Ethiopia Travel Destinations & Suggested Accommodation
Ethiopia is a land of stunning natural beauty that hosts a cultural heritage which dates back to the very dawn of mankind. The country is situated between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn in the “Eastern Horn of Africa” and it covers a geographic area of more than 1 million square Kilometres, twice the size of either Kenya or France.
Ethiopia offers tourists an enormous variety of landscapes: the traveller’s adventurous eyes move from Ethiopia’s majestic mountains, with imposing peaks and deep gorges, over crystal-clear crater lakes that run off into thundering waterfalls, down into lush green tropical regions and on through extensive savannah and semi-desert areas. Ethiopia’s recorded history is no less imposing, dating back almost to the advent of writing itself, to the time when the mighty Egyptian Pharaohs sent expeditions down the Red Sea to trade for gold, ivory, frankincense, myrrh and slaves. But the country’s importance for human history dates back even further still; it is widely considered to be the land where mankind can trace its origins.
In its Afar region, located inside the Great Rift Valley, anthropologists discovered the remains of Lucy, mankind’s oldest dating relative that lived in that area more than three million years ago and whose name, in the Amharic language, means “you are wonderful” (Denkenesh/Birkinesh). She belongs to the Australopithecus Afarensis Family, short, upright-walking hominids that had a small brain and ape-like features. Her bones rest in the Ethiopian National Museum in Addis Ababa.
The history of human civilization in Ethiopia begins with legends of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba who came from Yemen and stories of their famous son Menelik dating around 100 BC. It is Menelik who triumphantly carried the Ark of the Covenant back to Ethiopia with him where even today this religious relic is still said to rest in Axum, the great capital of the Axumite Kingdom. That Kingdom began its rule around 300 AD. During the early years of the fourth century Christianity was introduced to the Axumite Kingdom and it was later followed by the rise of Islam, around 600 AD, when the Ethiopian Emperors gave asylum to the followers of Mohammed who were seeking protection from religious persecution at the hands of their enemies in Mecca. Another important tap in the country’s history took place during the rule of King Lalibela (1185-1210 AD).During Lalibela’s empire eleven colossal churches were hewn out of solid rock; these marvelous sites, considered to be the eighth wonder of the world, are still standing today. In 1636 Emperor Fasilidas established Gondar as the capital city of his Kingdom. There Fasilidas and his illustrious successors constructed a network of imposing castles and beautiful churches that seem to have been copied directly out of the pages of fairy-tale books. Starting in the early 800s, the Emperor Menelik, after adopting the name of his historic predecessor, led his country towards the modern state of Ethiopia. It is here that the county’s passage to modernization began.
Ethiopia is very proud to be the only African country that was not colonized by European colonial forces. It was briefly occupied by Italian forces between 1936 and 1941 when it was finally liberated by the allied forces of the Resistance Movement and the British Army. After being restored to power, Menelik’s last successor, Haile Selassie, who reigned from 1930 to 1974, attempted to implement a great number of reforms aimed at modernizing the state. A coup d’etat, led by Lieutenant Colonel Menghistu Hailè Mariam, ended the last emperor’s rule in 1974.
During its 17 years of military controlled government, Menghistu’s regime tried to reorient the nation’s economy away from capitalism and towards Marxism. In 1991 the Menghistu government was toppled by the unified force of the Ethiopian people, known as the EPRDF. Between 1991 and 1995 a transitional government led Ethiopia towards a Federal Democratic Republic. Mr Meles Zenawi has been the nation’s Prime Minister since 1995.
Addis Ababa (the name means 'new flower') is of fairly recent origin - Menelik 11 founded the city in 1887. Situated in the foothills of the Entoto Mountains and standing 2,400 metres above sea level it is the third highest capital in the world. The city has a population of about two million. Before moving to the present site of Addis Ababa, Menelik had established temporary capitals at six different locations caused by exhausting the fuel wood at each of these sites. Addis itself was in danger of being abandoned until the introduction of fast-growing eucalyptus trees from Australia provided the city with a regular source of fuel. Addis Ababa is an important administrative centre not only for Ethiopia but also for the whole of Africa. The headquarters of the UN Economic Commission for Africa was established here in 1958 and it is the site of the OAU's secretariat.
Bahar Dar is developing fast as the regional business and leisure center for the Regional State of Amhara. The city is located 570km Northwest of Addis Ababa. It treasures many historical churches and monasteries, including the famous St. George Church and St. Michael Monastry and is the gateway to the Blue Nile Falls and the Zeghe Peninsula. As its regional capital, its commercial activities include governmental departments, colleges, universities and light industries. The city has a population of 130,000 people.