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Relative Location: Ethiopia is located in eastern Africa in the southern Red Sea region (Horn of Africa). It borders Sudan and South Sudan on the west, Eritrea on the north, Djibouti and Somalia on the east, and Kenya on the south. Both Somaliland and Djibouti are very accessible from eastern Ethiopia while to the north, Eritrea and its beautiful Red Sea coastline is a little more difficult to explore and is currently closed. Ethiopia’s total border is 5,328 kilometers. The country covers approximately 1,127,127 square kilometers. This means the size of Ethiopia is equivalent to the size of Spain and France united (Source: Exodus South Ethiopia Travel Guide Book).
Ethiopia is a country of diverse landscape from the snow ranges of the Semien Mountains ( Ras Dashen is the tallest mountain with 4620m) to the hottest Danakil Depression which is 160m below sea in Afar region. Sometimes temperature in Dankil Depression reaches above 56 C0. Since the country has different altitudes, there is tremendous diversity of climatic, biophysical and socio-economic settings all over the country. Some parts of the country are characterized by high rainfall and humidity throughout the year, and some areas experience very high temperature.
Rainfall and temperature patterns vary widely because of Ethiopia’s location in the tropics and its diverse topography. The highlands above 1,500 meters enjoy a pleasant, temperate climate, with daytime temperatures between 16°C and 30°C and cool nights. In areas below 1,500 meters, such as the lower place like the Denakil Depression, the Ogaden in the southeast, and parts of the southern Omo Valley and western borderlands, daytime temperatures range 30°C to 50°. Precipitation is determined by differences in elevation and by seasonal shifts in monsoon winds. The highlands receive by far the most rainfall, most of it between mid-June up to mid-September, whereas lower elevations receive much less. In general, relative humidity and rainfall decreases from south to north and vary from scant to negligible in the eastern and southeastern lowlands (Source :Exodus South Ethiopia Travel Guide Book).
Ethiopia has nine semi-autonomous administrative regions and two city administrations that have the power to raise and spend their own revenues. The administrative divisions of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia are Afar, Amhara, Benishangul Gumuz, Gambela, Hareri, Oromiya, Somali, Tigray, and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples regional sate and the two special city administrations: Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa.
The states are subdivided into zones, districts, and sub-districts. The constitution of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was adopted by the country’s transitional government (formed in 1992 after the fall of the Derg regime and lasted until 1995) in December 1995. The federal constitution provides a parliamentary form of government and administration based on ethnic federalism. These regional states have their own working languages, they all have independent legislative, judiciary and executive system, and all regions collect their own revenues and allocate resources. Amharic is the official working language of Ethiopia, although English and Arabic are widely spoken throughout the county.
Elections: The elections for Ethiopia’s first popularly-chosen national parliament and regional legislatures were held in May and June 1995. Since then, five official elections were held including the 2015 elections. In all elections, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) got landslide victory over the opponents. The EPRDF-led government promotes a policy of ethnic federalism, delegating significant powers to regional, ethnically-based authorities.
Ethiopia is a country showing the fastest economic growth in Africa. Perversely, the country’s economy was highly dependent on rain feed agriculture system and more than 85% of the total population engaged on this economy system. Today, the country economy is transforming from subsistence agriculture system to market oriented agricultural system based on Agricultural Development lead industrialization (ADLI), the policy of the current government. The county’s major export include Coffee, Oil seed, Flower, Tea, Fruit, Khat, livestock and livestock products Leather and Leather products, Agro-manufacturing products -food and beverage and hydroelectric power ( exported to neighboring countries like Kenya, South Sudan and the Sudan and Djibouti. The country’s imports are mainly capital goods and consumer goods.
According to the national census held in 2008 G.C, the population of Ethiopia is estimated to be more than 80 million and growing at rates estimated to be between 2.1 to 2.5 percent per year. By now, Ethiopia’s population is believed to be 90 million which makes her the second populous country in Africa. Density average is about 72 people per square kilometer, but varies widely from region to region. The northern and southern highlands of Ethiopia are highly populated, but the lowlands in the southeast, south, and west, for the most part being far more sparsely inhabited. Only about 15 percent of the population is urbanized, making Ethiopia one of the least urbanized countries in the world. There is little internal migration, but the government is in the midst of relocating some highland farmers to new land at lower elevations to address the problems of population pressure and exhausted farming plots. This plan is similar to the much larger relocation effort that the military government undertook in the 1980s for the same reasons (Sources: Exodus south Ethiopia Travel Guide Book).
Ethnic classification in Ethiopia is difficult because people are categorized on the basis of one criterion- language. There are more than 83 languages and 200 dialects spoken as mother tongues in Ethiopia. It is no doubt that the cultural diversity of Ethiopia is a major attraction and enchantment. Ethiopia is rich medley of people of different religions and customs with distinctive lifestyles. There are many interesting cultural traditions in Ethiopia including the nomadic culture of the people of the Omo Valley.
Language, however, often is used to classify various groups of peoples of Ethiopia. Most of the populations belong to the Semitic, Cushitic and Omotic which is the larger Afro-Asiatic super-language family, a minority number belong to the Nilo-Saharan family of languages. They are found in west part of the country bordering Sudan. The largest Semitic-speaking group is the Amhara, who speak Amharic, formerly the official language and still quite widely used and who constitute perhaps 30 percent of the population.
The Amhara occupy the center of the northern highlands, and the far north. The people are agriculturalists. Smaller groups of Semitic-speaking people include the Gurague in the south, Harari in the east, Argobba in the north, the Tigre in the north, who speak Tigrigna and perhaps account for 14 percent of Ethiopian population. Cushitic-speakers include a large number of groups, who live in the southern highlands. Among them is the largest and most widespread of all of Ethiopia’s ethnic groups is the Oromo, perhaps accounting for 40 percent of the Ethiopian population and they live in the center-west and in the central southern highlands. Some are agriculturalists and others are pastoralists.
The Oromo language consists of a number of dialects. The other major speakers of Cushitic language are found in the southeast and southern highlands. These are the Sidama and Hadiya –Libido who cultivate ensete (false banana) and coffee. Several groups who speak related languages are found in south. The Cushitic family in south eastern lowlands is Somali and they are pastoralists. They are organized into clans and lineages.
North of the Somali is the Afar or Denakil, pastoralists who inhabit the hot lowlands between the Red Sea and the northern highlands. In the northern highlands, there are several small ethnic groups. From those ethnic groups, the well known is the Agew, who successfully preserved their ethnic identity in the face of Amhara acculturation during the last two millennia. They are agriculturalists. Among these Agew speakers are the Awi, Kimant, and Bete- Israel (Felasha). In the far southwest and south on both sides of the Omo River are different groups of Omotic-speakers, of whom the Wolaita are the most numerous and the most densely populated even in continent of Africa. They are hoe cultivators; some specialize in craftwork and weaving.
In the far southwest and western borderlands with Sudan, there are groups who speak Nilo-Saharan languages. They are hoe cultivators and cattle keepers. In the south west, there are the Agnuak and the Nuer who are the most numerous. Further north, there are smaller groups, such as the Gumuz and the Berta, and the Kunema in western Tigray.
Ethiopia is a multi‐ethnic nation endowed with diversified culture, language, faith, religion and rich history. Religion is important in the lives of the majority of the Ethiopian population and it plays a significant role in the stability of the country. At most individual level, people’s lives are guided by their religious beliefs and values. From the Ethiopian total population of 85 million, 44 percent belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, 34 percent belong to the Sunni Muslim, and 19 percent belong to the Christian Evangelical and Protestant groups (according to 2007 national census). The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is predominant in the northern regions of Ethiopia, Tigray and Amhara, and central part of the country, some part of Oromia and also large part of southern Ethiopia. Islam is mostly prevalent in the Afar, Oromia, Harar, Gambella and Somali regions. Protestant church is strong in the Southern Region of Ethiopia, Gambella, and western parts of Oromia particularly, Wollega.
The Ethiopian calendar is seven years and eight months behind the Western (Gregorian) calendar. Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which comprises thirteen months and all months have thirty days except the last one month called Pagume which has only five / six days in a year. Ethiopian New Year begins on September 1 and in European calendar it is on September 11.
The Ethiopian time is three hours ahead of Greenwich Meridian or GMT+3, For example, in Ethiopia sunrise is 12 clocks and after an hour, it is one o’clock at local time but in European time it is seven o’clock. The European time 8:00 am is 2:00 am Ethiopian local time, and 3:00am local time is in 9:00 am European time. Mid day is 6:00am Ethiopian local time and it is 12:00am European time. At sunset it is 6:00pm in European time, however; it is 12:00pm in Ethiopian local time.