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Judging by the story of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon recounted in the Old Testament and elaborated at great length in the Ethiopian epic, The Kebre Negest (Glory of the Kings); the rest of the world commonly acknowledges 3000 years of Ethiopian civilization. Comparing the history of most of the countries of the world, a national legacy of even 3000 years is quite remarkable. This is especially so when that means an uninterrupted and independent march of the history of a people, organized as a polity, answering to very much the same set of self-identifying values and symbols, and occupying more or less the same geographical area.   

Visitors who hope to find a mirror image of their own countries, either as a result of colonisation or through the trend towards cultural standardisation imposed by globalisation, will be disappointed: Ethiopia remains stubbornly Ethiopian, distinct and different from its neighbours.

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Ethiopia’s topography consists of a central high plateau bisected by the Ethiopian segment of the Great Rift Valley in to the northern and southern highland and surrounded by lowlands, more extensive on the east & southeast than on the south & west.

Ethiopia is truly a land of contrast & extreme, a land of remote & wild places. Some of the highest and most stunning places on African continent are found here, such as the jaggedly carved Semien Mountains (one of the UNESCO’s World Heritage sites), and some of the lowest, such as the hot but fascinating fire-cracked plains of the  Denakil Depression, with its sulphur fumaroles & lunar like landscape.

Ethiopia has some of Africa’s highest mountains (Ras Dashen-4620 meters and the highest in Ethiopia) as well as the world’s lowest points- Lake Asal (155 meters below sea level), Dallol (116 meters below sea level). Dallol is one of the hottest place year round anywhere on earth. Ethiopia also has Africa’s largest cave, Sof Omar cave.

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People and Culture

over 80 linguistic groups exist in Ethiopia, representing four of the five Afro-Asiatic families of languages, including the Omotic language family found exclusively within the confines of Ethiopia. The mystical symbols, myths and ritual practices found in Ethiopia are linked with the mysteries and traditional beliefs of the ancient civilizations of Asia, Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean. The customs, body decorations and celebrations of Ethiopia's traditional people mirror Africa's exotic cultural heritage. The current population is about 85 million, making it the second most populated country in Africa.

Three of the world's major religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam have had their followers here since they were founded and thus have grown with indigenous expressions that are distinctly Ethiopian. Both Christianity and Islam became state sponsored and protected in Ethiopia before anywhere else. The Prophet Mohammed's earliest followers (the "Asshaba") were able to escape persecution in Arabia by fleeing to Ethiopia, where they were accepted and allowed to flourish under the protection of the king of Axum. In appreciation of this, there is an injunction in the Koran against violence by Muslims directed at Ethiopia. Today, almost 95% of Ethiopians are adherents of one of these three main religions with the rest being followers of animist traditional spirit or ancestral worship of one kind or another.

Ethiopia is the only civilization on the continent with its own alphabet, chronology and calendar system and medieval religious art.

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Handicrafts and Souvenirs

It has been ascertained that the gold with a platinum content used in Tutankhamen's statue could have only come from either Ethiopia or South Africa. Indeed, the legendary King Solomon's mines may have their origins in the Horn of Africa. The oldest traditional gold mine in the world is supposed to be in the Nejo area of Western Ethiopia. The Dorze people of the Omo Basin still carry out the ancient iron working industry by melting iron from iron ore.

The Cross in Ethiopia and other Icons
the cross is a universal Christian symbol associated with the crucifixion of Jesus. As is evident from the prolific and triumphant representation in over 3,000 styles of dome, processional, hand and neck crosses, the Ethiopian cross has an ancient and elaborate heritage and is reminiscent of the Egyptian Ankh and the Tau cross of Tibet.

Gift articles: When it comes to shopping for rare gift articles and genuine souvenirs from Ethiopia there are an amazing selection of religious icons, crosses, antique jewelry made from various metals, gold and silver jewelry, leather goods of all kinds and pure cotton textiles to choose from.

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Food and Drink

Everything being so completely different from what you are used to, can sometimes be as daunting as it is fascinating. Trying Ethiopian national foods and drinks may be a case in point. On top of the effect of altitude change and jet lag, the exotic diet may initially upset your system. However, once you get over the adjustment period, you must certainly try them, and if you take a liking to them, watch out! They can be addictive!

Injera is the staple all over the highlands and in the towns elsewhere. It is soft, thin chapatti-like bread made from the grass-like grain teff (Eragrostis Teff), barley or sorghum. Ethiopia is the only country in the world to use teff in this way. Injera always comes with Wott (somewhat like stew) which can be made from any kind of meat, fish, lentils, peas or chickpeas. The best of these and the national delicacy is Doro Wott (chicken stew). A variety of vegetarian types of wott are served on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the country as part of religious custom. Tej (honey mead) is the drink with which to savour these Ethiopian dishes. In addition there are bottled Ethiopian beers, local wine and mineral water that most find to their liking. Tella, a traditional beer brewed from barley or corn and hops, is a local drink generally unavailable in modern hotels and restaurants. Fermented sorghum known as borde is a dual purpose food-drink among Ethiopia's lowland peoples and pastoralists.

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Some 1600 years before his counterparts in Europe, the Ethiopian Saint Yared devised a musical notation in the 6th century for his stupendous repertoire of sacred music with finely choreographed sacred dance to go with it. To this day, highland Ethiopian secular music and dances are based on Yared's legacy. The most common folk dance, the esskista has basic elements running through the traditional dances of all the various highland peoples. Mostly based on shaking shoulders, its combination of the religious, fetish and sensuous is as confusing as it is fascinating. The somersaults of the Welaita and the coquettish theatrics of the Omo people are in sharp contrast to this.