The history of Ethiopia lies mostly in its myriad of historical sites and it would be impossible to give any brief overview that would make sense here. There is information and history covering civilizations dating back to 4000 BC, the great empire of Axum, the dynasty of rulers that include the Queen of Sheba up to the Solomonic Dynasty founded by Menelik, lasting until 1974 when the 237th Solomonic monarch, His Emperor Haile Selassie, was overthrown. Archaeologically, there are sites of rock carvings and paintings that date back to 3000 BC. Culturally, the people of Ethiopia have strong ethnic links, traditions and practices that date back to Nubian times (Sudan was formerly known as Nubia). The Nile Valley civilizations are fascinating subjects within themselves and include cultures from the west and north east of Ethiopia. Although not strictly about all of Ethiopia, Anthony T Browder’s book, ‘Nile Valley Contributions to Civilizations’ is a great book that describes the cultures and peoples that occupied Kemet (Egypt), Nubia (Sudan) and Ta-Seti (covering half of Ethiopia), their history, relationships and origins.
The main religions in Ethiopia are Christianity and Islam. The majority of Ethiopian Christians belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Christians and Muslims have lived harmoniously side-by-side in Ethiopia for generations.
There are between 70 and 80 languages spoken in Ethiopia, most of them Semetic or Cushitic branches of the Afro-Asiatic family. The Semetic languages of northern Ethiopia are Amharigna (Amharic) and Tigrigna, descended from Ge’ez, the language of ancient Axum, which is still used by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church today. The main Cushitic language dominant in southern and eastern Ethiopia is Oromifa (Oromigna) the language of the Oromo. Amharigna remains the lingua franca in most parts of the country.
Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which has 12 months of 30 days and a 13th month of five or six days. New year starts on 11th September. The Ethiopian calendar is seven years and eight months behind the Gregorian Calendar.
Ethiopia is 3 hours ahead of GMT and, like their Swahili neighbours in Kenya and Tanzania, time is measured in 12 hour cycles starting at 0600 hrs and 1800 hrs. So, when asking about time it is important to establish whether, for example, 3.00 o’clock means 0900 hrs or 2100 hrs! Or, is it 3.00 o’clock European time instead?
Geographically Ethiopia is stunning. The landscape is dominated by the dramatic Ethiopian Highlands with peaks of 4000m or higher. The country is bisected by the Rift Valley, which starts at the Red Sea, to the North East, and continues south to Mozambique in southern Africa.