Ethiopia

  

Capital: Addis Abba
Population: 79,221,000 (est.2008)
Area : 4426,371 mi² (1,104,300 km²)
Bordering Countries: Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti
Languages Spoken: Amharic, Galla, Sidamo, Tigrinya, Somali, Gurage, Harari
Religions Practiced: Christian, Ethiopian Orthodox, Protestant, Catholic, Muslims, and Animist
Random Fact: Ethiopia is one of the few countries in Africa who has never lost independence
Top Exports: Leather, Hides, Skins, Coffee, Meat, Cereals, and Oilseeds
Money Currency: Birr

Ethiopia is situated in North Eastern Africa bordering Sudan to the north and north west, Eritrea to the north and north east, Djibouti to the east, Somalia to the east and south east and to the south lies Kenya. Ethiopia has a variety of distinct geographical zones and contrasts, varying as much as 120 metres below sea level in the harsh salt flats of the Danakil depression, to a 4618 meter peak – Ras Dashan, the fourth highest peak in Africa, in the Simien mountains The most distinctive feature is the northern part of the Great Rift Valley, which runs through the entire length of the country in a northeast-southwest direction. In the centre of the country is a high plateau region. This rugged tableland is bordered by steep slopes on the northwest; gradual slopes lead from the centre to the Western Plains and, on the east, through Somalia to the Indian Ocean. The lowlands are hot and arid. One semi-desert region, the Ogaden, covers the entire southeastern section of the country. In the north, the Danakil Desert reaches to the Red Sea and the coastal foothills of Eritrea. The western boundary of Ethiopia follows roughly the western escarpment of the central plateau, although in some regions the Sudan plains extend into Ethiopian territory. Ethiopia’s largest lake, Lake Tana, is the source of the Blue Nile River. This river, which winds around in a great arc before merging with the White Nile in the Sudan, travels through great canyons, which reach depths of more than 4,000 ft. Several rivers in the southwestern regions also comprise a system of tributaries to the White Nile.

History

East Africa, and more specifically the general area of Ethiopia, is widely considered the site of the emergence of early Homo sapiens in the Middle Paleolithic. Homo sapiens idaltu, found at site Middle Awash in Ethiopia, lived about 160,000 years ago. Around the 8th century BC, a kingdom known as D’mt was established in northern Ethiopia and Eritrea. Its capital was around the current town of Yeha, situated in northern Ethiopia. Most modern historians consider this civilization to be a native African one, although Sabaean-influenced because of the latter’s hegemony of the Red Sea, while others view D?mt as the result of a mixture of Sabaeans of southern Arabia and indigenous peoples. However, Ge’ez, the ancient Semitic language of Ethiopia, is now thought not to have derived from Sabaean (also South Semitic). There is evidence of a Semitic-speaking presence in Ethiopia and Eritrea at least as early as 2000 BC. Sabaean influence is now thought to have been minor, limited to a few localities, and disappearing after a few decades or a century, perhaps representing a trading or military colony in some sort of symbiosis or military alliance with the Ethiopian civilization of D?mt or some other proto-Aksumite state. After the fall of D’mt in the 4th century BC, the plateau came to be dominated by smaller successor kingdoms, until the rise of one of these kingdoms during the 1st century BC, the Aksumite Empire, ancestor of medieval and modern Ethiopia, which was able to reunite the area. They established bases on the northern highlands of the Ethiopian Plateau and from there expanded southward. The Persian religious figure Mani listed Aksum with Rome, Persia, and China as one of the four great powers of his time. In 316 AD, a Christian philosopher from Tyre, Meropius, embarked on a voyage of exploration along the coast of Africa. He was accompanied by, among others, two Syro-Greeks, Frumentius and his brother Aedesius. The vessel was stranded on the coast, and the natives killed all the travelers except the two brothers, who were taken to the court and given positions of trust by the monarch. They both practiced the Christian faith in private, and soon converted the queen and several other members of the royal court. The Zagwe dynasty ruled many parts of modern Ethiopia and Eritrea from approximately 1137 to 1270. The name of the dynasty is derived from the Cushitic-speaking Agaw of northern Ethiopia. From 1270 AD onwards for many centuries, the Solomonic dynasty ruled the Ethiopian Empire. In the early 15th century Ethiopia sought to make diplomatic contact with European kingdoms for the first time since Aksumite times. A letter from King Henry IV of England to the Emperor of Abyssinia survives. In 1428, the Emperor Yeshaq sent two emissaries to Alfonso V of Aragon, who sent return emissaries who failed to complete the return trip. The first continuous relations with a European country began in 1508 with Portugal under Emperor Lebna Dengel, who had just inherited the throne from his father. This proved to be an important development, for when the Empire was subjected to the attacks of the Adal General and Imam, Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi (called “Grañ”, or “the Left-handed”), Portugal assisted the Ethiopian emperor by sending weapons and four hundred men, who helped his son Gelawdewos defeat Ahmad and re-establish his rule. This Ethiopian–Adal War was also one of the first proxy wars in the region as the Ottoman Empire and Portugal took sides in the conflict. However, when Emperor Susenyos converted to Roman Catholicism in 1624, years of revolt and civil unrest followed resulting in thousands of deaths. The Jesuit missionaries had offended the Orthodox faith of the local Ethiopians, and on 25 June 1632 Susenyos’s son, Emperor Fasilides, declared the state religion to again be Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, and expelled the Jesuit missionaries and other Europeans. All of this contributed to Ethiopia’s isolation from 1755 to 1855, called the Zemene Mesafint or “Age of Princes”. The Emperors became figureheads, controlled by warlords like Ras Mikael Sehul of Tigray, Ras Wolde Selassie of Tigray, and by the Oromo Yejju dynasty, such as Ras Gugsa of Begemder, which later led to 17th century Oromo rule of Gondar, changing the language of the court from Amharic to Afaan Oromo. Ethiopian isolationism ended following a British mission that concluded an alliance between the two nations; however, it was not until 1855 that Ethiopia was completely united and the power in the Emperor restored, beginning with the reign of Emperor Tewodros II. Upon his ascent, despite still large centrifugal forces, he began modernizing Ethiopia and recentralizing power in the Emperor, and Ethiopia began to take part in world affairs once again. But Tewodros suffered several rebellions inside his empire. Northern Oromo militias, Tigrayan rebellion and the constant incursion of Ottoman Empire and Egyptian forces near the Red Sea brought the weakening and the final downfall of Emperor Tewodros II, who died after his last battle with a British expeditionary force. In 1868, Ethiopia and Egypt went to war at Gura. Northern Ethiopian forces, led by Emperor Yohannes IV, defeated the Egyptians decisively. Ethiopia as we currently know it began under the reign of Emperor Menelik II in the late 19th century.From the central province of Shoa, Menelik set off to subjugate and incorporate ‘the lands and people of the South, East and West into an empire.’He did this with the help of Ras Gobena’s Shewan Oromo militia, began expanding his kingdom to the south and east, expanding into areas that had not been held since the invasion of Ahmed Gragn, and other areas that had never been under his rule, resulting in the borders of Ethiopia of today. At the same time there were also “advances in road construction, electricity and education, development of a central taxation system and foundation of the new capital, Addis Ababa.” Menelik had signed the Treaty of Wichale with Italy in May 1889 in which Italy would recognize Ethiopia’s sovereignty so long as Italy could control a small area of northern Tigray (part of modern Eritrea). In return Italy was to provide Menelik with arms and support him as emperor.The Italians used the time between the signing of the treaty and its ratification by the Italian government to further expand their territorial claims. Italy began a state funded program of resettlement for landless Italians in Eritrea, which increased tensions between the Eritrean peasants and the Italians. This conflict erupted in the battle of Adwa on 1 March 1896 in which Italy’s colonial forces were defeated by the Ethiopians. Haile Selassie’s reign as emperor of Ethiopia is the best known and perhaps most influential in the nation’s history. He is seen by Rastafarians as Jah incarnate. The early 20th century was marked by the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie I, who came to power after Iyasu V was deposed. It was he who undertook the modernization of Ethiopia, from 1916, when he was made a Ras and Regent (Inderase) for Zewditu I and became the de facto ruler of the Ethiopian Empire. Following Zewditu’s death he was made Emperor on 2 November 1930. Haile Selassie was born from parents of the three main Ethiopian ethnicities of Oromo, Amhara and Gurage. He played a leading role in the formation of the Organisation of African Unity. The independence of Ethiopia was interrupted by the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and Italian occupation (1936–1941). During this time of attack, Haile Selassie appealed to the League of Nations in 1935, delivering an address that made him a worldwide figure, and the 1935 Time magazine Man of the Year.Following the entry of Italy into World War II, British Empire forces, together with patriot Ethiopian fighters, liberated Ethiopia in the course of the East African Campaign in 1941. This was followed by British recognition of full sovereignty, (i.e. without any special British privileges), with the signing of the Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement in December 1944.During 1942 and 1943 there was an Italian guerrilla war in Ethiopia. On 26 August 1942 Haile Selassie I issued a proclamation outlawing slavery.The total number of slaves in early 20th century Ethiopia is estimated at between two and four million in a total population of about eleven million.In 1952 Haile Selassie orchestrated the federation with Eritrea which he dissolved in 1962. This annexation sparked the Eritrean War of Independence. Although Haile Selassie was seen as a national hero, opinion within Ethiopia turned against him owing to the worldwide oil crisis of 1973, food shortages, uncertainty regarding the succession, border wars, and discontent in the middle class created through modernization. Haile Selassie’s reign came to an end in 1974, when a Soviet-backed Marxist-Leninist military junta, the “Derg” led by Mengistu Haile Mariam, deposed him, and established a one-party communist state which was called People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

 

Geography

Ethiopia is the world’s 27th-largest country, comparable in size to Bolivia. It lies between latitudes 3° and 15°N, and longitudes 33° and 48°E.   The major portion of Ethiopia lies on the Horn of Africa, which is the easternmost part of the African landmass. Bordering Ethiopia are Sudan and South Sudan to the west, Djibouti and Eritrea to the north, Somalia to the east, and Kenya to the south. Within Ethiopia is a vast highland complex of mountains and dissected plateaus divided by the Great Rift Valley, which runs generally southwest to northeast and is surrounded by lowlands, steppes, or semi-desert. The great diversity of terrain determines wide variations in climate, soils, natural vegetation, and settlement patterns.   Ethiopia is an ecologically diverse country, ranging from the deserts along the eastern border to the tropical forests in the south to extensive Afromontane in the northern and southwestern parts. Lake Tana in the north is the source of the Blue Nile. It also has a large number of endemic species, notably the Gelada Baboon, the Walia Ibex and the Ethiopian wolf (or Simien fox). The wide range of altitude has given the country a variety of ecologically distinct areas, this has helped to encourage the evolution of endemic species in ecological isolation.

Demographics

Ethiopia’s population has grown from 33.5 million in 1983 to 84.32 million in 2012 The population was only about 9 million in the 19th century. The 2007 Population and Housing Census results show that the population of Ethiopia grew at an average annual rate of 2.6% between 1994 and 2007, down from 2.8% during the period 1983–1994. Currently, the population growth rate is among the top ten countries in the world. The population is forecast to grow to over 210 million by 2060, which would be an increase from 2011 estimates by a factor of about 2.5. A Habesha baby in the northern Tigray Region. The country’s population is highly diverse, containing over 80 different ethnic groups. Most people in Ethiopia speak Afro-Asiatic languages, mainly of the Semitic or Cushitic branches. The former include Amharic, spoken by the Amhara people; and Tigrinya, spoken by the Tigray-Tigrinya people. The latter include Oromo, spoken by the Oromo people; and Somali, spoken by the Somali people. Those four peoples make up about three-quarters of the population in Ethiopia.   Ethiopians and Eritreans, especially Semitic-speaking ones, collectively refer to themselves as Habesha or Abesha, though others reject these names on the basis that they refer only to certain ethnicities.[citation needed] The Arabic form of this term (Al-Habasha) is the etymological basis of “Abyssinia,” the former name of Ethiopia in English and other European languages. Nilo-Saharan-speaking Nilotic ethnic minorities also inhabit the southern regions of the country, particularly in areas bordering South Sudan. Among these are the Mursi and Anuak.   According to the Ethiopian national census of 2007, the Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, at 34.49% of the nation’s population. The Amhara represent 26.89% of the country’s inhabitants, while the Somali and Tigray represent 6.20% and 6.07% of the population, respectively. Other prominent ethnic groups are as follows: Sidama 4.01%, Gurage 2.53%, Wolayta 2.31%, Afar 1.73%, Hadiya 1.74%, Gamo 1.50%, Kefficho 1.18% and others 11%.  In 2009, Ethiopia hosted a population of refugees and asylum seekers numbering approximately 135,200. The majority of this population came from Somalia (approximately 64,300 persons), Eritrea (41,700) and Sudan (25,900). The Ethiopian government required nearly all refugees to live in refugee camps.

Languages

According to Ethnologue, there are ninety individual languages spoken in Ethiopia. Most belong to the Afro-Asiatic language family, mainly of the Cushitic and Semitic branches. Languages from the Nilo-Saharan phylum are also spoken by the nation’s Nilotic ethnic minorities.   English is the most widely spoken foreign language and is the medium of instruction in secondary schools. Amharic was the language of primary school instruction, but has been replaced in many areas by regional languages such as Somali, Oromifa and Tigrinya.   In terms of writing systems, Ethiopia’s principal orthography is Ge’ez or Ethiopic (ግዕዝ). Used as an abugida for several of the country’s languages, it first came into use in the 5th–6th centuries BC as an abjad to transcribe the Semitic Ge’ez language. Ge’ez now serves as the liturgical language of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Churches. Other writing systems have also been used over the years by different Ethiopian communities. The latter include Sheikh Bakri Sapalo’s script for Oromo.

Religion

Ethiopia has close historical ties with all three of the world’s major Abrahamic religions. It was one of the first areas of the world to have officially adopted Christianity as the state religion, in the 4th century. While Christianity remains the majority religion, there is also a substantial Muslim demographic, representing about a third of the population. Ethiopia is the site of the first Hijra in Islamic history and the oldest Muslim settlement in Africa at Negash. Until the 1980s, a substantial population of Ethiopian Jews resided in Ethiopia.   According to the 2007 National Census, Christians make up 62.8% of the country’s population (43.5% Ethiopian Orthodox, 19.3% other denominations), Muslims 33.9%, practitioners of traditional faiths 2.6%, and other religions 0.6%. This is in agreement with the updated CIA World Factbook, which states that Christianity is the most widely practiced religion in Ethiopia. According to the latest CIA factbook figure Muslims constitute 33.9% of the population. The Kingdom of Aksum was one of the first nations to officially accept Christianity, when St. Frumentius of Tyre, called Fremnatos or Abba Selama (“Father of Peace”) in Ethiopia, converted King Ezana during the 4th century AD. Many believe that the Gospel had entered Ethiopia even earlier, with the royal official described as being baptized by Philip the Evangelist in chapter eight of the Acts of the Apostles. (Acts 8:26–39) Today, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, part of Oriental Orthodoxy, is by far the largest denomination, though a number of Protestant (Pentay) churches and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tehadeso Church have recently gained ground. Since the 18th century there has existed a relatively small (uniate) Ethiopian Catholic Church in full communion with Rome, with adherents making up less than 1% of the total population. A mosque in Bahir Dar. Islam in Ethiopia dates back to the founding of the religion; in 615, when a group of Muslims were counseled by Muhammad to escape persecution in Mecca and travel to Ethiopia via modern day Eritrea, which was ruled by Ashama ibn Abjar, a pious Christian king. Moreover, Bilal ibn Ribah, the first Muezzin, the person chosen to call the faithful to prayer, and one of the foremost companions of Muhammad, was from Abyssinia (Eritrea, Ethiopia etc.). Also, the largest single ethnic group of non-Arab Companions of Muhammad was that of the Ethiopians.   A small ancient group of Jews, the Beta Israel, live in northwestern Ethiopia, though most emigrated to Israel in the last decades of the 20th century as part of the rescue missions undertaken by the Israeli government, Operation Moses and Operation Solomon.Some Israeli and Jewish scholars consider these Ethiopian Jews as a historical Lost Tribe of Israel.   There are numerous indigenous African religions in Ethiopia, mainly located in the far southwest and western borderlands. In general, most of the (largely members of the non-Chalcedonian Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church) Christians live in the highlands, while Muslims and adherents of traditional African religions tend to inhabit more lowland regions in the east and south of the country.

 

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