- Ethiopia a Tourist Paradise
- Tourist Activities
- ADDIS ABABA the Capital City of Ethiopia, your first destination of entry
- Ethiopian Festivals
- Ethiopian Calendar
- Ethiopian Time
- Ethiopian Alphabet
- Natural Attractions
- Historical Attractions-Ethiopia Land of Great Civilization
- Archaeological Attractions
- Travel Information and Tour Operators
- INVESTMENT IN TOURISM
Visit and invest in the land of discovery and tourist paradise. Enjoy nature, culture, history and archaeology.
Ethiopia a Tourist Paradise
Ethiopia is truly a land of contrasts and extremes; a land of remote and wild places. Some of the highest and most stunning places on the African continent are found here, such as the jaggedly carved Simien Mountains, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites – and some of the lowest, such as the hot but fascinating Danakil Depression, with its sulphur fumaroles and lunar-like landscape. Ethiopia is old; old beyond all imaginations. As Abyssinia, its culture and traditions date back over 3,000 years. And far earlier than that lived “Lucy” or Dinkenesh, meaning ‘thou art wonderful’, as she is known to the Ethiopians, whose remains were found in a corner of this country of mystery and contrasts.
Many people visit Ethiopia – or hope to do so one day – because of the remarkable manner in which ancient historical traditions have been preserved. And, indeed, the ceremonies and rituals of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, open a window on the authentic world of the Old Testament. In no other country is it possible to find yourself so dramatically transported back in time or to participate with such freedom in the sacred rituals of an archaic faith.
Ethiopia is a country for outdoor-oriented people where so many open-air activities can be enjoyed. The opportunities to enjoy the attractions of Ethiopia, while participating in a favourite pastime, make a holiday in Ethiopia even more fun.
Some activities may provide a relaxing interlude in an Ethiopian tour, while others will be an important factor in choosing to come to Ethiopia. So take time out and explore the opportunities that Ethiopia offers. In any remote area, or undertaking any form of hazardous activity, taking a local guide is strongly recommended. In national parks, ranger guides accompany trekking parties.
Walking and Trekking
The Ethiopian highlands, blessed with a temperate climate and grand mountain scenery, offer superb trekking opportunities. The principal well-established areas for trekking are the Simien and Bale Mountains National Parks. The more recent arrival to this field of tourist activity is the remote South – West highlands east and west of the Omo valley, where strong and colourful cultures compliment the appeal of scenery, flora, and fauna.
Less strenuous and more relaxing are the pleasant local traits that flow the banks of Rift Valley lakes, or resort areas close to Addis Ababa, such as a walk through the vineyards of Ambo.
The rewards of a trek in the Simien mountains include spectacular views from the northern escarpment, the three endemic mammals – Walia Ibex, Gelada Baboon, and the Simien Fox as well as Ras Dashen, the country’s highest peak at 4620 meters.
Bale has a less inhabited, richer mosaic of high-altitude plateau, heather moorlands, and dense juniper forest with an easily seen population of Mountain Nyala and Simien Fox as well as some fabulous birds, many of them endemic.
Riding and Pony Trekking
In such a rugged environment horses and mules play an important part in the transportation of people and goods. So it is not surprising that horse riding can be enjoyed in most parts of Ethiopia. A trek in the Simien Mountains on a surface-footed pony allows visitors to get to areas even 4 x 4 vehicles find difficult.
Much of Ethiopia is rugged mountainous country, and the opportunities to conquer demanding peaks and crag are endless. The Simien Mountains, the Bale Plateau and many other areas provide perfect climbs. Equipment is rarely available locally and should be brought with you.
In many areas, particularly those with limestone, crag, underground caves and caverns may be discovered. Near Dire Dawa there is evidence of prehistoric habitation. Skilled expeditions will find great opportunities, but local guides are essential.
With 861 bird species, out of which 16 are endemic, Ethiopia is a must for every bird enthusiast. Many of the National Parks provide areas less affected by human activities where a broader range of bird species can usually be seen.
According to their habitat, the most recommended sites for bird-watching are – the highland plateau, the lakes region, and the lowlands. Nearby sites include Entoto, Gefersa, Debre Zeit, and Menagesha forest.
The highland is called the land of endemism. Of the total endemic birds, over 60 percent of the species are found in the Bale Mountains National Park. Totally 161 bird species are recorded in this park. Some of the richest areas of bird life in highland plateau include small patches of natural forest on gorge edges, inaccessible valley bottoms, and sacred graves on hilltops and around churches.
Ethiopia’s lakes are famous for the sheer numbers of birds they harbor. The Lakes Region covers Lakes Ziway, Langano, Abijatta, Shalla, Awassa, Abaya, and Chamo. Over 50 percent of all bird species have been recorded in the Rift Valley because of the proximity of numerous aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Lake Abijatta is a feeding ground for numerous great white pelicans and greater and lesser flamingo as well as flocks of little grebes. An island in neighboring Lake Shalla is a regular breeding ground for great white pelicans and a nesting spot for the greater flamingo.
Lowlands too offer a great opportunity for bird-watchers. These areas are rich in seed-eating and insectivorous birds. This site covers areas in Borena Administrative Zone.
The main reasons behind the distribution of birds in various localities are the feed, altitude, climate, and cover factors. Accordingly, birds of prey and other scavengers are in plenty. To list some of the birds: Lammergeyer or the bone breaker is quite common in the Simien Mountains. Shoebill or Whale headed stork is also common in Gambella and Ethio-Sudan border. Ethiopian Bush Crow is a localized endemic bird distributed throughout Borena area up to Murle. Prince Ruspli’s Turaco too is considered as a localized bird found in Borena area alone.
The best season for bird-watching is from the beginning of September up to February. Between November and February, migrant birds raise the bird population and widen species diversity as well.
The trip starts at the Gibe Bridge – 186 kilometers South – West of Addis Ababa on the road to Jimma. The river there is known as Gibe. The best season for trips is between September and October, when the river is starting to dry out.
Bordering the Awash National Park, the 23 kilometers stretch of the Awash River offers a superb one or two-day trip featuring lots of spirited rapids, wildlife and impressive rugged cliffs and side canyons. The trip starts at the Awash Falls, with a paddling drill in the foaming pool below, and the rapids follow one after another.
The diversity of its landscape and climate has enabled Ethiopia to possess various species of wildlife. The recorded list counts at 277 out of which 31 are endemic.
Apart from areas set aside for National Parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserves, the country has 18 controlled hunting areas. Controlled hunting area is an area of land set for the use of hunt able wild animals for their sustainable hunting on a quota basis which is subject to revision periodically. Actively hunting areas are located in Oromia, Afar and Southern regions.
The list of hunt able wild animals includes endemic mammals – an addition to have a unique experience by possessing a unique trophy at the end of this activity.
Some of the additional opportunities for tourists who come for hunting are special scenic features of hunting areas, culture and traditional livelihood of the indigenous people, attractive and unique topography and pleasant weather. Tour operators specializing in hunting include Wildlife Safaris. Ethiopian Rift Valley Safaris, Rocky Valley Safaris, and Libah Safaris.
Camping is often the only way to see some of the more beautiful, but remote, areas of Ethiopia. In most areas camping is safe, but local advice should be sought. As little camping gear is available to hire in the country, all the necessary equipment should be brought with you.
Opportunities for swimming abound in Ethiopia. Apart from pools at the main hotels, Lake Langano and Shalla are bilharzia-free and resort areas have been set aside for swimming. Specially attractive are pools created by natural springs as can be found in Awash National Park, or at Sodere Filwoha (hot spring).
Sailing on Lake Tana, or some of the Rift Valley lakes is a popular pastime. Many of the local Fishermen will be happy to take out their boat for you. A trip in a dugout canoe, or traditional papyrus boat, is another wonderful experience. Lake Langano is also popular with windsurfer and water-skiers.
White water rafting is a new adventure that can be experienced on parts of the Omo and Awash Rivers and the Blue Nile.
With its spirited rapids, innumerable side creeks and waterfalls, sheer inner canyons, hot springs, abundant wildlife and exotic tribal peoples combine to make the Omo one of the world’s classic river adventures.
ADDIS ABABA the Capital City of Ethiopia, your first destination of entry
With a population of more than two million people, Addis Ababa is not only the political capital but also the economic and social nerve-center of Ethiopia. Founded by Emperor Menelik in 1887, this big, sprawling, hospitable city still bears the stamp of his exuberant personality. More than 21,000 hectares in area, Addis Ababa is situated in the foothills of the 3,000 meters Entoto Mountains and rambles pleasantly across many wooded hillsides and gullies cut through with fast flowing streams.
Like any other capital in the world, there is more than enough for anybody to do in Addis. There are numerous restaurants offering various exotic dishes.
Addis Ababa is as cosmopolitan as any of the world’s great metropolises, and the architecture is as varied as the city itself. Tall office buildings, elegant villas, functional bungalows, flat, fashionable hotels, conference halls, and theatres – gleaming in their marble and anodized aluminium – vie for attention alongside traditional homes of wattle and daub, surrounded by cattle, sheep, goats, and chickens. There is no designated ‘city centre’ because, until very recently, there was no urban planning. Addis Ababa simply grew in a natural, organic way, and its present appearance reflect this unforced and unstructured evolution.
Addis Ababa, is 560 kilometers (348 miles) from Bahir Dar, 523 kilometers (325 miles) from Dire Dawa and 1,025 kilometers (637 miles) from Axum, is well-served by many international flights. Domestic and regional air and road services link it with major cities in Ethiopia and the rest of Africa. A rail service also runs from the capital through Dire Dawa to the Red Sea port of Djibouti.
Sightseeing in ADDIS ABABA
African Union Summit
When orienting yourself, it also helps to keep in mind that the city is essentially divided into three main sections. To the East lies what may be termed the Government and Educational sector. From North to South the University, the National Museum, the Menelik School, the first State printing press, the old Menelik Palace, the Hilton Hotel, the Jubilee Palace, and Meskal (Revolution) Square are located.
The Central sector is devoted largely to commerce but also houses some government businesses. This sector goes from Saint George Cathedral, City Hall, and the Television Studio in the North to the Railway Station in the South – all by way of Churchill Road. Here you will also find the headquarters of the National and Commercial Banks; the main sales office of Ethiopian Airlines; the Post and Telecommunication office; the main Hospital; and the National Theatre.
In addition, there is much trade in the Western sector of the city, where the famous Mercato can be found, as well as the City’s main mosque and many shops rarely frequented by foreign visitors. The south-west sector of the City, which developed later than the centre, is partly residential and partly industrial.
Many tourist attractions and important offices are found along the Capital’s main roads, which make exploring the city by car easy and enjoyable. However, perhaps the best way to explore Addis is by foot which allows you to take in much more of the local ‘flavour’ and see some sights you would perhaps miss if you were in a vehicle.
Ethiopia, an old country beyond all imaginations, has culture and traditions dating back over 3000 years. With over 80 different Ethnic groups with their own language, culture and traditions. The strong religious setting, celebrations and festivals play an important part in every ones daily life.
Church ceremonies are a major feature of Ethiopian life. The events are impressive and unique. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has its own head, follows its own customs, and is extremely proud of its fourth century origins.
Ethiopia’s Islamic tradition is also strong and offers colourful contrast, particularly in the eastern and south-eastern parts of the country. In fact, there were Ethiopian Muslims during the lifetime of Prophet Mohammed. This rich religious history is brought to life in the romantic walled city of Harar, considered by many Muslims to be the fourth “HolyCity” following Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem.
The Amhara women wear dresses that are tight bodice and full skirted. The dresses are bright white with colored embroidery and woven borders. The men are resplendent in white jodhpurs and tunics. Although originally most of the border designs were based on the varied design of the Ethiopian cross, today you sometimes see more modern motifs – flowers, birds and even airplanes.
Young children often have their heads shaved, except for a tuft or a small tail of plaits, which are left so that if God calls them ‘He will have a handle by which to lift them up to Heaven’.
The Muslims of Harar wear colorful dress. The men often dress in red, purple or black. The women of Harar part their hair in the middle and make large buns behind their ears. Harari women have been known for their basketwork for centuries and still weave intricate creations from coloured fibers and grasses. Harar is also famous for the work of its silversmiths, who craft beautiful anklets, necklaces, arm bands, silver chains, bangles and earrings out of the precious metal. Although these items can be purchased at the market, some of the best selections can be found in the homes of the craftsmen and women.
The Oromo people, offer their products for sale in open markets. They produce the more familiar grains and vegetables of established agriculture. Coffee, one of the world’s favorite beverages, is believed to have been ‘born’ in this region.
The Afar, most of whom occupy one of the most inhospitable desert or semi-desert areas in the world, have long been regarded as a fierce and warlike people. They are certainly proud and individualistic, and somehow manage to eke a living out of the challenging wilderness in which many of them live. The majority of the Afar are semi-nomadic pastoralists, but a minority have settled, notably those in the Aussa oasis. Almost all are Muslims, and are organized into confederacies, tribes, and clans. The nomads live in small, isolated groups with the camel as their beast of burden, and keep sheep, goats, and cattle.
The Anuak people are found in the Gambella region. The indigenous Anuak people are mainly fishermen in this region, and the crops they do grow such as: sorghum does not reach their full potential because of the extremely basic methods employed. There are few large villages, as people prefer instead to group together around a mango grove in the extended family compound of no more than five or six huts.
The South People
The Southern region comprises hundreds of ethnic groups. The region of the south of Konso and Yabello is inhabited by the Konso people. Except for trading with the neighbouring Borena for salt or cowrie shells, outside influence had, until recently, virtually passed by the Konso. The cornerstone of Konso culture, owever, is a highly specialized and successful agricultural economy that, through terracing buttressed with stone, enable them to extract a productive living from the none-too-fertile hills and valleys that surround them.
The Lower Omo is home to a remarkable mix of small, contrasting ethnic groups not only the Bume and Konso, but also the Gelebe, the Bodi, the Mursi, the Surma, the Arbore, and the Hamer, to name but a few.
Lifestyles are as varied as the tribes themselves. Lacking any material, culture and artifacts common to other cultures, these tribes find unique ways in which to express their artistic impulses. Both the Surma and the Karo, for example, are experts at body painting, using clays and locally available vegetable pigments to trace fantastic patterns on each other’s faces, chests, arms, and legs. These designs are created purely for fun and aesthetic effect, each artist vying to outdo his fellows.
Ethiopian New Year (Enkutatash)
Ethiopia still retains the Julian calendar, in which the year is divided into 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month of 5 days and 6 days in leap year. The Ethiopian calendar is 8 years behind the Gregorian calendar from January to September and 7 years behind between September 11 and January 8.
Enkutatash means the “gift of jewels”. When the famous Queen of Sheba returned from her expensive jaunt to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem, her chiefs welcomed her bolts by replenishing her treasury with inku or jewels. The spring festival has been celebrated since this early times and as the rains come to their abrupt end, dancing and singing can be heard at every village in the green countryside.
But Enkutatash is not exclusively a religious holiday. Today’s Enkutatash is also the season for exchanging formal new year greetings and cards among the urban sophisticated – in lieu or the traditional bouquet of flowers.
Timket, feast of Epiphany is the greatest festival of the year falling on the 19 January just two weeks after the Ethiopian Christmas. It is actually a three-day affair beginning on the eve of Timket with dramatic and colourful processions. The following morning the great day itself, Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist is commemorated. Since October and the end of the rains, the country has been drying up steadily. The sun blazes down from a clear blue sky and the festival of Timket always take place in glorious weather.
Ethiopian Christmas (Genna)
Christmas, called Lidet, is not the primary religious and secular festival that it has become in Western countries. Falling on 7 January, it is celebrated seriously by a church service that goes on throughout the night, with people moving from one church to another. Traditionally, young men played a game similar to hockey, called genna, on this day, and now Christmas has also come to be known by that name.
Finding of the True Cross (Meskal)
Meskal has been celebrated in the country for over 1600 years. The word actually means “cross” and the feast commemorates the discovery of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified, by the Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. The original event took place on 19 March 326 AD. but the feast is now celebrated on 27 September.
Many of the rites observed throughout the festival are said to be directly connected to the legend of Empress Helena. On the eve of Meskal, tall branches are tied together and yellow daisies, popularly called Meskal Flowers, are placed at the top. During the night those branches are gathered together in front of the compound gates and ignited – This symbolizes the actions of the Empress who, when no one would show the Holy Sepulcher, lit incense and prayed for help. Where the smoke drifted, she dug and found three roses. To one of the three, on the True Cross of Jesus, many miracles were attributed.
Meskal also signifies the physical presence of part of the True Cross at the church of Egziabher Ab, the remote mountain monastery of Gishen Mariam located 483 kms north of Addis Ababa in Wello administrative zone. In this monastery, there is a massive volume called the Tefut written during the reign of Zera Yacob (1434 – 1468), which records the story of how a fragment of the cross was acquired.
During this time of the year flowers gloom on mountain and plain and the meadows are yellow with the brilliant Meskal daisy. Dancing, feasting, merrymaking, bonfires and even gun salutes mark the occasion. The festival begins by planting a green tree on Meskal eve in town squares and village market places. Everyone brings a pole topped with Meskal daisies to form the towering pyramid that will be a beacon of flame. Torches of tree branches tied up together called “Chibo” are used to light the bundle called “Demera”.
Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian one used by Europe and the Americas.
Ethiopia is three hours ahead of Greenwich mean time. Time remains constant throughout the year. The Ethiopian day is calculated in a manner similar to that in many equatorial countries, where day and night are always the same length: counting starts at Western 6:00 a.m. and
6:00 p.m. Western 7:00 a.m. is therefore one o’clock, noon is six, 6:00 p.m. is twelve o’clock, and so on.
The Semitic languages of Ethiopia are related to both Hebrew and Arabic. The Ethiopian languages of this family are derived from Ge’ez, the language of the ancient Axumite Kingdom, which was also the language of the country’s literature prior to the mid-nineteenth century, as well as part of most present-day church services.
Ethiopia’s Semitic languages are today spoken mainly in the north and centre of the country. The most important of them in the north is Tigrinya, which is used throughout the Tigray region.
The principal Semitic language of northwestern and centre of the country is Amharic, which is the language of Gondar and Gojjam, as well as much of Wollo and Shewa. Moreover, Amharic is also the official language of the modern state, the language of administration, and the language of much modern Ethiopian literature.
Two other Semitic languages are spoken to the south and east of Addis Ababa: Guraginya, used by the Gurage in a cluster of areas to the south of the capital, and Adarinya, a tongue current only within the old walled city of Harar and used by the Adare, also known as Harari people.
Ethiopia is a land of natural contrasts, from the tops of the rugged Simien Mountains to the depths of the Danakil Depression, at 120 meters below sea level one of the lowest dry land points on earth. The cornucopia of natural beauty that blesses Ethiopia offers an astonishing variety of landscapes: Afro-Alpine highlands soaring to around 4,300 metres, moors and mountains, the splendor of the Great Rift Valley, white-water rivers, Savannah teeming with game, giant waterfalls, dense and lush jungle… the list is endless.
Ethiopia’s many national parks enable the visitor to enjoy the country’s scenery and its wildlife, conserved in natural habitats, and offer opportunities for travel adventure unparalleled in Africa.
The wildlife consists mainly of East African plains animals, but there are now no giraffe or buffalo. Oryx, bat-eared fox, caracal, aardvark, ccolobus and green monkeys, Anubis and Hamadryas baboons, klipspringer, leopard, bushbuck, hippopotamus, Soemmerings gazelle, cheetah, lion, kudu and 450 species of bird all live within the park’s 720 square kilometres.
Abijatta-Shalla Lakes National Park
Using Lake Langano as your base, it is an easy side trip to visit Abijatta-Shalla Lakes National Park, which is 887 square kilometers (550 square miles) in size, 482 (300) of these being water.
The altitude of the park ranges from 1,540 to 2,075 meters (5,051 to 6,806 feet), the highest peak being Mount Fike, situated between the two lakes. The temperatures can be high, reaching 45°C (113°F) at maximum and 5°C (41°F) at minimum. Rain falls between March and April and June and September, averaging 500 mm (19.5 inches).
The surrounding area is mainly acacia woodland, some of which is very degraded by man.
Abijatta and Shalla are both terminal lakes but very different in nature. Lake Abijatta is 14 meters (46 feet) deep as opposed to Lake Shalla which has a depth of 260 meters (853 feet).
The Park was created for the many aquatic bird species that use the lakes, specially great white pelicans and greater and lesser flamingo. The birds use Lake Abijatta as a feeding center while using Lake Shalla’s island as breeding site. White-necked cormorant, African fish eagle, Egyptian geese and others are in abundance in the park.
Awash National Park
Lying in the lowlands east of Addis Ababa, and striding the Awash River, the Awash National Park is one of the finest reserves in Ethiopia. The Awash River, one of the major rivers of the Horn of Africa, waters important agricultural lands in the north- eastern part of Ethiopia and eventually flows into the wilderness of Danakil Depression. The dramatic Awash Falls as the river tumbles into its gorge, is the site not to be missed in the national park. A special attraction is the beautiful clear pools of the hot springs (Filwoha).
Awash National Park, surrounding the dormant volcano of Fantale, is a reserve of arid and semi-arid woodland and Savannah, with riverine forests along the Awash River. Forty-six species of animals have been identified here, including Beisa Oryx and Swayne’s Hartebeest. The bird life is prolific specially along the river and in amongst the 392 species recorded. Access to the park is the best from the main Addis-Assab highway, and there is a caravan lodge called Kereyu Lodge at the edge of the gorge.
Access to the park is the best from the main Addis-Assab highway, and there is a caravan lodge called Kereyu Lodge at the edge of the gorge.
Bale Mountains National Park
The stately and beautiful mountain nyala, another of Ethiopia’s endemic species, is best seen at Dinsho, the Park’s Headquarters.
One of the most important features of this region of Africa resulted from faulting and cracking on its eastern side. This has caused the Great Rift Valley, which extends from the Middle East to Mozambique, passing in a north-south direction right through Ethiopia. This shearing of the earth’s surface occurred at the same time that the Arabian Peninsula, geologically a part of Africa, was sundered from the rest of the continent.
Volcanic activity, which has continued until today, finds expression in volcanoes in Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression, as well as in the hot springs in many parts of the country.
Earth tremors are often felt, and exposed cones of old volcanic plugs are seen throughout the plateau. After the Rift opened, much of this area was flooded by the inrushing waters of the red Sea, a flood that was subsequently stemmed by fresh volcanic activity that raised barriers of basaltic lava. Behind these barriers the trapped inland sea that had formed began to evaporate under the fierce heat of the tropical sun – a process that is almost complete today. Only a few scattered, highly saline lakes – Gamarri, Affambo, Bario, and Abbe remain. Elsewhere, there are huge beds of natural salt – which, at points, are calculated to be several thousands of metres thick.
Gambella National Park
One of Ethiopia’s least developed parks and receiving few visitors, Gambella National Park is located on the Akobo River system. It was originally created for the protection of the extensive swamp habitat and the wildlife there.
The park is 5,060 square Kilometers (1,954 square miles) in area, and its altitude ranges between 400 and 768 meters (1,312 and 2,519 feet). Rainfall is 1,500 mm (58.5 inches) a year, falling between April and October. Temperatures are high. The vegetation here is mainly grassland and Terminalia /Combretum wooded grassland, with extensive areas of swamp. Malaria is a problem and precautions must be taken.
The park contains forty-one species, many representative of neighboring Sudan and not found elsewhere in Ethiopia, such as Nile lechwe and the white-eared Kob, the latter migrating in the large numbers. Roan antelope, topi, elephant, buffalo, lelwel hartebeest, lion, and giraffe are also present.
The most important of the 154 bird species present here is the whale-headed stork, an unusual large-billed, tall bird seen standing in the swamps.
Lake Tana, the largest lake in Ethiopia, is the source and from where the famed Blue Nile starts its long journey to Khartoum, and on to the Mediterranean. The 37 islands that are scattered about the surface of the lake shelter fascinating churches and monasteries. Some of which have histories dating back to the 13th century.
A sail or cruise on Lake Tana is one of the most pleasant excursions for visitors to this region, particularly in the heart of the summer. Boats can be hired from the Marine Transport Authority in Bahir Dar.
Along the lake shore bird life, both local and migratory visitors, make the site an ideal place for bird-watchers. Bird lovers will not want to miss Fasiledes island, which is specially famous as an important wetland. The whole of the lake Tana region and the Blue Nile gorge host a wide variety of birds both endemic and migratory visitors. The variety of habitats, from rocky crags to riverain forests and important wetlands, ensure that many other different species should be spotted.
Archeological research at Yeha has unearthed many historical treasures, including a number of Sabaean inscriptions and a variety of animal figurines. Several of these antiquities are on display in the National Museum in Addis Ababa.
Mago National Park
Covering an area of 2,162 square kilometers on the banks of Omo River, the Mago National Park is relatively undeveloped for tourists. The broad grasslands teem with herds of Buffalo, Giraffe, Elephant and Kudu, while sometimes it is possible to find Lion, Leopard and Burchell’s Zebra.
The park rises in the north to mount Mago (2,528 meters) and is home to 56 species of mammals. Mago National Park mainly grass savannah, with some forested areas around the rivers. Very dense bush makes for difficult game viewing. The Birds are typical of the dry grassland habitat, featuring bustards, hornbills, weavers, and starlings. Kingfishers and herons can be seen around the Neri River, which provides an alternative habitat.
Nechisar National Park
Covering 514 square kilometers (319 square miles), Nechisar National Park is situated near the town of Arba Minch, 510 kilometres from Addis Ababa. Lakes Abaya and Chamo are the twin rift valley lakes separated by a neck of land better known as a “Bridge of Heaven”. They are the integral part of the park. The park is home to Burchell’s Zebra, Grant’s Gazelle, greater Kudu and others. Various species of birds and crocodiles reflect the park’s different habitat.
The 188 bird species – including two endemic of the area are quite varied, reflecting the different habitats within the park. Both the red-billed and the gray hornbill are common here, and the Abyssinian ground hornbill is also seen. Also common are fish eagle, kingfishers, and rollers. Various bustard species are found in the park including the large and impressive Kori.
The Smoke of Fire
Known locally as Tis Isat – ‘Smoke of Fire’ the Blue Nile Falls is the most dramatic spectacle on either the White or the Blue Nile rivers. Four hundred metres (1,312 feet) wide when in flood, and dropping over a sheer chasm more than forty-five metres (150 Feet) deep the falls throw up a continuous spray of water, which drenches onlookers up to a kilometre away. This misty deluge produces rainbows, shimmering across the gorge, and a small perennial rainforest of lush green vegetation, to the delight of the many monkeys and multicoloured birds that inhabit the area.
To reach the falls, which are about thirty-five kilometres (22 miles) away, drive south from the town of Bahir Dar for about half an hour and stop at Tis Isat village. Here travelers will quickly find themselves surrounded by a retinue of sometimes overzealous youthful guides who, for a small Fee, will show the way and point out several places of historic interest en route.
After leaving the village the footpath Meanders first beside open and fertile fields, then drops into a deep rift that is spanned by an ancient, fortified stone bridge built in the seventeenth century by Portuguese adventurers and still in use. After a thirty-minute walk, a stiff climb up a grassy hillside is rewarded by a magnificent view of the falls, breaking the smooth edge of the rolling river into a thundering cataract of foaming water.
A rewarding but longer trek is to walk along the east bank all the way to the back of the falls; crossing the river by papyrus boat known as ‘Tankwa’. The site overlooking the waterfall has had many notable visitors over the years, including the late eighteenth-century traveler James Bruce, and, in more recent times, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain.
The OMO Valley
The Omo Valley is virtually free of human habitation but it is rich in palaeo-anthropological remains. According to research conducted in 1982 by the University of California at Berkeley, hominid remains from the Omo Valley probably date back more than four million years. Much of Africa’s volcanic activity is concentrated along the immense 5,000 kilometres crack in the earth’s surface known as the Rift Valley. It is the result of two roughly parallel faults, between which, in distant geological time, the crust was weakened and the land subsided. The valley walls 97 daunting blue-grey ridges of volcanic basalt and granite – rise sheer on either side to towering heights of 4,000 metres. The valley floor 50 kilometres or more across, encompasses some of the world’s last true wildernesses. Ethiopia is often referred to as the water tower of Eastern Africa because of the many rivers that pour off its high tableland, and a visit to this part of the Rift Valley, studded with lakes, volcanoes and savannah grassland, offers the visitor a true safari experience.
The Omo River tumbles its 350 kilometres way through a steep inaccessible valley before slowing its pace as it nears the lowlands and then meanders through flat, semi-desert bush, eventually running into Lake Turkana. Since 1973, the river has proved a major attraction for white-water rafters. The season for rafting is between September and October when the river is still high from the June to September rains but the weather is drier.
The river passes varied scenery including an open gallery forest of tamarinds and figs, alive with colobus monkeys. Under the canopy along the riverbanks may be seen many colourful birds. Goliath herons, blue-breasted kingfishers, white-cheeked turacos. Emerald-spotted wood doves and red-fronted bee-eaters are all rewarding sights, while monitor lizards maybe glimpsed scuttling into the undergrowth. Beyond the forest, hippos graze on the savannah slopes against the mountain walls, and waterbuck, bushbuck and Abyssinian ground hornbills are sometimes to be seen.
The Ethiopian Rift Valley, which is part of the famous East African Rift Valley, comprises numerous hot springs, beautiful lakes and a variety of bird life. The valley is the result of two parallel faults in the earth’s surface between which, in distant geological time, the crust was weakened, and the land subsided. Ethiopia is often referred to as “water tower” of Eastern Africa because of the many rivers that pour off the high tableland. The Great Rift Valley’s passage through Ethiopia is marked by a chain of seven lakes.
Each of the seven lakes has its own special life and character and provides ideal habitats for the exuberant variety of flora and fauna that make the region a beautiful and exotic destination for tourists.
Most of the lakes are suitable and safe for swimming and other sports. Besides, lakes Abijatta and Shalla are ideal places for bird watchers. Most of the Rift Valley lakes are not fully exploited for tourism purposes except lake Langano where tourist class hotels are built. The Rift Valley is also a site of numerous natural hot springs and the chemical contents of the hot springs are highly valued for their therapeutic purposes though at present they are not fully utilized. In short, the Rift Valley is endowed with many beautiful lakes, numerous hot springs, warm and pleasant climate and a variety of wildlife. It is considered as one of the most ideal areas for the development of international tourism in Ethiopia.
Simien Mountains National Park
The Simien Mountains massif is a broad plateau, cut off to the north and west by an enormous single crag over 60 kilometers long. To the south, the tableland slopes gently down to 2,200 meters, divided by gorges 1,000 meters deep, which can take more than two days to cross. Insufficient geological time has elapsed to smooth the contours of the crags and buttresses of hardened basalt.
It is common to see troop of Gelada baboons in the Simien Mountains. Found only in Ethiopia’s high country, their ‘sacred heart’ a patch of bare skin on the chest distinguishes them from any other species of baboon.
Simien Mountain National Park is the home of the agile Walia Ibex, the symbol of the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organization. Rivaled only by the klipspringer, the Ibex was thought to be heading for extinction, but it appears to be surviving with the protection it is now given.
Sof Omar, a tiny Muslim village in Bale, is the site of an amazing complex of natural caves, cut by the Weyb River as it found its way into the nearby mountains. The settlement, which is a religious site, is named after a local Sheikh.
Visitors to Sof Omar make their way-armed with torches and official map underground, far into the bowels of the earth, beside a subterranean stream, and there one can see an extraordinary number of arched portals, high, eroded ceilings and deep, echoing chambers.
Some 35 per cent of the Ethiopian population is Muslim. Nearly half the population is Christian, belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, whose 4th Century beginnings came long before Europe accepted Christianity. A further small percentage of the population adheres to traditional and other beliefs, including Judaism.
Yangudi-Rassa National Park
This little developed National Park covers an area of 4,730 square kilometers. Situated in a semi-desert area the Yangudi-Rassa National Park has very little rainfalls. With an altitude of 400 to 1,459 meters (1,300 – 4,800 feet) above sea level, the Park was established for the purpose of protecting an endangered species – the wild ass. Gerenuk, Sommerring’s gazelle, Beisa Oryx, Grevy’s Zebra and Hamadryas baboon are also found in the Park.
Historical Attractions-Ethiopia Land of Great Civilization
Ethiopia has a proud and long history extending to the known beginnings of humankind. The Axumite kingdom was one of the great civilizations of the ancient world and has left behind the mystery of the great Stellae found at Axum. In the late middle Ages great religious civilizations flourished in many parts of the country, particularly at Lalibela where churches hewn out of massive monolithic rock testify not only to great faith but also to great architectural skills.
And in the former capital of Gondar many significant castles speak of the same legacy. All these would be enough to make Ethiopia a fascinating place to visit and travel through, but Ethiopia has so much more to offer.
AXUM-The Mysterious Monoliths
The past comes alive in Ethiopia in the form of strange and beautiful monuments and ruins built centuries ago, which have been preserved intact to modern times. At Axum you will see 2,000-years-old stelae carved out of single piece of granite, weighing hundreds of tons and standing 27 meters tall.
Axum, Ethiopia’s most ancient city, and capital of one of the most glorious empires of the past, is one of the most illustrious links in the Historic Route. The Axumite Empire flourished 3000 years ago. Its riches can still be pictured on the magnificent stelae or obelisks, the graves of Kings Kaleb and Gebre Meskel, and the Legendary Bath of the Queen of Sheba.
The 16th century Cathedral of St. Mary of Zion was built in the compound of an earlier 4th century church, and is the holiest church in Ethiopia. In its sanctuary is said to rest the original Ark of the Covenant.
The churches and monasteries of Axum are richly endowed with icons, and some of the historical crowns of ancient Emperors.
The Debre Damo monastery dates back to early Axumite times. It is reached only by rope and is closed to women. It is said to have the oldest existing intact church in Ethiopia.
Some 76 kilometers from Axum is the monastery of Debre Damo (closed to women), which is said to have the oldest existing intact church in Ethiopia. Local tradition says that Abune Aregawi, one of the nine Saints, built the church in the sixth century. The monastery of Debre Damo can only be reached by rope pulley.
The treasures secreted within, kept intact through the country’s 1,400 tumultuous years of history because of that arduous, dangerous ascent, include an extensive collection of illuminated manuscripts, among them the oldest surviving fragments of texts anywhere in Ethiopia. The church now houses about fifty manuscripts, although the monks claim that they formerly possessed no less than a thousand.
Gondar- The Camelot of Africa
Gondar offers fairy-tale castles dating back to the 17th-century that seem to belong in an Arthurian romance. The oldest and most impressive of Gondar’s many imperial structures is the two-storey palace of Emperor Fasiledes, which includes a tower that affords a view of Lake Tana in the distance.
Gondar was the 17th century capital of Ethiopia, and is notable for its Medieval Castles and churches. The city’s unique Imperial compound contains a number of Castles built between 1632 and 1855 by various Emperors who reigned during this period. These dramatic Castles, unlike any other in Africa, display richness in architecture that reveals the Axumite traditions as well as the influence of Arabia.
Other treasures of Gondar include the 18th century palace of Ras Bet, the bath of Fasiledes, the ruined palace of Kusquam, and the church of Debre Berhan Selassie with its unique murals.
The city of Harar is an ancient (1520) city. Harar was an important trading center and is famous for its ancient buildings, its great city walls and as a centre of Islamic learning (the city has 99 mosques). In Harar you will lose yourself in an Arabian nights fantasy of narrow alleyways, incense and intrigue.
Lalibela- Eighth Wonder of the World
Lalibela sometimes called as the eighth wonder of the world, where eleven churches were hewn out of solid bedrock almost 800 years ago. These incredible edifices remain places of living worship to this day. The legend says that angels helped build the churches which were built at great speed and seem to be of superhuman creation in scale, workmanship and concept.
King Lalibela is credited with the foundation of the 11 rock-hewn churches in the 12th century. One of the world’s most incredible man-made creations, they are a lasting monument to man’s faith in God. Most travel writers describe these churches as the “eighth wonder of the world”. These remarkable edifices were carved out of a solid rock, in a region where the ragged landscape still protects the churches from mass tourism. The 11 man-made churches are found in and around the town of Lalibela. Other churches are reached by a 45-minutes drive by 4×4 vehicle, or a three hour ride on mule-back.
The venue for some of the most famous church festivals in Ethiopia, a visit during the great celebrations of Genna (X-mas) and Timket (Epiphany) is particularly rewarding.
Nejash is a small village located 60 kms North of Makale, the Capital of Tigray region. It is synonymous with Islam as it is the place were the first mosque was constructed in Ethiopia. It also serves as enduring reminder of the warm welcome extended by the Ethiopian king of the time when those Muslims including the family of the prophet Mohammed fled from persecution in their own land found refuge in Ethiopia during the early years of the Seventh century.
Since then, Negash has been a place of great historical and religous significance in a sense that it is a symbol of peaceful coexistence between Muslim and Christian religions.
The sixteenth century Susneyos Palace near Gorgora, served as a ‘blueprint’ for the famous palaces of Gondar. It was built by Catholic missionaries for Emperor Susneyos, founder of the Gondar dynasties. Bahir Dar is a town set on the south-eastern shore of Lake Tana, where local fishermen still use papyrus boats. It is situated 37 kms from the spectacular Tisisat Falls. Here the Blue Nile creates “Smoking Water” an awe-inspiring sight as it plunges into the gorge below.
From Bahir Dar one must explore some of the ancient monasteries that have been built on the islands of Lake Tana, or on the many Islands. These include Dega Estephanos with its priceless collections of icons, as well as the remains of several medieval Emperors, Kebran Gabriel and Ura Kidane Mehret with its famous frescoes.
Kebran Gabriel is the principal monastery visited by male tourists from Bahir Dar, with its impressive Cathedral-like building first built at the end of the 17th century. Dega Estephanos, which is also closed to women, is on the island in the Lake, and the monastery is reached by a very steep and winding path. Although the church is relatively new (only hundred years old), it houses a Madonna painted in the 15th century. However, the treasury of the monastery is a prime attraction, with the remains of several Emperors, as well as their robes and jewels. Near Gorgora, at the northern end of the Lake, the Susneyos palace is a forerunner of the magnificent palaces and castles of Gondar, and dates from the region of Emperor Susneyos. In the same area the medieval church of the Debre Sina Mariam is particularly important.
Ethiopia’s earliest known capital, Yeha, is less than two hours’ drive from Axum through some dramatic highland scenery. As the birthplace of the country’s earliest high civilization, it is well worth visiting. To get there, head east for twenty kilometers (Bahar Dar is a town 12 miles ) to Adwa. Continue along the main road towards Adigrat for another twenty-four kilometers (15 miles) and then turn north on to a short dirt track, where you will see the imposing ruins of Yeha’s Temple of the moon about four kilometers (2.5 miles) to the right of the track.
The ruins of this large, pre-Christian temple, erected around the fifth century BC, consist of a single roofless oblong chamber 20 meters (66 feet) along by 15 meters (50 feet) wide. The windowless 10 meters high walls are built of smoothly polished stones, some of them more than 3 meters long, carefully placed one atop the other without the use of mortar. Archeological research at Yeha has unearthed many historical treasures, including a number of Sabean inscriptions and a variety of animal figurines. Several of these antiquities are on display in the National Museum in Addis Ababa.
Although Lalibela is unique, it is not the sole site of Ethiopia’s famous rock-hewn churches. In Tigray near Makale, over 200 fine examples of these monuments to man’s devotion to God as well as his building skills, can be seen and visited. The capital of Emperor Yohanes IV (1871-1889), Makale is now the main city of Tigray, the most northern Ethiopian region. The Emperor’s palace has been turned into a particular interesting museum, with many exhibits of his time and subsequent history. The town is also well known as a transit point for the Camel Caravans bringing salt up from the arid lands of the Danakil Depression. This makes the market place an interesting sight to visit. Intrepid visitors can also make excursions into the Danakil to visit some of the Afar nomads that trek across the region.
A Land of Discovery
Ethiopia is the earliest known home of humankind. A skeleton of an older human ancestor Australopithecus Afarensis was discovered in 1974 in the Afar region.
Anthropologists have established that the skeleton covering 40% of the human body had belonged to a twenty-years-old female that lived 3.5 million years ago. Registered by the United Nations Education, Science, and Culture Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage, the site of the discovery is called Hadar – situated 160 kilometers northeast of Addis Ababa.
The Skeleton is popularly known as Lucy or Dinkinesh. The discovery has completed the missing link between apes and men – paving the way for the search to human origins. In addition, the earliest known hominid, 4.4 million years old Ardipithecus Ramidus was discovered in the Middle Awash in 1992. The recent discoveries include Australopithecus Garhi, 2.5 million-years-old hominid.
Garhi means ‘surprise’ in the Afar language – a language spoken in the internationally acclaimed archeological site. Discovered by an international team led by Ethiopian Anthropologist Berhane Asfaw in the Middle Awash, Garhi is said to be a surprising hominid shaking the family tree. Paleontologist Tim White of the University of California at Berkeley was also the CO-leader of the team. The species discovered by the team is descended from Australopithecus Afarensis and is a candidate ancestor for early Homo.
Bones from antelopes and horse were found 278 meters from the site of Garhi skull fragments at the same layer of sediment. “The bones show unmistakable gashes left by stone tools: the animals were butchered, the meat cut away, and the bones hammered open to extract marrow. This is by far the earliest proof of tool-based butchery and may well provide the evolutionary driver that led to big-brained humans
Lucy, 3.5 million years old, and the recent discovery Ramides, 4.4 million years old hominid fossil, are discovered in Haddar, along the Awash River, east of the country. They completed the missing link between Apes and men.
Melka Konture is also an important archeological site where 1.5 million years old stone tools were found. Several cave paintings and stone monuments are found in different parts of the country like Dilla, southern Ethiopia and Dire Dawa, eastern Ethiopia.
Fragments of a frontal bone and of a femur were recovered in the Pliocene Formations of Maka. In the Middle Pliocene Formation of Bodo d’Ar, dated to 300,000 – 150,000 years, a frontal and other remains of a human skull were discovered in 1976. This fossil probably belongs to an archaic Homo sapiens.
HOMO SAPIENS SAPIENS
The fossil skulls known as Omo I and II come from the kibish formation (200,000/100,000 years ago) in the Omo Valley. Not withstanding the presence of some archaic features, such as the thickness of the cranial walls, the appearance of modern anatomical features, the elevated frontal and the presence on the mandible of Omo I of a real bony chin, allow them to be considered, without doubt, close to Homo Sapiens Sapiens.
Travel Information and Tour Operators
Tour and Travel Agencies
Many tourist attractions and important offices are found along the Capital’s main roads. Several restaurants, duty free gift shops, conference halls and many hotels that cater for all budgets have always been to the utmost satisfaction of tourists and traveller visiting Ethiopia. Airlines giving services in Ethiopia are: Ethiopian Airlines, British Airways, Lufthansa, Saudi, Egypt Air, Kenya Airways, Sudan Airways and Yemen Airways. There are more than 130 tour operators and travel agencies, out of which 66 are tour operators. Access to the www.tourismethiopia.org website to get the details
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 or transited a cholera-infected area within six days prior to arrival in Ethiopia.
Duty-free import are permitted for up to: 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 1/2 lb of tobacco, 1 litre of alcoholic beverages, two bottles of perfume. Visitors may export souvenirs with a value not exceeding Birr 500, although some articles (such as animal skins and antiques) require an export permit.
Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport is a gateway to the rest of Ethiopia. The airport also serves many destinations in Africa, Middle East, Asia, Europe and North America. The country’s national carrier Ethiopian Airlines has an extensive domestic network flying to 43 airfields and an additional 21 landing strips. There are many other airlines that also serve Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is in the GMT + 3 hours time zone. Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which consist of twelve mo nths of 30 days each and a 13th month of 5 or 6 days.
Addis Ababa has hotels that cater to all budgets, from the luxurious Sheraton and Hilton hotels to the tourist class hotels. All tourist resorts offer a choice of modern hotels.
There are so many restaurants in Addis that cater tourists for reasonable prices.
Taxis are available in cities and major towns. These include the blue-and-white mini buses, pickups with a closed Canopy or Saloon Cars. They normally operate on a fixed rate and standard route. Personalized and specific trips should be negotiated with the driver in advance. In the Capital, there are Luxury Mercedes Benz taxis operated by National Tour Operation (NTO). They are stationed outside major hotels and at the airport. They also do not have meters. In addition, there are yellow taxis stationed at the airport for special hire which necessitates a prior negotiation with the driver for the price.
INVESTMENT IN TOURISM
Ethiopia’s market – oriented economic development strategy embraces wide reforms with inducements to both domestic and foreign private investments. The private sector is encouraged to invest in all areas of the economy. To this end, the government has recently revised the investment law of the country offering attractive incentives.
Tourism is one of the priority areas of investment in Ethiopia. Foreign investors are welcome to invest in this sector.
A foreign investor can invest on his / her own or jointly with domestic investors. The minimum capital required of a foreign investor is USD 100,000 in cash and / or in kind as an initial investment capital per project to start business. The minimum capital for a foreign investor who wishes to team up with a domestic investor or company for a joint investment is USD 60,000.
The investment law guarantees capital repatriation and remittance of dividends. The investment law also provides investment guarantee.
To encourage private investment and promote the inflow of foreign capital and technology into Ethiopia, some of the major incentives which are granted to investors (both domestic and foreign) engaged in new enterprises or expansion in areas qualified for investment incentives include the following:
• One hundred percent exemption from the payment of import customs duties and other taxes levied on imports is granted to an investor to import all investment capital goods, such as plant machinery, equipment, etc., as well as spare parts worth up to 15% of the value of the imported investment capital goods, provided that the goods are not produced locally in comparable quantity, quality and price.
• Investment capital goods imported without the payment of import customs duties and other taxes levied on imports may be transferred to another investor enjoying similar privileges.
• Exemptions from customs duties or other taxes levied on imports are granted for raw materials necessary for the production of export goods.
• Ethiopian products and services destined for export are exempted from the payment of any export tax and other taxes levied on exports.
• Any income derived from an approved new manufacturing and agro-industry investment or investment made in agriculture shall be exempted from the payment of income tax for different periods of time depending upon the area of investment selected, the volume of export to be made, and the location in which the investment is undertaken.
• Any remittance made by a foreign investor from the proceeds of the sale or transfer of shares of assets upon liquidation or winding up of an enterprise is exempted from the payment of any tax.
• Business enterprises that suffer losses during the tax holiday period can carry forward such losses for half of the income tax exemption period following the expiry of the exemption period.
With a population of more than 74 million, 80% of whom living in the rural areas, Ethiopia can provide sufficient labour force, which is competitive in terms of cost. As it is known, the long process required from seedling, cultivating, packing and exporting makes the horticulture and floriculture sector unique in absorbing huge labour force. The cost of labour in Ethiopia is not only lower than some Asian nations, but also African countries such as Tunisia, Mauritius, Kenya, etc.