily maximum temperatures averaging 20-25°C (68-77°F) throughout the year, and overnight lows averaging 5-10°C (41-50°F). A light jacket is recommended for the evenings, though many Ethiopians prefer to dress conservatively and will wear a light jacket even during the day.

Most major cities and tourist sites in Ethiopia lie at a similar elevation to Addis Ababa and have comparable climates, though in less elevated regions, particularly the lower lying regions in the east of the country, the climate can be significantly hotter and drier. The town of Dallol, in the Danakil Depression in this eastern zone, has the world's highest average annual temperature of 34°C (93°F).

Terrain

High plateau with central mountain range divided by Great Rift Valley

Elevation extremes
lowest point: Denakil Depression -125 m ((-410 ft)
highest point: Ras Dejen 4,620 m (15,157 ft)
Natural hazards
Geologically active Great Rift Valley susceptible to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions; frequent droughts
Geography - note
landlocked - entire coastline along the Red Sea was lost with the de jure independence of Eritrea on 24 May 1993; the Blue Nile, the chief headstream of the Nile, rises in T'ana Hayk (Lake Tana) in northwest Ethiopia; three major crops are believed to have originated in Ethiopia: coffee, grain sorghum, and castor bean.

Time and calendar

Ethiopia uses the Ethiopian calendar, which dates back to the Coptic calendar 25 BC, and never adopted the Julian or Gregorian reforms. One Ethiopian year consists of twelve months, each lasting thirty days, plus a thirteenth month of five or six days (hence the "Thirteen Months of Sunshine" tourism slogan). The Ethiopian new year begins on September 10 or 11 (in the Gregorian calendar), and has accumulated 7-8 years lag behind the Gregorian calendar: thus, for the first nine months of 2007, the year will be 1999 according to the Ethiopian calendar. On 11 September 2007, Ethiopia celebrated New Year's Day (Enkutatesh) for 2000.

In Ethiopia, the 12-hour clock cycles do not begin at midnight and noon, but instead are offset six hours. Thus, Ethiopians refer to midnight (or noon) as 6 o'clock.

Note: Airline timetables are based on the 24-hour clock and use the Gregorian calendar.

By Eileen Delhi from Ottawa, Canada (Assosa Market Women) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Food

Injera is Ethiopia's national dish. Injera is a spongy, tangy tasting bread made from the grain teff, which grows in the highlands of Ethiopia. It is eaten with wot (or wat), the traditional stews made with spices and meat or legumes. Some popular wats: Doro (chicken) wat, Yebeg (lamb) wat and Asa (fish) wat. Another popular dish is Tibbs, spicy beef fried in butter. It can be either really bad (burnt to a crisp and resembling petrified wood) or juicy and delicious in more fancy restaurants. (The Holiday Hotel in Addis serves delicious Tibbs).

The injera sits directly on a large round plate or tray and is covered with wat placed symmetrically around a central item. The various wats are eaten with other pieces of injera, which are served on a side plate. Injera is eaten with the right hand - rip a large piece of injera from the side plate and use it to pick up one of the various flavors of wat on the main platter. Do not eat with your left hand! In Ethiopia food is a respected gift from God and eating with your left hand is a sign of disrespect.

Another popular injera dish is firfir: fried,shredded injera. It can be served with or without meat or with all sorts of veggies.

If you prefer vegetarian foods, try the 'shiro wat' which is a vegetable stew served with injera, most of the times you have to specifically ask for it as it doesn't come with most of the combinations as ethiopians prefer meat.

Kitfo is minced meat, spiced with chili. You can have it raw (the locally preferred way, but there's a risk of getting the tape worm), 'leb-leb' (lightly cooked) or fully cooked. It comes with a local cheese 'ayeb' and a spinach.

For the pickier traveler, almost every place in Ethiopia also serves spaghetti (thanks to the short lived Italian occupation.) In nice restaurants in Addis you can find excellent spaghetti and lasagna (try the Blue Tops or Top View restaurants), and in the more peripheral places you will usually find it overcooked with bland tomato paste as sauce.

Drinking

The coffee ceremony involves drinking a minimum of three cups of coffee and eating popcorn. It is a special honor, or mark of respect to be invited into somebody's home for the coffee ceremony.

In preparation for the ceremony the coffee beans are roasted in a flat pan over charcoal. The beans are then ground using pestle and mortar. The coffee is brewed with water in a clay coffee pot and is considered ready when it starts to boil. Coffee in Ethiopia is served black with sugar.

Tej is a honey wine, similar to mead, that is frequently drunk in bars (in particular, in a tejbeit)

A variety of Ethiopian beers are available, all of which are quite drinkable, also Ethiopian wine - both red and white - which would not win any prizes but are drinkable.

Sleeping

There is a wide range of accommodation in Ethiopia. There is a luxurious Sheraton hotel in Addis Ababa. At the same time, you can find a "hotel" nothing more than a small room with a tiny bed, and no running water in the border town of Moyale.

Staying in tourist areas generally results in a broader range of choices, but watch out for tourist prices. It is acceptable to bargain with the hotel owner, for they usually tend to charge you "faranji" (foreigner) prices at first, which are often twenty times the local rate. You won't be able to bargain down to local prices (close to nothing) but you can bargain down a lot. This is NOT true at the government run "Ghion" chain, and the fancier private chains as well, where prices for foreigners are fixed. (Bekale Mola, for example).

Addis: Addis is full of cheap hotels. Most tourists stay in the piazza area, where there are many hotels ranging from very cheap to moderately cheap. Except for the cheapest most of them have running hot water, and fairly clean. Park Hotel starts at 20 Birr a single and 30 Birr a double. Two big ones are Taitu hotel and Wutma hotel. Also if you want a taste of fame, contact athlete Haile Gebre Selassie's sister Azalitch Gebre Selassie. She arranges a good welcome for guests here in Ethiopia. She arranges accommodation. Her number is +251 911 627898. She is perfectly happy to help out when she is free.

The two biggest hotels in Addis are the Sheraton, referred to by expats as "The Sheza", and the Hilton. Both are enormous. They are also very expensive. Both have swimming pools, good restaurants, souvenir shops and bakeries: the rooms are comfortable. If you cannot afford these two hotels, visit them and chat up the expats (especially at lunch time when they take their break by the pool) and if your accommodation needs to be improved, they might be able to help out. You also could have a glimpse of a rich or famous celebrity or high powered world politician, who are in Addis to do some charity work or to deal with some sort of African politics.

Outside Addis: up north, in every one of the cities (Axum, Lalibella, Bahir Dar, Gondar) one can find hotels overpriced such as the government-run Ghion chain hotels to cheaper ones. But also in smaller places on the major roads offer cheap places if you do not mind the most basic rooms. A tourist town like Debark that serves for trekking the Simien Mountains also offers a range of rooms, with the most popular being the Simien Park Hotel (25/30 Birr), where you could also pitch a tent for 20. It meets the normal standards for food, electricity, water, cleanliness and hygiene.

In the south, all of the cities (Shashemane, Wondo Genet, Awasa, Arba Minch, Jinka...) have decent, cheap hotels. The most basic rooms start at 15 Birr for a single and 20 Birr for a double. Many of them don't have hot water and electricity all hours of the day, so you should schedule time for a shower in advance. There are also three (fairly expensive) resort hotels on the shore of Lake Langano. In the smaller villages in and around the Omo valley (Weyto, Turmi, Key Afar, Dimeka, Konso, etc.) there are usually few (very basic) or no hotels, but if you are travelling through the valley to see the tribes, there is always a campground or a restaurant that offers beds. If you camp out at one of these villages, you should hire a guard to watch over your stuff overnight.

Source: Wikitravel

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