Travel to Ethiopia: Brief History and Culture

Ethiopia, the land of thirteen months of sun shine. Declared the big poster displayed from the window of the Ethiopian Ministry of tourism as I grew up in this country of ancient history, diversity, unimaginable beauty and mystery. As for thirteen months of sunshine, according to the Ethiopian calendar there are indeed thirteen of them. Ethiopia follows a lunar calendar and instead of having some months 30 days, other months 31, and the month of February 28 and 29, all the 12 months are 30 days long. And then we have one extra short month with only 5 or 6 days in it depending whether it is a leap year or not. And yes we see the sun almost every day even in the rainy season which is June, July, and, August, up to the middle of September. And I don’t recommend travelling during the rainy season because it rains profusely and makes travel difficult. Most of the rest of the year is very sunny and pleasant. So if you travel in Ethiopia bring your wide brimmed hats and sunglasses

When we talk about Ethiopian history we are talking about a very long history of a very diverse people. Here I am going to attempt to give a very short synopsis to give the reader some background.

Ethiopia is as ancient as the stories told in the Old Testament for she is mentioned in quiet a few places in the old book. Ethiopia actually goes further back to ancient Egypt and the Pharaohs and the Assyrians. I have seen some evidence as I traveled through some parts of Ethiopia. I saw ancient places of sacrifice with slabs of carved stone with the Star of David etched on them similar to what we read about in the Old Testament. Later I read as archaeologist studied these sacrificial stones they found evidence of blood. I saw ancient burial places for ancient Kings with mummies and fine treasures in the style of the Pharaohs of Egypt.



Ethiopia is one of the earliest countries that began practicing Christianity.But it is difficult to know exactly when the Christian religion began in Ethiopia. The first clue is the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch to Christianity in the Acts of the Apostles. He was sent to Jerusalem by an Ethiopian queen. He was supposed to have gone back to Ethiopia and preached the gospel. Then two Syrian bishops Asebha and abrha arrived in Ethiopia in the 4th Century A.D., converted the king of Axum Ezana to Christianity, and established the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.


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wikipedia creative commons share alike


The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has at its center the Tabot – the replica of the arc of the covenant. Each church has its own replica. It is believed the real arc of the covenant is to be found in Ethiopia at the chapel near by the renowned Axum Sion Mariam Church. The church is considered most sacred by the Ethiopian Tewahdo Orthodox Christian Church. Ethiopian Orthodox church is the only Christian church that has the tabot at its center which to me is one of the clues that before Christianity Judaism was practiced in the country. Another signs is the celebration of Senbet (Shabbat). The very devout, monks and priests still observe Senbet, every week starting on Friday evening going through Sunday the same as Jewish observance the Shabbat.


The Arc of the Covenant is believed to have been brought to Ethiopia by Menelik,i son of King Salmon of Israel and of the famous Axumite queen of Ethiopia Makeda sometimes known as Queen Saba. This story is written in one of the ancient and important books of Ethiopia, “The Kebre Negest.” The Kebre Negest chronicles the transfer of the throne of the Solmonic line of Kings. The Solomonic dynasty started with Queen Saba better known as queen of Sheba visiting King Solomon of Israel after having heard of his great wisdom. King Solomon falls in love with her and tricks her into sleeping with him and from this union their son Menelik was born. Saba went back to her country and raised Menelik. Menelik then visited his father as young man and when he returned to Ethiopia he brought back the arc of the covenant with him.


Ethiopian portrayal of Madonna with Child wikipedia commons
Ethiopian portrayal of Madonna with Child wikipedia commons

A Mosque in Harar

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wikipedia commons


Ethiopia is not just a land of ancient Christianity. We also have the religion of Islam which became wide spread in Ethiopia in the 15th century lead by a man Ethiopians call Grange Mohamed. The meaning of his name is Mohamed the left handed one. He was cruel and tyrannical. He and his army of fanatics aided by the Ottoman Turks went through out Ethiopia like a terrible storm. They burned and pledged many churches, books, and other church treasures and converted many to Islam through sheer force and terror. Long after that, Islam has assimilated into the Ethiopian culture well. Christians and Muslims lived in harmony for centuries and it has been and is common place for Christians and Muslims to marry each other without one trying to convert the other. Both of them respecting the others religion and their right to worship as they see fit. Muslims and Christians were and are are friends and neighbors and even relatives who borrowed from each others religious philosophy and wisdom.

There are still other religions that are categorized as Animists but there numbers are few. The Falashas, Ethiopian Jews have been residing in Ethiopia ever since antiquity. There are many evidences that Ethiopia before Christianity practiced Judaism a couple of which I have mentioned earlier.

There are over 60 languages and dialects spoken in the country. Amharic is the official language. Other languages spoken by a large number of the population is Oromigna and Tigrigna.


Geographically we have our famous high lands of Ethiopia and the breath taking Semine Mountains that rises to about 4,500ft. The tropical forests are in the south. They are quickly disappearing because of overpopulation and mismanagement by the present government and the one before it. There are the low lands with Danakil desert one of the hottest spots in the world, at lowest point. The Great Rift Valley crosses Ethiopia dividing the highlands in two. The 8 stunningly beautiful Rift Valley lakes are found in the southern part of the country.

Abbay: The Blue Nile


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wikipedia creative commons - share alike 2.0


The most famous river in Ethiopia is Abbay River as called lovingly by Ethiopians but known world over as the Blue Nile. Abbay starts its very long journey to the Mediterranean at lake Tana in the Gondar region in north west Ethiopia. Lake Tana found in the city of Bahir Dar is a the largest lake in Ethiopia with large islands in it. On these islands you will find ancient monasteries and ascetic monks.


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wikipedia creative commons share alike 3.0

This hub is a brief introduction to Ethiopia,mainly of northern Ethiopia. The next hub, "Axum, Lalibela, Gondar: Northen Ethiopia" goes into some detail as to the historical land marks and the natural land marks you should visit if you travel to Ethiopia.

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