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ETHIOPIA: The Land of Diversity

Ethiopia is a country that possesses a massive wealth of legends and fascinating attractions. It was home to the most ancient kingdom in the continent, recognised as one of the most ancient kingdoms in the world. It is the only African country that possesses its own alphabet and unique calendar and a country that kept its own independence in the face of European colonies.

Geography

This ancient kingdom, Ethiopia, lies on the eastern side of Africa situated almost centrally between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, the region constitutes the heart of Horn of Africa, covers an areas of 1,194.000 sqkm which is as large as France and Spain combined. It is the land of immense physical and biological contrasts. It is the Roof of Africa owing to the fact that most of the country is mountainous which starts at the Simien range towering at 4620 m above sea level which in turn gives way to the low lying Danakil Depression in Afar one of the lowest points on earth. Dalluel is located 116m below sea level is located.

Temperature is no less varied. It ranges from the icy cold of the mountains with frost and in places even snow through the temperate highland which is the country’s most historical settlement to the torrid low land in the north east. This geographical variation is a factor for the rainfall distribution. The torrential down falls in the highlands contrasting with the precipitation in the parched almost waterless lowlands. Highlands and lowlands are always juxtaposed next to each other for this reason people settled in the highlands and lowlands have lots of differences in terms of their ways of living. Jungles and rain forests particularly in the west, desert and semi desert scrub lands mainly to the east and south; fertile but largely deforested regions mainly in many areas of medium elevations.

History

Ethiopia is a land rich in colourful history that goes back to the Old Testament. Its name derived from the Greek word Aithiopia which means Land of the Burnet Face and this name geographically indicates the area south of Egypt which is called Kush in Hebrew. It is the continent’s only country which has its own unique Alphabet and calendar and survived from the scramble of Africa by defeating the Italians at the battle of Adwa 1896.

It is the land named as the land of Punt as early as the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs, Ethiopian first recorded foreign contact, who dispatched numerous expeditions in search of Incense (Myrrh) and this relationship with Egypt continued until the Christian period in which Ethiopian Christendom exclusively dependent on Egypt for the importation of the Patriarchies. If there is anything that defines the country without doubt the absence of Homogeneity in its characteristics. Diversity as a dominant feature, can be expressed in terms of Ethnic, Linguistic and Religion Groups. The mountainous nature, lots of rivers, ravines and flash torrent make traveling very difficult and during the rainy season virtually impossible this leads to the perpetuation of many different ethnic, linguistic and religious groups. Ethiopia has 83 ethnic groups, each has its own language, culture, folklores methodology of living, etc. These ethnic groups scattered with in a unique geographical settings and develop a unique culture in Africa. The varied people, despite the fact that their precise geographical location massively changed, as well as expanding or contrasting over centuries, belonged to four linguistic groups known as Semitic, Cushitic, Omoic and Nilo- Sahara. People of the northern and central parts of the present day Ethiopia are versed of Semitic languages and are represented there by the ancient ecclesiastical Ge’ez language and by three other currently spoken tongues Tigrinya in most part of the north, Tegray (Tegregnye) in areas near the Red Sea Cost, and Amharic, the National language, more in the centre and in the north western part of the country. Semitic languages are also exist in the south and east. The Gurages are those found in the south and the Adere known also as the Harari and the Aregoba both in the South east like the Gurage and the Harerie people who live in the walled city of Hare speak the traditional Harerie language. The Cushitic languages are predominantly confined to the south of the country and consist of the widely diffused Oromifa or Afan-Oromo, Sidamo, Hadeya, etc. But Cushitic languages are also found in the north and north east where the Agew, Beja, Saho, Qemant, and Afar occupied.

Omotic language are represented in the lower omo valley and indigenous to the region and spoken by pastoral people the Hamer, Ari, Benna, Beshada, Maale, Dizi, Gemerra, Karo, Dorze andWolayita.

The Nilo- Sahara language is found on Ethiopia’s south western territory spoken by the Kunama further north, Berta, Gumeze, Mejengure , Mursi, Surma, Bodi, Nyangatm, Me’en and more to the south Nuer and Anuak ,a diffusion of it stretches as far over in to the Sudan.

Religion

As per the geographical settlement of the people, the spread of the three world’s Monotheist religions are represented here in Ethiopia. The northern highlands and central part of the country are inhabited by the most strongly adherent Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity made the state religion in the middle of the 4th .C.A.D. by King Ezana the great. Religion plays such a very important role in the day to day life of the Ethiopians and this can be observed in many ways.

The low lands and the east, including the ports and the great commercial centre Harer, in contrast are populated by the Muslims. These first Islamic populations were granted such a right to run the country’s commercial affairs in the world stage.

Judaism was limited in the north and northwest of the country and practiced by the small group of the Bête Israel or house of Israel. They served largely as craftsmen, blacksmiths, builders, and potters. They were scattered in areas south of Axum in the Simien Mountain National park, Gondar and Lake Tana region.

Small number of people are still adherents of local animist religions which preponderate in an extensive, but gradually contrasting areas of the south and west. Most such faiths doubtless predate the coming of monotheist religion.

Economy

Geographical variation and its unique ecosystems leads to the invention, development and practices of different methods of living such as domestication of plants and animal husbandry. With the result that the three world’s principal type of Economic activities are age – old practices in Ethiopia. 85% of the population is agriculturalist and they use plough agriculture which makes them unique in the rest of the continent and occupying the most fertile highlands. Pastoralists mainly in the more widely spread lowland and these people accumulate and upkeep cattle as wealth with a very limited agricultural produces for their almost immediate consumption. Large canopies of trees along the banks of the rivers, lakes are occupied in the immediate vicinity by the hunters and gatherers.

Population

Ethiopia is now becoming the 2nd highest populated country in Africa with a population of 100 million. 85% of its population is rural because of the fact that the prime means of living is agriculture. The temperate regions are very conducive for agricultural practices and animal husbandry so that they are the most populated regions while the north -east and south Omo valley are regions which are less rich in resources and due to undesirable climatic nature, they are less populated.

Calendar

Ethiopia has such a unique calendar of 13 months. Twelve lunar months of 30 days and plus one month of 5/6 days depending on the Leap year and the Ethiopian new year falls on September 1st which is September 11 or 12 European calendar. Using the Julian calendar, according to the Ethiopian Orthodox church, calendar begins as of 5500 BC, as a result, Ethiopian calendar delays seven or eight years from the European calendar. The European 2014-2015 is 2007 in Ethiopian calendar. Each year is dedicated to one of the four evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Even though the Ethiopian months do not correspond to those of the Gregorian, the days of the Ethiopian week do.

Ethiopians have their own way of telling time. The day is divided in two equal12hours and the first hour of the day corresponds with the rising of the sun and the last hour of the same day is around sunset. Twelve o’clock Ethiopian time, in the morning, is Six o’clock European time. Ethiopia is GMT+3 and because of its proximity to the Equator, there is not time variation between the day and night for this reason it allows the country to enjoy 12 hours daylight.