With a culture dating back 3 millennia but many centuries of isolation, the ethnic groups of Ethiopia have a great variety in cultural expressions and distinction, but with television and internet, many of those traditions are disappearing very fast. Many traditions are not likely to survive many more years. So don’t wait long if you still want to see the real thing in stead of performances.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Most of our hundreds of pictures are favored in Google! Why? Because no other website has so many beautiful high resolution pictures, taken by ourselves. Our pictures not only show you the beauty of Ethiopia, but they also show that we go everywhere, photographing wildlife, plants, people and culture. They show our professionalism, our keen eye for detail and our passion for the culture and nature of Ethiopia. So why consider booking our our Ethiopia Culture & National Parks modules? Because we don’t mislead you like many tour operators do. When the Blue Nile falls are dry…. we tell you. When fog clouds the lava lake of Erte Ale? We let you know. Just drop us a mail and we will check it out for you.
Our tours take you to ALL famous cultural places of Ethiopia, and on top of that, you get to see up to 12 large nature reserves accompanied by a conservation forester. There is nothing similar on the market.
As Ethiopia can be combined with other East African countries, we organize tours in modules. Destinations Overview: Historical Circuit; Danakil Depression; Eastern Route; Simien Mountains; Bale Mountains; Southern Parks Safari; Gambella; Addis Ababa. BUT WAIT: if you buy your international ticket with Ethiopia Airlines, they will sell the internal flights at a price that you can’t even ride the bus for. But you MUST plan it all in one package and making changes may be very costly. So let us help you plan your entire trip and book your local flights for an incredibly low price after you booked your international flight with Ethiopian Airlines!
With a population of about 106 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the second most populous country of Africa. The government officially recognizes 86 ethnic groups, making Ethiopia most culturally and linguistically diverse nation of Eastern Africa, with the Oromo, Amhara and Tigrayan make up more 75% of the population, while some of the smallest tribes have less than 10,000 members. Most of the people of Ethiopia speak a language of Semitic or Cushitic origin. In a country with so much linguistic diversity and inter-ethnic strive it is not surprising that English widely spoken and an official language for legislation; all laws have an English version.
Christianity came to Ethiopia in the fourth century and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church plays an important part in the country’s culture, festivals and visual arts, while some churches of Ethiopia are among the oldest in the world. Islam was introduced in the seventh century and is now practised by about one-third of the Ethiopians, particularly in eastern regions. To reflect the importance of Islam in some areas of the country, major Islamic festivals (such as Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha) are also observed as holidays.
Many historical texts are translations from classical Greek and Hebrew religious texts into the ancient language Ge’ez, and from there into modern Amharic and Tigrigna languages. Ge’ez is a very ancient language and still used today by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
The Tigrayans’ history and culture is derived from the Aksumite Kingdom tradition and culture whereas the history and culture of the Amhara people is derived from the post Aksumite imperial reign of Menelik II and Haile Selassie.
Like anywhere else in the world, traditionally, men and women have very distinct roles, which greatly differ among the ethnic groups. One thing that seems rather common among many tribes though, it that women fetch water and firewood, walking great distances and many hours between the wells and wooded places and their homes. Like in so many other places in Africa, women – and children still serve as the “animals of burden” in the households. Spending many hours per day carrying water and other loads is one of the greatest obstacles in the modernization and emancipation of many women and the education of children in Ethiopia and Africa in general. While providing for beautiful pictures, women and children carrying water and firewood, actually is not a happy story.
Ethiopia is changing very rapidly though, particularly in the cities where more and more women are getting modern jobs, but even in rural areas, changes come rapidly, with smart phones providing internet access to even the most remote tribes and television showing traditional cultures alternative ways of life. While refraining from judging about advantages or disadvantages, this is an unstoppable process.
In the highlands, the Ethiopian traditional costume is made of cotton. Christian Ethiopians of both sexes wear a traditional robe called gabbi or Netella. Women often wear cotton dresses (Kemis) and netellas with borders of colored embroidered woven crosses, but other designs are also used. Other ethnic groups and tribes wear different costumes that reflect their own traditions. Some tribes partially cover their body with leather but others do not wear any clothes at all, while painting and marking their faces and bodies with distinctive images and markings.
The Ethiopian national dish is called wat, a spicy stew which may contain ingredients like chicken, beef, lamb, vegetables, lentils, and ground split peas stewed with hot spice called berbere. Berbere is made of dried red hot pepper, herbs, spices, dried onions, and dried garlic. The wat is served by placing it on top of injera which is served in a mesob, a large basket specially for the injera. Injera is a spongy, mildly sour pancake-like grain product made of fermented teff, an endemic – gluten free – grain of the Ethiopian highlands. It is served with all meals and eaten with the fingers by tearing off a piece of injera and dipping it in the wat and kneading it into a ball. Modern restaurants will serve the injera either on plates or in a round stainless steel tray in the mesob. Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christians fast on Wednesdays and Fridays and during a large number of religious celebrations when the faithful must abstain from eating meat and diary products. To foreigners the food choice during fasting may seem somewhat boring.
In the big cities, western food is available, but not haute cuisine, and in smaller cities and in the country side basically unavailable. While Wat is far more varied than local food in most other parts of Africa, the fact that Ethiopia has never been colonized, has resulted in the fact that Ethiopians have not been exposed to European food, other than some very basic Italian dishes. As a result, only very few restaurants serve western food and in most cases, it is very mediocre at best. Don’t waste your money on wine: with few exceptions, whatever is being imported, is vinegar and you are better off with the local beer.
The favourite drink of many Ethiopians is bunna (coffee). Bunna is drunk in Ethiopia in a unique and traditional way known as a “coffee ceremony”. First the coffee is roasted, then ground and placed in a Jebena (coffee pot) with boiling water. When ready it is then served to people in little cups, up to three times per ceremony.Other locally produced beverages are tella – fermented drink comparable to chicha in South America – and tej – a fermented honey elixer-, which are served and drunk during religious festivals and weddings.
Ethiopia’s traditional religious music is thought to date back to the seventh century, when St Yared is said to have invented the country’s form of notation. This is based on a pentatonic scale; so instead of seven notes in an octave, there are five. Traditional instruments include a flute made of wood/bamboo (washint), a small drum (atomo) and the krar, a five- or six-stringed lyre.