Places in Ethiopia

Top events in Ethiopia

December
28

About 100,000 pilgrims descend on Kulubi Gabriel Church, near Dire Dawa, for this colourful ceremony of baptisms and prayer which celebrates the...

January
19

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church's Epiphany (the celebration of Christ's baptism) is the country's most colourful annual religious festival. Massive...

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...

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

102,836,362 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

90.1 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. European-style plugs with two round pins and Italian-style plugs with three round pins in a line are both used.

Though Ethiopia’s reputation remains somewhat tarnished by its turbulent history, tourists are returning to the country in increasing numbers, keen to discover its wondrous landscapes, ancient religious sites and fascinating indigenous tribes.

One of the oldest Christian nations in the world, Ethiopia is a multicultural, multifaceted destination where the art of hospitality is alive and well: visitors are typically greeted with a steaming cup of coffee, which was first discovered in this very country.

Most visitors start their Ethiopian odyssey in the sprawling capital, Addis Ababa, a lively city nestling in the lofty Entoto Mountains. Renowned for its ubiquitous cafés, brutalist architecture and awful traffic jams, 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 famed 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 young 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: 06 December 2016

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 general threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate including in places visited by foreigners. 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.

There was an explosion at the Anwar Mosque in the Merkato area of central Addis Ababa on 11 December 2015.

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. The group continues to link attacks in the region to Ethiopia’s military presence in Somalia as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission, and continues to threaten all countries who have military forces in Somalia.

In the past 4 years, Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for attacks in Uganda, Djibouti and Kenya. 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 centered on the Ogaden region.

There is a 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. The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) also makes payments to terrorists illegal.

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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