Around 46 years ago in Hadar, Ethiopia, a team of paleoanthropologists found one of the oldest ancestral fossils known to mankind; Lucy. Lucy was 3.2 million years old. During her discovery, paleoanthropologists were listening to a famous Beatles song entitled “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, which later inspired her name.
Ethiopia was later crowned as the cradle of mankind. The country is not only the birthplace of humans but also of coffee. It is home to the mysterious Ark of the Covenant, a domicile to more than 80 ethnic groups and many nationalities, the seat and headquarters of the African Union, and one of the never-colonized African countries. With a total area of 1,104 million km2, Ethiopia is part of East Africa and is home to over 100 million people.
These lines from a famous song entitled “ADWA” by one of the most legendary female artists of Ethiopia Gigi Shibabaw entail the Battle of Adwa. Our heroes defied the odds and the strength of the unity of our foremothers and fathers took victory over the well-armed Italian colonizers. If not a triumph for us Ethiopians, it is a triumph for all of Africa.
Ancient Fine Architectures
Source: UNESCO (Axum)
Ethiopia is home to one of the four world’s greatest ancient civilizations, Axum. King Ezana of Axum was a very powerful ruler; his face was engraved on gold coins. Another acclaimed king was King Lalibela (between the 12th and 13th century) who built 11 Rock-Hewan churches all by carving stones. The most notable church is Lalibela (Bete-Giorgis), the most complex ancient work of fine architecture located in the Wollo region Lasta. It illustrates the sophisticated skills of the ancient people at the time. In addition to Lalibela, the sophisticated "medieval" walls of Gondar Fasiledes, those very grand Axumite obelisks, the heavenly Rock-Hewan church in the Tigray region Abune Yemata, are some of the many fine architecture works of ancient times. Abune Yemata church is found to be adorned with magnificent religious paintings.
Source: africanglobe (Inside Abune Yemata church)
Tribes in Ethiopia
Home to more than 80 ethnic groups, Ethiopia is known to be a multicultural country with over 80 languages and traditions. The most unique is the Hamer tribe which inhabits a fertile part of the Omo River valley. They mostly rely on pastoralism; therefore, cattle have high value in their culture. They carry out many cultural rituals including the infamous “bull jumping”. This ritual occurs when a young man is transitioning to adulthood.
Source: Rise Art
Source: Picfair by Eric Lafforgue
The film Black Panther, the 9th highest-grossing film featuring many African cultures, depicts the signature lip plate worn by Wakandan elders. These lip plates were inspired by the Ethiopian Mursi tribe and are typically worn by young Mursi girls as a sign of beauty. The bigger the clay lip plate the more beautiful the girl. This tribe is similar to the Hamer tribe in such a way that they live in the lower valley of the Omo river and they are pastoralists.
A man holding a chicken on one hand and the blossom flowers on the other
The popularized language in Ethiopia, Amharic, has an alphabetical system comprising more than 32 letters. Ethiopia follows its own ancient calendar system consisting of 13 months and is not surprisingly 7 years behind the Gregorian calendar. Globally in the Gregorian calendar, it is 2021 but it is 2013 in the Ethiopian calendar. Ethiopia celebrates the new year in September when bright yellow flowers blossom. It is considered as a sign of hope, and new beginnings for the new year.
Women dressed with vibrant traditional Ethiopian cloth
Source: Adam Mengistu (Instagram: adam_me_)
Spirituality in Ethiopia
In Ethiopia, 62% of the population are Christians and 34% are Muslims, the rest follow traditional beliefs. Muslims and Christians live in great accord during their fasting seasons and celebrate each other’s holidays. The region of Harar in Ethiopia is considered as one of the holiest Islam sites with 82 Mosques dating back 7,000 years with more than 100 shrines.
Source: Mosques in Harar – CNN
Home to the Nile
Ethiopia is the birthplace of one of the largest rivers on earth, the Abay river (Nile). The Abay river has a length of about 4,132 miles equivalent to 6,650 kilometers. The river, from the mother source of Tana lake, starts its journey in Ethiopia and passes through Sudan to Egypt.
Smokey Abay in Bahirdar, Ethiopia
A Plate of Injera
Source: Pinterest, a plate of vegetarian Ethiopian food
Ethiopia’s signature food is a ‘spongy flatbread’ called ‘Injera’. It is made from Teff grain and served with many kinds of stews and vegetables. Ethiopian food is comprised of many vibrant colors and spices. Ethiopians fast more than half the year and it is the best alternative for vegetarians.
Source: Indy Loves Coffee
Ethiopia is a country where the coffee ceremony is more of a ritual. Coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia by a lone goat shepherd named Khalid; he noticed that one of his goats became hyper and jittery after consuming this red berry. What came after, paved the way for coffee being what it is today. People in Ethiopia gather around the ceremony and talk about their day, discuss issues, and have a pleasant family time.
Ethiopian Cultural Dances
Source: Dereje Getachew
Ethiopia is known for a famous dance called Eskista, otherwise known as ‘the shoulder dance’. Addis Ababa’s Fendika Cultural Center hosts numerous cultural music nights where traditional dances, claps, loud cheering and musical instruments fill the air. Many tourists stop by this spot for the ultimate experience of the cultural dance fest. There is also another type of cultural dance that may seem extreme, it is referred to as the ‘hair whipping dance’.
Gateway to Hell
Source: Jorge Tung by Clint Birkinshaw
There are many spots that just seem out of this world, and Ethiopia is no different. The breath-taking Danakil Dallol depression is one of the lowest places on earth. It lies between 150-100m below sea level and the different concentrations of chemical elements found in these depressions create the vibrant green, orange, and brick-red colors presented there. The unbearable heat it produces makes it difficult to come close, but for the most part, people living there have adapted to this atmosphere. In this one documentary I watched titled ‘Ed Stafford: Into the Unknown’, this explorer observed hexagonal black dots on the satellite image of Ethiopia, curious, he then discovered that these black dots were located in the Danakil area where the temperature is intolerable. He decided to take a journey to the mysterious black dots by camels since it is a very harsh place to be at, he couldn’t risk another person’s life and made the bitter decision to travel by himself along with two camels as companions bearing his water and equipment. In the midst of his journey, he noticed that he had lost the grip of one of his camels and was chasing it because the camel was carrying this man’s precious water; it was an intense and laborious journey, and the fact that he did it all alone by himself was nothing short of a miracle. Finally, he discovered that these black dots were in fact, gravesites for warriors with markings of various noble ranks. He became the first non-Ethiopian ever to visit that place.
Near the Danakil we find Erta Ale, an active volcano. A bright orange ring of lava is seen often, although sometimes it can be blue lava caused by high concentrations of sulfur.
Source: Most Beautiful Spots
As I admire the richness of Ethiopian culture and heritage, I wonder will Ethiopia be fully discovered? Will the unknown hidden gems and history reappear? For now, I don’t know but what I know is that in the meantime, one can explore the existing cultures, traditions, historical spots, and many more. Ethiopia is the land of riches with an extensive wealth in culture and traditions, let’s explore Ethiopia together and discover more of it in the coming articles.