Ethiopia may not be a country which is on your bucket list of places to visit, but it is well-worth your while.
Ethiopia is a place where you can trek more than 3000m above sea level or visit the lowest place on the African continent, the Danakil Depression. In between, there are lush highlands and beautiful deserts, canyons. vast lakes and high plateaus. If you look hard enough, you’ll also find landmarks of great significance, from the source of the Blue Nile to, again, the stammeringly desolate Danakil Depression, peppered with an astonishing 25% of Africa’s active volcanoes.
The country’s history is also quite fascinating and you will have a blast discovering Ethiopia’s cultural identity with the people. When it comes to human cultures, Ethiopia has many riches. There are the Surmi, Afar, Mursi, Karo, Hamer, Nuer and Anuak, whose ancient customs and traditions have remained almost entirely intact. Venturing into these communities and staying among them is akin to receiving a privileged initiation into a forgotten world.
4 things you must do
Catch a festival
Ethiopia is a country of festivals, so try to coincide your visit with a festival such as Leddet (Christmas in January), Timkat (Epiphany, also in January), Meskel (September), or the Great Ethiopian Run (November).
A coffee ceremony
As the birthplace of what’s become the world’s second most valuable trading commodity after petrol, coffee is a cornerstone of Ethiopian life. Sit as a coffee seller roasts the beans, fanning the fumes towards you for good luck, and painstakingly makes thick sweet coffee on a tiny burner.
Eat Injeraand Wat
As the favorite meal eaten three times a day, you can’t avoid it. The injera is a massive, thick, spongy, pretty tasteless pancake on top of which is dolloped a spicy stew of either chickpeas or meat. Eat with the right hand only.
Watch a traditional dance
Ethiopia has some of the weirdest dance moves on the planet. Nothing can be said. Just watch one.
Important to Know
Ethopians use the Julian calendar, Ethiopia’s month, dates and years are vastly different from the international model. Their clock also runs differently, namely 6 hours apart the western clock, because their days begins at 12 o’clock, when the sun rises at our 6am! It’s very important therefore to always ask whether they are referring to Ethiopian or International time!