camels in an ethiopian desert

10 Surprising Facts About Ethiopia

camels in an ethiopian desert

Ethiopia is a landlocked country found in the Horn of Africa. It’s a place that’s rich in history with paleontological evidence suggesting that the first humans have lived there. After all, this is a country that’s filled with many origins.

For more captivating images from Ethiopia and other parts of Africa check out Jason Clendenen Photography!

 So, what are some of the things that make this country so attractive?

1. Injera (Ethiopian Flatbread)

Although Injera can’t be said to be a dish in itself, it’s the surest path to every meal. Why so? Well, most Ethiopians eat with their bare hands. So, when meals are served, there is usually no silverware around.

Injera is normally used to scoop every type of food. You can take it with meat, collard greens, beans, and everything else.  You can also take it with your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The slightly sour pancake has a spongy texture, it’s the foundation of all the Ethiopian meals.

2. Its Heaven for Vegetarians

People often say that healthy dishes are usually not as delicious, but tasty dishes are often extremely unhealthy. 

Fortunately, Ethiopian cuisine is both healthy and delicious. Because of all this, one might be tempted to think that Ethiopian cuisine is mainly made of meat and other delicacies. However, their diverse cuisine is often from vegetable type ingredients.

Most restaurants and hotels have a variety of vegan stews. Don’t forget that injera itself is vegan. Besides that, Berbere is the staple type of seasoning blend that’s vegan-friendly. It is also worth noting that most meals are accompanied by salad.

Note: Most Ethiopians follow a strict Orthodox religion. This means that they are prohibited from eating all forms of animal products on Wednesdays and Fridays. These two days are usually labeled as fasting days.

Related: 10 African Indigenous Tribes that Still Maintain Their Ancestral Culture

3. They Have a 13-Month Calendar

The world calendar has a total of 12 months only. This is the Gregorian calendar that billions of people worldwide tend to use. It’s considered the “official” world calendar. However, Ethiopia doesn’t use this type of calendar.

For more photos like this, visit Jason Clenden Photography!

The Ethiopian calendar has a total of 13 months. It’s also called the Eritrean calendar, and it’s used by Orthodox Christians. This means that they are 7-8 years behind. By the end of 2019, they will be in 2012.  

Out of the 13 months, 12 months have 30 days. The last month is known as the Pagume, and it has five days. However, Pagume has six days during the leap year. Generally, they celebrate important holidays separately from the rest of the world. 

For instance, the New Year is usually on September 11 and unlike the rest of the world, which celebrates it on January 1.

Note: although this ancient calendar is still in use, it doesn’t mean that travelers passing through this country will experience inconveniences. In fact, they are aware of the modern calendar, and in most instances, they interchangeably use both calendars.

4. Highly Diverse Landscape

Ethiopia’s landscape is exceptionally diverse. The broad topographical range was generated by the erosive, compressive, and tectonic forces. 

For more photos like this, visit Jason Clenden Photography!

For example, the central region would feature the Mandebo and Choke Mountains. The southern side has tropical forests, while a desert characterizes the eastern border.

You will come across beautiful lush vegetation and green plains. The Danakil Depression looks desolate but captivating while the rift Valley carefully bisects through the highlands. The ever-changing beautiful landscape makes this country alluring. It’s actually one of the many reasons why tourists visit Ethiopia.

Related: 10 Most Spoken Languages in Africa

5. The First African to Win Olympics Gold Was from Ethiopia

Abebe Bikila was the first African to win gold in the Olympics. The Ethiopian won the gold after running barefoot in 1960 in Rome. Bikila decided to run barefoot because the shoes he had bought in Rome couldn’t fit him.

Additionally, he was also selected at the last minute after the athlete got injured. After securing his first major win, Bikila won another Olympic gold medal in Tokyo in 1964. Thus, he set a new world record of being the first person to win the Olympic Marathon twice.

6.  Addis Ababa is a Massive Metropolitan Region

Being the largest city in this country, Addis is also Ethiopia’s financial center. It has more than 4.5 million metro-residents, which means it’s a big metropolis. This city is unexpectedly huge. If you are visiting this country for the first time, then you would be surprised by how it has sprawled out.

For starters, one of the latest additional features is the new train line. The most amazing thing is that it centrally runs through the city. This train line features two separate lines connecting the south and north. There is also the west and east intersection at the Meskel Square.

Note: much of Addis is still at the development stage. However, the city is extensive and features new skyscrapers. Multiple projects are still being set up while others are nearing completion. With this kind of growth, Addis is expected to be a major hub not only in East Africa but the whole continent.

7.  It’s Home to Nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Over the years, this country has successfully maintained its culture. Even with constant changes in time, the landmarks and various cultural heritages have been successfully maintained. The outstanding African country now has a total of 9 UNESCO world heritage sites. 

Related: 8 Best Places to go in Africa and What to Do There

They include:

Hara Jugol

This is a historic fortified town that’s surrounded by deserts and savannah. Hara Jugol was previously considered the holiest Islamic city. You can find a collection of vital Islamic monuments. They include more than 100 shrines and around 82 mosques.

Lower Valley of the Awash

It’s considered an important historical site in human history. It has paleontological evidence dating over 4 million years ago.

Lalibela Rock-Hewn Churches

it’s sometimes referred to as the New Jerusalem. This is a breathtaking sight that features 11 cave churches.

Fasil Ghebbi

It features a fortified compound and other sites such as the palace, church, and monastery. This property was an established city during the reign of King Fasil in the seventeenth century.


this is an ancient city that is of cultural importance to Ethiopians. It consists of massive stelae, ruins of the ancient castle, royal tombs, and monolithic obelisks.

Konso cultural landscape

The arid stone-walled property features fortified settlements and terraces. This is a historic property that highlights the previous human style of living and settlements.

8. It’s Home for the Rastafarian Movement

The origins of the Rastafarian movement has its roots in Ethiopia. It only evolved when it reached Jamaica. There are about a million Rastafarians globally, but most of them are in Jamaica. So, Ethiopia is, in fact, the birthplace of this spiritual movement.

Note that the term Rastafari comes from the word “Ras” that refers to the Ethiopian Amharic Royalty. On the other hand, “Tafari” was the name of Emperor Haile Selassie I.

Well, if you need more evidence regarding this, then you need to check out the Ethiopian flag. Compare it to the Rastafarian colors. Can you see any similarities?

9. Numerous Colorful Festivals

Ethiopia is a nation that’s filled with numerous festivals throughout the year. These events are usually colorful and vibrant with life. Most of them are religious, and they  happen for a couple of days. Examples include Easter, Timkat, Meskel, and Christmas, among others.

Timkat is the most significant religious festival, and it takes place for three days. This event is annually honored to mark Jesus’ baptism in River Jordan. There is also New Year’s celebration in September, and it also marks the end beginning of spring.

Related: 8 Powerful Photos That Tell a Story

10.  Coffee Was First Discovered Here

It’s not exactly clear when coffee was discovered, but this drink has its roots back to Ethiopia. Evidence suggests that coffee was first used in this country. From there, it moved to other parts of the world via migration and the slave trade.

It is said that a goat herder in the 9th century first noticed that his animals would become energized after eating leaves and fruits from a particular bush. From there, he decided to chew the fruits from the bush.

Legends have shown that he took the fruits to a monk who then threw them in the fire. Because it produced an attractive aroma, the other monks decided to dissolve the fruits in hot water. And this is how the first cup of coffee was produced.

Related: How to Take Great Pictures of Animals

In Conclusion

Ethiopia is an exciting country with fascinating facts. From the culture, time zone, landscapes, to its inhabitants, it’s indeed one of the most intriguing places in the world. 

Ethiopia is rapidly growing and evolving, but one thing remains clear, is that it remains one of the most captivating and unique places to travel.

Looking to see more of Africa? Visit Jason Clendenen Photography!

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