Interesting facts about Ethiopia

ethiopia flag

Ethiopia is a landlocked country located in the northeastern part of Africa popularly known as
“the Horn of Africa”.

The official name of the country is the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

It is bordered by Eritrea to the north and northeast, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Sudan and
South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south.

The official language is Amharic.

As of 1 January 2017, the population of Ethiopia was estimated to be 103,205,224 people. It is the second-most populous country in Africa (after Nigeria).

It is the 26th largest country in the world in terms of land area with 1,104,300 square kilometers (426,400 square miles).

Addis Ababa is the capital and largest city of Ethiopia. It is located on a well-watered plateau surrounded by hills and mountains, in the geographic center of the country. Addis Ababa is the world’s fourth-highest capital city.

addis ababa

Ethiopia’s topography ranges from deserts along its eastern border, the Choke and Mandebo mountains ranges in its central core, and tropical forests in the southern reaches.

The country is dominated by a vast highland complex of mountains, plateaus and lakes, all divided by
the Great Rift Valley that’s surrounded by lowlands and steppes.

Ras Dejen at 4,550 meters (14,930 feet) above sea level is the highest mountain in Ethiopia and tenth highest mountain of Africa.

ras dejen

The network of protected areas in Ethiopia covers about 19% of the national territory (209,800 square kilometers / 81,000 square miles). It is made up of 13 national parks, plus nature reserves, game reserves and other types of protected areas.

The Simien Mountains National Park in Northern Ethiopia is an exotic setting with unique wildlife and breath-taking views on a landscape shaped by nature and traditional agriculture. The park is home to a number of endangered species, including the Ethiopian wolf and the walia ibex, a wild goat found nowhere else in the world. The gelada baboon and the caracal, a cat, also occur within the Simien Mountains. It was one of the first sites to be made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978.

simien mountains national park

Ethiopia has 9 UNESCO world heritage sites.

The Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela – the 11 medieval monolithic cave churches of this 13th-century ‘New Jerusalem’ situated in a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia near a traditional village with circular-shaped dwellings. Lalibela is a high place of Ethiopian Christianity, still today a place of pilgrimage and devotion. The Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site also in 1978.

lalibela church

The ruins of the ancient city of Aksum are found close to Ethiopia’s northern border. They mark the location of the heart of ancient Ethiopia, when the Kingdom of Aksum was the most powerful state
between the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia. The massive ruins, dating from between the 1st and the
13th century A.D., include monolithic obelisks, giant stelae, royal tombs and the ruins of ancient
castles. In 1980 UNESCO added Aksum’s archaeological sites to its list of World Heritage Sites due to
their historic value.


In the 16th and 17th centuries, the fortress-city of Fasil Ghebbi was the residence of the Ethiopian emperor Fasilides and his successors. Surrounded by a 900-metre (2,950 feet) -long wall, the city contains palaces, churches, monasteries and unique public and private buildings marked by Hindu and
Arab influences, subsequently transformed by the Baroque style brought to Gondar by the Jesuit missionaries. The site was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

fasil ghebbi

The Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion is the most important church in Ethiopia, and claims to contain the Ark of the Covenant. It is located in the town of Axum in the Tigray Province. The original church is believed to have been built during the reign of Ezana, the first Christian ruler of the Kingdom of Axum (Present-day Eritrea and Ethiopia), during the 4th century AD, and has been rebuilt several times since then.

church of our lady mary of zion

Holy Trinity Cathedral, known in Amharic as Kidist Selassie, was built to commemorate Ethiopia’s
liberation from Italian occupation and is the second most important place of worship in Ethiopia,
after the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum.

holy trinity cathedral

The Debre Birhan Selassie (Trinity and Mountain of Light) Church in Gondar is famed for its beautiful examples of Ethiopian church art. Built by an Emperor Eyasu II in the 17th century, it is among the most important churches of Ethiopia. Appealing as it is on the outside with its stone walls, arched
doors and two-tiered thatch roof, it’s the inner sanctuary of Debre Berhan Selassie, with its glorious
frescos, that really shines.

debre birhan selassie

Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the oldest in the world.

Tracing its roots to the 2nd millennium BC, Ethiopia was a monarchy for most of its history.

Around the 8th century BC, a kingdom known as Dʿmt was established in northern Ethiopia and Eritrea.

After the fall of Dʿmt during the fourth century BC, the Ethiopian plateau came to be dominated by
smaller successor kingdoms. In the first century AD, the Kingdom of Aksum emerged in what is now
northern Ethiopia and Eritrea. The Kingdom of Aksum was followed by the Ethiopian Empire circa 1137.

Ethiopia derived prestige with its uniquely successful military resistance during the late 19th-century Scramble for Africa, becoming the only African country to defeat a European colonial power and retain its sovereignty.


In 1974, the Ethiopian monarchy under Haile Selassie was overthrown by the Derg, a communist military government backed by the Soviet Union. In 1987, the Derg established the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, but it was overthrown in 1991 by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which has been the ruling political coalition since.

Ethiopia is one of the founding members of the United Nations.

Ethiopia and Eritrea are the only African countries with their own alphabet.

Ethiopia also has its own time system and unique calendar.

time and calendar

Time in Ethiopia is counted differently from in many Western countries. The Ethiopian day is reckoned as beginning at 6 AM as opposed to 12 AM, concurrently with sunrise throughout the year. To convert between the Ethiopian clock and Western clocks, one must add (or subtract) 6 hours to the Western time. For example, 2 AM local Addis Ababa time is called “8 at night” in Ethiopia, while 8 PM is called “2 in the evening”.

The Ethiopian calendar is quite similar to the Julian calendar, which was the predecessor to the
Gregorian calendar most countries use today. A year in the Ethiopian calendar is 13 months long, with
12 months of 30 days each. The last month has 5 days in a common year and 6 days during leap year. The main point of difference lies in the calculation of the date of the birth of Jesus; the Ethiopian
calendar is 7 to 8 years behind the Gregorian calendar.

According to the Western or Gregorian calendar, the Ethiopian New year or Enkutatash is celebrated on September 11th.

Haile Selassie I, Ethiopia’s previous Emperor, is at the core of the Rastafari movement and lifestyle. He is perceived as God incarnate, or being both heavenly and human by adherents of the Rasta culture. Haile Selassie I.

Because more than 70% of Africa’s mountains are found in Ethiopia, it is sometimes called “the roof of Africa”.

Several important finds have propelled Ethiopia and the surrounding region to the forefront of palaeontology. The oldest hominid discovered to date in Ethiopia is the 4.2 million year old
Ardipithicus ramidus (Ardi) found by Tim D. White in 1994.