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Ethiopia is a large country both in terms of population and geographical area. It experienced no protracted period of colonial rule, although it was partly occupied by the Italians for six years from 1935. It emerged from a disastrous revolutionary part-Marxist period under a military regime (1974-1991), which followed the fall of Haile Selassie. The country experienced wide-scale human rights abuse and intense economic hardship, including acute famine in 1984-1985.
Visits to many parts of the country were not possible and permits, issued by an infuriatingly obstructive and inefficient bureaucracy, were required for travel outside the capital. Happily this is now all in the past and travellers seeing the countryside, people, culture, wildlife and historical sites for the first time are astonished by their richness and diversity.Read more
Ethiopia has a unique atmosphere. The people have a distinctive appearance, partly like their neighbours in the Middle East and partly like the rest of Africa. However, some 50% are Christian and the influence of the church is considerable. Ethiopia has its own written language, Amharic, and traditions in literature, dress, dance and music have flourished in the relative isolation provided by their mountainous territory.
Major attractions are the ancient cities of Gondar, Axum and Harar, and these have all retained the atmosphere of their historical backgrounds. There are some extraordinary churches hewn from rock in Lalibela. The Historic Route (Bahar Dar, Gondar, Axum, Lalibela, Addis Ababa) is becoming popular with visitors and there are daily flights between the cities.
The capital city, Addis Ababa, is friendly and attractively located on a hilly site. It has a strong diplomatic community, and both the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the Organization of African Unity have their headquarters there.
Ethiopia has some fine wildlife, and all the major animals of Africa, except for rhinoceros are present in the selection of relatively small but delightful parks scattered across the country. The birds are a particular attraction.
Ethiopia is bounded to the west by Sudan and South Sudan, to the south by Kenya and to the east and southeast by Somalia and Dijbouti. Eritrea, which gained independence from Ethiopia in May 1993, lies to the north, and Ethiopia is now landlocked. At the end of the 1990s, relations with Eritrea deteriorated seriously as a result of a border dispute. There were bombing raids, the borders between the two countries were closed and, despite signing a peace accord, it is uncertain when they will reopen.
Places of interest in Ethiopia
Some 365 km northeast of Gondar lies the town of Axum, site of Ethiopia’s oldest city. Axum dates back some 2000...
Some 50 km north of Lake Tana, 748 km north of Addis Ababa and nestling in the foothills of the Simien Mountains, the...
Harar is a walled city of 123,000 people within the Oromiya Region, standing on the eastern wall of the Great Rift...
Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage Site 640 km from Addis Ababa, was built as the capital of a local king following...