Fascinating Ethiopia

Scenery

Ethiopia’s scenery is magnificent, diverse and always beautiful. Ethiopia is not just a land of plateaus and gorges. You will be uplifted by the magnificence and grandeur of its great variety of landscapes.

People

As you travel the country you will encounter a great variety of people and have the opportunity to see their traditional way of life and rich culture.
There are more than 80 ethnic groups in Ethiopia and a similar number of languages are spoken with over 200 dialects.

History

Ethiopia has a long and complex history stretching back several thousand years. The country is a major centre of remains and famous for ‘Lucy’ one of the earliest yet found. Ethiopia is also well known for the tourist attractions of Axums’ obelisks and Queen of Shebas palaces, Gondar’s castles and Lalibela’s rock churches. While we encourage you not to miss visiting these well known historical sites, we also suggest you let us take you to other less well known places and monuments of archaeological and historical interest.

Churches

If you have an interest in religious history in an exotic environment, Ethiopia is the place for you.
Ethiopia is known as a centre of Coptic Orthodox Christianity. The establishment of the church in the third century AD led to the construction of many churches and monasteries throughout the country. Some of these are very ancient. The iconographic murals and frescoes which decorate many of these churches are very beautiful and, along with ancient church artifacts, religious texts and other valuables, make a visit to several churches a must if you wish to understand what lies at the heart of Ethiopian life.

Festivals

Festivals and other special events are colourful and lively events which you can enjoy participating in at different times throughout the year. There are both religious and secular events. Some of these happen as public mass events, while others take place mainly at home in the family. Highlights for tourists are the Christian Orthodox Festivals of Epiphany -Timkat (January 19th), Easter –Fasika , Ethiopian New Year –Inkutatash (September 11th), Finding of the True Cross –Meskal (September 27th) and Ethiopian Christmas –Gena (January 6th-7th). There are many other events of interest including Christian and Muslim pilgrimages. ATOE can advise you when these take place and develop trips to enable you to attend these if you wish.

Music

Ethiopia has its own unique musical instruments, music and dance styles. With 80 ethnic groups there are many different traditional styles of music and dance.
In Addis Ababa there are a number of excellent restaurant and hotel venues where tourists can listen, watch and participate in traditional dancing from all parts of the country. ATOE can take tourists to such venues, which also serve traditional food and drink and make for a great night out. If you are fortunate while travelling, there may be opportunities to see music and dance along the road.

Food

No visitor to Ethiopia should miss a coffee ceremony. This is an integral part of most Ethiopians’ day and is an elaborate ritual taking an hour or more. It is the chance for family, neighbours and friends to catch up and socialize. Ethiopia is the home of coffee which grows wild in its forests.

Markets

Travelers love markets. They can be found everywhere in Ethiopia. They are the economic heartbeat of a predominantly rural society. They vary in size from the largest in Africa at the Mercato in Addis Ababa, to small weekly gatherings of 20 people in remote communities and everything in between.
These markets provide wonderful insights into people’s lives, traditional skills and products and the chance to simply interact with people. Markets are fun social events for rural people. They are generally weekly events where people let off steam and bring their produce for sale. There is usually a tej house (alcoholic honey drink) tucked away somewhere in most town market places, where the men gather to drink. These are often fun places to have a joke with the locals.

Taking time to stop off and visit markets can be a spontaneous highlight of your trip. ATOE can also plan trips to coincide with market days in some areas.

Geology

Geologically Ethiopia is a volcanically active land, sitting astride the East African Rift Valley. For those with geological interest there is much to see, including some of the world’s most spectacular volcanic features. But there are more than volcanos in Ethiopia and both geologists and others will find much to interest them in its myriad landforms. ATOE can help design trips for geologists and others interested in seeing something of the marvelous geological wonders of the country.

Houses

As with many other facets of life, Ethiopian ethnic groups and tribes express their identity and the environment and climate in which they live, by the houses they build. The variety of houses and their construction is fascinating. So to, is the inside of people’s homes and the compounds around houses and villages. People are often very welcoming if you take the trouble to stop and ask if you can see something of their village and homelife.

Nature

Ethiopia is at the centre of one of the six faunal realms in the world, the Ethiopian Realm. Up to 1970 wildlife was widespread and highly abundant on a scale similar to that found in East Africa today. Rapid population growth has resulted in much of its wildlife disappearing. But there are still areas of the country, especially the National Parks, where wildlife is abundant. There are also a number of fascinating and rare endemic animals to be found, including the Ethiopian Wolf (Simien Fox), Walia Ibex, Mountain Nyala and Gelada Baboon. There are almost  900 species of birds and a large number of endemics to be seen. As with wildlife the flora is rich and spectacular. ATOE can arrange trips to all the National Parks and reserves, the Western forests and other interesting areas of the country to see the wildlife, birds and unusual plants. Designing a nature based trip can be done jointly between client and ATOE.

Trekking

Ethiopia is very mountainous. There are fantastic opportunities for both organised trekking and also self organised trips. Most treks take place in the Simien Mountains National Park, Bale Mountains National Park and Adaba Dodola Community forests adjacent to the Bale Mountains Park. ATOE  can organize treks to both the most popular trekking areas and also to others as yet little or undeveloped. Choose your trekking area and we will organize it. Due to the high rural population there are foot tracks everywhere which are used by local farmers. These make trekking very easy. However, while many of the mountains look quite gentle to climb, they should not be underestimated as they are always bigger and higher than anticipated. One of the great pleasures of trekking is in passing through villages and communities along the way at a pace slower than by car or public transport. This presents opportunities to interact with local people. Most trekking uses mules, donkeys or horses to carry baggage and provided sufficient food and fuel for cooking are carried, trekking is viable almost anywhere in the mountains

BOOKLIST

For general and background information to help you plan and organise your trip with ATOE  recommends the following two Guidebooks:
Ethiopia. The Bradt Travel Guide. Phillip Briggs.
Ethiopia and Eritrea. Lonely Planet.
However, we strongly advise you to contact us for the most up to date travel and practical information, as local conditions can change at any time.
Some other books of interest:
The Spectrum Guide to Ethiopia
Collins Birds of East Africa

Birds of the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and Socotra. Nigel Redman,Terry Stevens and John Fanshawe. Princeton Press 2009
Ethiopian Amharic Phrasebook - Lonely Planet
Axum: An African Civilisation of Late Antiquity - Stuart Monroe HayThe Blue Nile - Alan Morehead
The Sign and the Seal - Graham Hancock
The Mountains of Raselas – Thomas Packenham
A Far Country- Phillip MarsdenSmedley
African Ark-People of the Horn –Angela Fisher/ Carol Beckwith


Should you wish to read further, please refer to the The Bradt Guide which has a comprehensive reference list of books of relevance to Ethiopia.
Happy reading

Et Flight Schedule