Ethiopia: 10 Interesting Things

I recently spent 6 weeks traveling in Ethiopia and had an amazing experience there and wanted to share these 10 things about the country that I think are very interesting and most of us don’t know.

10. They have their own calendar and time!
Due to the beliefs of its own Christian Orthodox Church, their
calendar has some differences such as they have 13 months: 12 months of 30 days and a short month of 5 or 6 days, depending whether it’s a leap year. They also have a different set of time!

Even after hearing about this when I arrived,  I once had a funny misunderstanding. Traveling with some locals I heard we would take off one morning at what they told me 10…I was surprised we were leaving so late, so asked a few times to be sure and they confirmed 10. At 4 am they were knocking on my door to leave (10 Ethiopian time 😉 After this incident I always confirmed asking “international time”?

Unlike the convention in most countries, the start of the day is dawn, rather than midnight. so, 7:00 AM in East Africa Time corresponds to 1:00 in daylight hours in local Ethiopian time. 12:00 noon EAT is 6:00 in daylight hours, and 6:00 PM EAT is 12:00 in local time.

9. Rastafari
The religion was born in the 1930s in Jamaica after the coronation of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, who many rasta’s regard as the incarnation of Jah (god) on earth. Others saw him as a human prophet. It has some beautiful beliefs like believing in the inner divinity within every individual, (for more information on Rastafari there is a link at the end of the article).

While in Ethiopia I wanted to go visit Shashemene, a Rastafari village that Emperor Haile Selassie gave some some of his private land for the creation of this Rastafari village. Some say that there’s not much to see here, except to smoke with the Rastas, but a friend who went said the highlight was talking to the Rasta priests.

8. Coffee Culture

Coffee isn’t just a drink you gulp down here,  but a ritual, that includes incense, flowers, and traditionally include 3 cups of coffee with the first being the strongest, and each other cup, weaker.

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A very common sight of a coffee stand where almost always it is operated by a woman who prepares the coffee at her almost altar with decorations of grass or flowers be it natural or artificial
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Often coffee is brought with incense or even before it arrives

“The ceremony can take two or three hours – including the drinking, chatting and munching on crunchy grain snacks, like popcorn or kolo (roasted barley). The hostess roasts the beans over charcoals, then grinds them and brews the coffee in a clay pot called a jebena.”

Some people even say that the stimulating effects of coffee were discovered here (shepherds seeing how active the goats would get after eating the coffee beans).

7. Cradle of Humanity
East Africa and Ethiopia specifically is often called the cradle of humanity or cradle of civilization. This has to do with the oldest human skeleton found to date and this complete, named Lucy, was found in 1974 in Ethiopia (actually not far from the Danakil Depression). It is 3.2 million years old!

6. Like raw meat?

raw meat injera.jpg
Raw meat on injera. I didn’t take this picture, it’s better than mine. I found this online

Raw meat is considered a delicacy in Ethiopia, kitfo, the finely chopped beef mixed with spiced Ethiopian butter. Here shown on injera, the sourdough type bread you use as your silverware, to scoop the food and put into your mouth.

Since I’m a vegetarian I definitely didn’t try this, but I heard from at least one meat eating friend that she liked it. I was lucky enough to enjoy eating lots of veggie options during their fasting period (they don’t eat meat, eggs or dairy until their Christmas), and enjoyed a lot of the Ethiopian cuisine!

5. Home to the 10 Commandments?
Ethiopians claim that they have the Arc of the Covenant, the box containing the 2 stone tablets with the 10 Commandments written on them (many countries also claim this).  The Chapel of the Tablet is managed by a single guardian monk, who is the only person allowed to view the Ark. Once someone becomes the guardian monk, he remains so for life and may not leave the grounds of the chapel. Ordinarily, a guardian monk names his successor before dying.

4. The name Ethiopia
The name Ethiopia comes from the greek words aitho and ops, which together mean burnt face.

3. Religious People

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Sunset with pilgrims at Lalibela, one of many holy cities in Ethiopia.

I loved that Ethiopia has a strong tolerance with around half the population being Orthodox Christians and around the other half being Muslim, and them leaving in relative peace and harmony. You even see people with the cross tattooed on their foreheads as signs of devotion, and on Sundays it’s amazing to witness thousands of people draped in white like the picture above going or coming from Church.

2. Hottest place on Earth
One of the most amazing and beautiful volcanoes, salt-flats, sulfur springs etc.
in Ethiopia, The Danakil Depression, is both one of the lowest places on earth (in altitude) and the hottest  with recorded temperatures of 125 degrees. It’s sometimes called “the gateway to Hell.

1. Never Colonized
Ethiopia is the ONLY country in the whole African Continent that was never properly colonized, only occupied by Italy for 7 years (1935-1942). This is a huge matter of pride for the country and it is said that other African countries even used the colors of the Ethiopian flag as homage.

Bonus!
Something I found really cute and cool was that in Ethiopia instead of saying Uh-huh, as in agreeing or OK, often people make a sound like in the Western we’d associate with being surprised, like a sharp inhalation of breath. Imagine you get told some shocking news and you do this gasp! Well that is a very common sound in Ethiopia as it often just means OK, or I’m listening, keep telling your story, etc.

Check Out other Posts on Ethiopia
The Tribes of the Lower Omo Valley of Ethiopia

Feeding wild hyenas and the ancient city of Harar

Rock Carved Churches of Lalibela

Out of this planet scenery in the Danakil Depression

Hiking in the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia


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Sources and Additional Information

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rastafari

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ital

https://biochemistrydoctor.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/whats-the-year-and-time-in-ethiopia/

https://churchpop.com/2016/01/08/is-the-ancient-ark-of-the-covenant-hidden-in-this-ethiopian-chapel/

https://ethiopianfood.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/your-ethiopian-restaurant-experience-a-checklist/

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