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About Ethiopia

Ethiopian festivals (Meskel)
Ethiopian festivals (Timkat)   Bull-jumping ceremony of the Hamer people


Ethiopians are some seven years younger than the rest of the world! Ethiopia uses the Julian calendar whereas the rest of the world follows the Gregorian which is seven and a half years ahead. In the Julian calendar, a year comprises thirteen months; twelve of these months have 30 days. The 13th month has 5 or 6 days depending on leap year. While the rest of the world crossed over into the millennium in 2000, Ethiopia is still in the 1990's. Ethiopia's second millennium will take place in September 2007. Ethiopian time is three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Days and nights are of equal length as in other equatorial countries. Each day is 12 hours long. An Ethiopian day starts at 7 am (counted as 1:00) and ends at 7pm (12:00 Ethiopian time). While you are in Ethiopia, in order to tell what the local time is, just add 6 hours onto your watch reading.


A number of colorful and cultural festivals are celebrated in Ethiopia. Among the most colorful are:

  • Enqutatash, Ethiopian New Year - 11 September
  • Gena, Christmas - 7 January
  • Meskal, the finding of the true cross - 27 September (of which the bonfire ceremony is the most impressive part of the festival)
  • Timkat, Ethiopian Epiphany - 19 January

In addition, there are other popular religious festivals connected to angels' and saints' days. The most celebrated are:

  • Saint Gabriel's day at Kulubi - 28 December
  • Saint Mary's day - 29 November
  • All Muslim holidays

Marriage, birth, other rituals, body adornment, housing styles, and other practices are expressions of Ethiopia's melting pot of tribal and cultural diversity.


Although capacity and size vary from region to region, medical facilities are found in almost every part of the country. However, it is advisable to carry a first-aid kit with preventative medicine (including anti-malarial tablets).


Telephone, internet, postal, telex and fax services are available in the capital, major cities and towns. The dialing code is +251. Major towns and cities are connected with properly maintained highways of asphalt and gravel. The road system covers about 30,000km.

Ethiopian Airlines is one of the most reliable airlines in the world and flies to 45 international and 29 domestic flight destinations. Major domestic destinations are Bahir Dar, Gondar, Axum, Lalibela and Dire Dawa, as well as daily flights south to Arba Minch, Jinka and Bale Goba.


A valid passport with at least 6 months remaining is required. Visas can be obtained from any diplomatic mission, Ethiopian Embassy or Ministry of Foreign Affairs in your country, through your tour operator or at Addis Ababa airport. USD20 is required as your departure tax.


The Ethiopian currency is the Birr. (Currently 1USD is equivalent to about 8.65 Birr although rates do change from time to time.) Banks, which offer foreign exchange services, are found throughout the country but only in major towns and cities.


A range of hotels is available in Ethiopia, with some also offering camping. Hotels in Addis Ababa range from 3-star to 5-star and those outside Addis begin at 2-star.


Injera is a country-wide staple food served with a variety of fasting (vegetarian) and non fasting wots, or sauces. A sour pancake, injera is made with the endogenous grain teff. Deliciously prepared vegetarian dishes, raw meat, cooked meat and fish dishes are also served.

Although you can easily find a variety of international and other specialty restaurants in all major towns of Ethiopia, it is part of your Ethiopian experience to try local dishes.

Traditional dress is commonly seen in the countryside and on festival days. However, in the towns and cities people tend to dress lightly and casually.


More than 80 languages are spoken in Ethiopia and around 200 dialects are also in use. Ethiopia claims to be the only country in Africa to have its own language, Amharic, with its distinctive Ge'ez alphabet and numerals. English, on the other hand, is the official language and it is spoken widely around the country.



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