Ethiopia is the only African nation that was never colonized and the only African nation that can boast centuries of Christian tradition. A country so rich in history that four destinations in northern Ethiopia have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Nine in total). Ethiopia from the time of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba is a land filled with historical, cultural and natural treasures. Meanwhile, southern Ethiopia is a destination that is most unique where time has stood still. Visit the various tribal villages and nomads and be amazed at their current lifestyle, and social infrastructure that is reminiscent of bygone eras.

Above all things, it is a country of great antiquity with a culture and traditions dating back more than 3,500 years. This is Ethiopia.

 

History
Ethiopia and its history is the story of Africa at its inception. Archaeologists and anthropologists commonly count Ethiopia as the origin of man. In 1974 the oldest human remains ever were discovered here. The 4.4 million old bones of Homo RamidusAfarensis, were found in Ethiopia's Afar region - the previous record was held by "Lucy" or "Dinkinish" (Amharic for "wonderful"), who at 3.2 million years was a relative youngster.

Ethiopia has extensive historic sites, particularly in the north of the country, where the tourists can view buildings dating from the first millennium BC, the stelae and tombs of the Axumite kings, rock hewn churches dating from the 4th century, the monasteries of Lake Tana and the 13th century monolithic rock hewn churches of King Lalibela in Wollo. In the east, the 1000 year old city of Harrar, with its more than 99 mosques, is considered as the fourth holiest place in Islam, after Mecca, Median and Jerusalem. South of Addis Ababa there are a number of Neolithic sites, including the 1.5-1.8 million year old site at MelkaKunture (Oromia Region) and the 400 stelae at Dilla in Sidamo (Southern Region). Elsewhere in the southern region there are remote, medieval monasteries and in Jimma, in Oromia, there is the recently restored palace of Abba Jiffar, the last independent king of the area.

Nature
Ethiopia is a land of great variety, from the high peaks of the Semien Mountain in Amhara to the below sea-level Danakil Depression in the Afar region, tropical forests, lakes, savannah and deserts. In Bale National Park in Oromia, home of many endemic mammals and birds, visitors can see unique alpine fauna and flora, volcanic lakes and trout filled streams. For big game safaris, there are the Omo and Mago National Parks in the Southern Region, with their fascinating Mursi and Hamer villages.

People
Ethiopia has a population of 92 million is a land of enormous ethnic diversity, with people of Semitic, Hamitic, Nilotic and Omotic stock. There are more than 80 ethnic groups and as many languages.

What unites Ethiopia's many people is primarily their shared independent existence. Ethiopia was never colonized, its people put up a continuous, spirited and vigorous resistance. Ethiopia is Ethiopian and this will be obvious to the visitor from the moment of arrival in Addis Ababa. Courtesy and hospitality are prized qualities throughout the country.

With its combination of history and culture, ethnic diversity, stunning and varied scenery, wildlife and birdlife (there are more than 850 species recorded, with 29 endemics), Ethiopia is truly unique in Africa.

Security
Despite its location in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is a very safe country to visit, and Addis Ababa is still one of the safest capitals in Africa. There is little incidence of personal crimes such as assault and robbery, and the country’s security forces have taken great measures to prevent terrorists from instigating violence that could arm the safety of residents and visitors and disrupt the business community, which has registered significant growth. Visitors should, of course, take the usual precautions - not carry large amounts of money with them and leave particularly valuable items locked away.

Like everywhere else, pickpockets like to create some kind of diversion before making their move, so visitors should walk purposefully and be cautious about sudden introductions in the street.

Health & Precautions
Ethiopia requires all visitors to have an up-to-date Yellow Fever vaccination certificate. Generally, for their own protection, visitors should be immunized or have received a booster shot against hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, Typhoid and Polio.

In regard to malaria, visitors on the Historic Route (Axum, Gondar, Bahardar and Lalibela) need not worry about malaria, but should bring insect repellent cream, gel or spray for mosquitoes.

The area of Ethiopia directly to the south of Addis Ababa is also considered a malaria free zone. Before your trip, please consult online malaria zone maps which are made available for malaria in Ethiopia.

For visitors sensitive to insect bites, it is advisable to bring antihistamine cream or tablets. Some old buildings and old churches on the Historic Route are prone to flea infestation.

It is worth carrying some antiseptic cream, for minor cuts. Anti-diarrhea tablets (Imodium or Lomatil) should be carried as a precautionary measure - if you do have a stomach upset, it might be some distance to the nearest toilet and either of these tablets is guaranteed to help. (These only address the symptoms rather than what caused them, so for anything more serious than a stomach upset medical advice should be sought - there are government hospitals in most areas of tourist interest.)

The temperatures in the highlands (on the Historic Route) are moderate, rarely exceeding 30oC even at the hottest times of the year. However, the sun is strong and visitors coming from cooler climates should get a high protection grade (15) UV barrier cream, particularly for the face. For the arms and legs, a lower protection grade would be sufficient. With the dry weather, lip balms are recommended. For visitors who make the boat trip on Lake Tana, or even some of the longer mule trips around Axum or Lalibela, hats should be worn.

Climate
There are two main seasons in Ethiopia, but temperatures depend on the altitude. The lowlands are generally hot and humid, with cooler temperatures in the Ethiopian Highlands. In most of the country, the main rainy season runs from June to the end of September, with short rains in March. However in Southern Ethiopia, particularly in the Omo area, the seasons are different with the main rains from March to May and shorter rains in October to November.

Topography: The altitude in the country ranges from 116m below sea level in the Danakil Depression, one of the hottest places in the world, to 4620 metersabove sea level at Mount RasDashen in the North.

Currency
The local currency is the “Ethiopian Birr”, made up of 100 cents. Credit cards, Visa, MasterCard, Access, American Express and Diners Club are not widely accepted except in a few establishments in the cities. Cash and travelers cheques are recommended.

Electric Supply
Ethiopia uses 220 Volts 50 cycles AC. Sockets are with 2 holes. A universal two – prong adapter is recommended.

Communications
Telephone, fax, internet and postal facilities are highly available in most main towns. The country code for Ethiopia is +251.

Accommodation
You will have variety of hotel ranging from luxury five star hotels to mid-range hotels offering accommodation ranging from luxury products to upscale, mid-range and budget hotels.

Clothing
Ethiopians are modest dressers and visitors should be sensitive about going undressed into places of worship. Shoes must always be removed before entering Churches and Mosques.

Health Requirements
Prior to entry, visitors should be in possession of a valid health certificate for yellow fever. Vaccination against cholera is also required for any person who has visited a cholera-infected area within six days prior to arrival in Ethiopia. However your passport must be valid for at least 6 months.

When to come to Ethiopia
This can depend on where you are going. In most of the country, the main rainy season runs from June to the end of September, with short rains in March.

In the Omo and Mago parks however, in Southern Ethiopia, the seasons are different with the main rains from March to June and shorter rains in November.
With the upgrading of the airports along the historic route (Axum, Lalibela, Gondar and Bahir Dar), it is now possible to visit the north even in the rainy Sean.
For travelers who do not mind waiting out a downpour (usually followed by brilliant sunshine) there are certain rewards-a green countryside full of crops and flowers and the sites largely to your selves.