Ethiopia, historically also known as Abyssinia, is Africa’s oldest independent nation and it is second largest in terms of population. It served as a symbol of African independence throughout the colonial period, and was a founding member of the United Nations and the African base for many international organizations .Ethiopia has as many as 80 ethnic groups, and is characterized by its own language.

Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, is the home of the African Union (AU), the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and numerous other continental and international organizations. Addis Ababa, is therefore, often referred as “the political capital of Africa”, due to its historical, diplomatic and political significance for the continent. The Federation of African Societies of Chemistry (FASC) and Horn of Africa Press Institute (HAPI) are also headquartered in Addis Ababa.

The national language, Amharic – Africa’s only written language with its own unique script – is widely spoken throughout the country and is predominant in most of the big cities.

Ethiopian flag consists of three equal horizontal bands of green (top), yellow in the middle, and red at the bottom. The three main colors of the Ethiopia flag (adopted ca. 1895) were so often adopted by other African countries upon independence that they became known as the Pan-African colors; the emblem in the center of the current flag was added in 1996.

Basic Facts about Ethiopia

Ethiopia is the oldest independent nation in Africa and the second-oldest official Christian nation in the world after (next to) Armenia. Unique among African countries, Ethiopian maintained its freedom from colonial rule with the exception of a short-lived Italian occupation from 1936-1941.

Ethiopia is in the northeast African region known as the Horn of Africa. It is the second-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 and South Sudan to the west.


With a total area of 1,104,300 sq km, Ethiopia is slightly less than twice the size of Texas, USA (or as large as France and Spain combined). The country has a high central plateau, with some mountains reaching more than 4,000 meters. The Great Rift Valley splits the plateau diagonally.

The climate can be described as tropical monsoon but it varies greatly depending on the topography. Ethiopia’s lowest point is at the Danakil Depression, -125 m below sea level; the highest point is Ras Dashen standing at 4,533 meter. Ethiopia’s entire coastline along the Red Sea was lost with the independence of Eritrea on 24 May 1993. The Blue Nile, the chief head stream of the Nile by water volume, starts at Lake Tana in northwest Ethiopia. Three major crops are believed to have originated in Ethiopia: coffee, grain sorghum, and the castor bean.

Geologically, active Great Rift Valley susceptible to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions,and frequent droughts. Volcanic activity in the Great Rift Valley; Erta Ale (elev. 613 meter), which has caused frequent lava flows in recent years, is the country’s most active volcano; Dabbahu became active in 2005, causing evacuations; other historically active volcanoes include Alayta, Dalaffilla, Dallol, Dama Ali, Fentale, Kone, Manda Hararo, and Manda-Inakir.


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 meters above sea level, including historic capitals such as Gondar, Axum, and Addis Ababa – the highest capital city in Africa at 2,400 meters.

Ethiopia has three different climate zones according to elevation:

Kolla (Tropical zone) – is below 1830 meters in elevation and has an average annual temperature of about 27 °C (81°F)with annual rainfall of about 510 millimetres. The Danakil Depression (Danakil Desert) is about 125 meters below sea level and the hottest region in Ethiopia where the temperature rises up to 50 °C (122°F).

Woina dega (Subtropical zone) – includes the highlands areas of 1830 – 2440 meters in elevation and has an average annual temperature of about 22°C (72°F)with annual rainfall between 510 and 1530 millimetres.

Dega (Cool zone) – is above 2440 meters in elevation with an average annual temperature of about 16°C (61°F) with annual rainfall between 1270 and 1280 millimetres.

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.

Ethiopian Seasons

· Kiremt (summer) – June, July and August – are characterized by heavy rain falls.

· Tseday (spring) – September, October and November- are sometimes known as the harvest season.

· Bega (winter) – December, January and February are the dry season with frost in the morning especially in January.

· Belg (autumn) – March, April and May are the autumn season with occasional showers. May is the hottest month of all seasonal months in Ethiopia.

People and Society

Population: The second most populous country in Africa and the 13th in the world.

Ethnic groups: Oromo, Amhara (Amara), Tigray (Tigrinya) , Sidama , Welaita, Gurage, Somali (Somalie) , Hadiya , Gamo , Gedeo , Silte , Kefficho , Afar (Affar) , other

Languages: Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia, although English, Italian, French, and Arabic are widely spoken. In areas outside of the larger cities and towns, indigenous languages are likely to be spoken — of which there are eighty-three, with some 200 dialects. The most common of these are Oromigna and Tigrinya.

Historical and Most Visited Cities:

· Addis Ababa – capital of Ethiopia and one of the biggest shopping cities in Africa.

· Adama – a popular weekend destination near Addis; also known as Nazret or Nazareth.

· Aksum or Axum – home of ancient tombs and stelae fields, in the far north near Eritrea.

· Bahir Dar – the monasteries on the islands of Lake Tana and close to the beautiful Blue Nile Falls.

· Dire Dawa – the second largest city.

· Gondar – the ancient capital of Ethiopia and home to the country’s emperors during the 17th and 18th centuries.

· Harar – ancient walled city near Dire Dawa

· Lalibela – home to 11 astonishing rock-hewn churches.

· Mekele – a town in the Tigrayan Highlands in the north.

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. The Ethiopian new year begins on September 10 or 11 (in the Gregorian calendar), and has accumulated 7-8 years behind the Gregorian calendar: thus, for the first eight months of the year it will be according to the Ethiopian calendar. On 11 September, Ethiopia celebrates New Year’s Day (Enkutatash) for.

Daylight: Being relatively close to the Equator, there is an almost constant twelve hours of daylight. In Addis Ababa the sunrise and sunset starts at around 06:30 and 18:45 respectively.


Ethiopian Public Holidays-2013 Ethiopian Calendar (2020/2021) 

Date Holiday Name
11-Sep Enkutatash (Ethiopian New Year)
27-Sep Meskel (Finding of the True Cross)
29-Dec Ethiopian Christmas (Genna)
19-Jan Epiphany (Timiket)
1-Mar Adwa Victory Day
30-Apr Ethiopian Good Friday (Siklet)
2-May Ethiopian Easter Sunday (Fasika)
1-May International Labor Day (May Day)
5-May Patriots’ Day
28-May Derg Downfall Day (National Day)


Other public holidays include the following Muslim holidays which are timed according to local sightings of various phases of the moon and therefore the date’s changes from year to year.

  • October 28: Mawlid al-Nabi (Birth of the Prophet)
  • May 12: Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
  • July 18: Eid-al Adha (Arafat)


The local currency is the Ethiopian birr, made up of 100 cents. Notes are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 200 birr. There are five different coins: 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 cents.

Currency regulations: there is no limit to the amount of foreign currency imported into Ethiopia, but it must be declared on arrival, using a currency declaration form. Foreign currency may be changed only at authorized banks and hotels. The currency declaration form will be required by Customs on departure. Visitors may change back any excess birr into foreign currency at the airport before departure, but you must, in addition to the currency declaration form, bring with you all receipts for exchange transactions.


Traveler Visa

All visitors, except Kenya and Djibouti nationals, are required to obtain entry visas. Since 2002, tourists from 33 countries (listed below) are able to obtain entry visas upon their arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, and at the airport in Dire Dawa. As of September 2020, the fees for visa-upon-arrival is US$52 for a 30 days Tourist Visa and USA $72 for a 90 days. The procedure is relatively quick and painless; just look for a door with a sign “Visa” on the left hand before the immigration counters. Please check the latest visa fee structure before your departure from the official government website – Ethiopian Immigration Nationality and Vital Event Agency.

Nationals of the following countries can get up to three months tourist visas upon their arrival at Bole International Airport: all African Union member states, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States. Kenya and Djibouti nationals are exempted – allowed to enter without visa.

Travelers are advised to check the latest travel policy and additional information from Ethiopia Embassy websites.