Places in Ethiopia

Top events in Ethiopia

April
01

Ethiopia's Orthodox Easter ends a 55-day vegetarian fast by the faithful. The evening of Easter Saturday is the big event when the faithful gather...

September
11

Ethiopian New Year celebrations coincide with the Feast of St John the Baptist. There are three days of priestly processions and prayer at...

September
15

This ancient rite of the Oromo people usually takes place on the first Sunday after Meskel. Pilgrims gather together around the ancient fig trees...

Castle in Ethiopia
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Castle in Ethiopia

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Ethiopia Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

1,104,300 sq km (426,372 sq miles).

Population

93.9 million (2013).

Population density

85 per sq km.

Capital

Addis Ababa.

Government

Federal Republic.

Head of state

President Mulatu Teshome Wirtu since 2013.

Head of government

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn since 2012.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz.

Still marred by its turbulent history, tourists remain thin on the ground in Ethiopia. However, those venturing to this stunning corner of Africa will be pleasantly surprised.

One of the oldest Christian cultures in the world, Ethiopia is a warm and welcoming land defined by its rich cultural traditions, ancient ruins and ubiquitous natural beauty.

Most visitors start their Ethiopian odyssey in the capital, Addis Ababa, a lively city nestling in the lofty Entoto Mountains.

Renowned for its excellent coffee, brutalist architecture and wild contrasts, in Addis Ababa it is not uncommon to see smartly dressed businessmen walking down the same streets as local shepherds.

Few linger long in the Ethiopian capital, choosing instead to head north to Lalibela, a pilgrimage site famous for its ancient churches, which have quite literally been hewn out of a cliff.

Lalibela is one of nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ethiopia; other notables include the fairytale castles of Gondar, the walled city of Harar and the mysterious stelae of Aksum.

Ultimately, though, it’s Ethiopia’s epic landscapes that really capture the imagination; from the verdant peaks of the Simien Mountains to the sulphur fumaroles of the Danakil Depression, the scenery could inspire paintings, provoke poetry.

These wild environments sustain ancient tribes such as the Bodi, whose men live on a diet of blood and milk in a bid to become the region’s fattest man, and the Hamer, famous for their dangerous bull-jumping ceremony, which is considered a rite of passage for men.

Ethiopia has come a long way since the famine of 1984 (which prompted Bob Geldof to write the fundraising hit Do They Know It’s Christmas?), but the country, though culturally rich, remains economically poor. Travelling around it can be hard going, but for those who ride it out, the rewards are immense.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 26 February 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

There is a high threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate including in places frequented by foreigners.

In October 2013, a bomb in Addis Ababa killed 2 people, and in November 2013, Ethiopian security officials said that they believed that terrorist groups plan to carry out attacks in Addis Ababa and other parts of Ethiopia. Further attacks are likely.

The terrorist group Al-Shabaab, although based in Somalia, poses a threat across the East Africa region. There are credible reports that Al Shabaab plan, and have the capability, to attack targets in Ethiopia, particularly in Addis Ababa, Jijiga and Dolo Odo. On 14 October 2014, the US Embassy in Addis Ababa issued a travel warning advising “those in Addis Ababa to avoid areas where both Ethiopians and westerners frequent”, and citing threat reports of Al Shabaab’s intent to target the Bole area of the city. You should be vigilant at all times, especially in crowded areas and public places like transport hubs, hotels, restaurants, bars and places of worship and during major gatherings like religious or sporting events.

In the past 4 years, Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for attacks in Uganda, Djibouti and Kenya. The group continues to link attacks in the region to military presence in Somalia as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission, and continues to threaten all countries who have military forces in Somalia, which includes Ethiopian forces. The ultimate aim of Al-Shabaab is to establish an Islamic Caliphate in the wider region, including parts of Ethiopia.

A number of indigenous Ethiopian and ethnic Somali groups which operate in Ethiopia are actively engaged in a militant campaign against the Ethiopian government, with most of their activity centred on the Ogaden region.

There is a high threat of kidnapping in Ethiopia’s Somali region, particularly in the eastern areas to which the FCO advise against all travel. You should be vigilant, particularly in towns and cities in the Somali region of Ethiopia, even in areas where the FCO do not advise against all travel. In May 2014, there was an increase in incursions across the Ethiopian-Somali border with reports of large numbers of casualties.

There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

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