Culture of Ethiopia: 15 Dazzling Facts and Experiences

culture of ethiopia -

The culture of Ethiopia has various dimensions and faces. Ethiopia, eastern African, the place of ‘thirteen months of sunshine’ (literally), land of origins, the uncolonized country in Africa, a country with its own calendar and with more than 80 cultures and languages, old alphabet and numerical system, and rich history of its own, that is free from colonialism.

Ethiopia is famous for the undeniably beautiful ladies in the world, talented great long-distance runners, great Nile river, home to many UNESCO world heritage. The list goes on and on.

The nature it offers is above and beyond, and as a person who was born and raised in this magical land, I will roughly explain how the culture of Ethiopia is real.

The dictionary defines culture as the arts, ideas, social behavior of a particular people or society. One could write many books about Ethiopia and yet is not enough to tell everything. In this article, I will mainly focus on the culture of Ethiopia that are not widely known to the foreign world. At the end of the article, I will surely change your mind about Ethiopia.

Culture of Ethiopia: History

Many historians refer to our country as one of the oldest countries in the world. Plenty of people at least know king Minilik who founded the present-day Addis Ababa; emperor Haile Selassie, who is known for his contribution to the origin of the African Union and as a man responsible for Rastafarian religion; and to the present government system.

The classic leaders also contributed a lot to the current face of the country. Kings from Ezana to Lalibela to the queen of Sheba had their own marks to the present of the country.

Ethiopia’s ancient name was Abyssinia that’s derived from the Arabic ”Habesh” referring to the northern populations in Ethiopia. The name Ethiopia refers principally to Nubia the word Ethiopia is derived from the word ‘ethiopis’, the name of an Ethiopian king.

The Book of Aksum identifies Ethiopia as the twelfth king of Ethiopia and is the father of Aksumawi. The word comes from the Greek words “Aitho” and “ops” which together mean “ burnt face” and that was how ancient Greek people used to describe dark-skinned people.

Culture of Ethiopia: Religion

Ethiopia is the oldest independent country and the second populous country. Based on the history of Kebra Nagast (Book of Kings) Menelik the first captured the area and the Abyssinian empire was created. Later, after the conquest of Aksum by Queen Gudit, a period began which some scholars refer to as Ethiopian dark ages. The country’s history, yet, survived with palaces, temples and everyday artifacts. These are the etiquette, cultures, and language.

Culture of Ethiopia: the Everyday

Starting from polite greetings with bowing heads, Ethiopians are well known for their guests handing and take care of a good standard. The care the people give to family members and the respect we give to our elders is limitless and it is with great humility. Both genders are respectful to one another and work at their job tirelessly and equally.

We share both happy and sad moments together with relatives friends family neighbors and the rest members of our community. Living in harmony, we have about more than 8 types of religion. Sure with more than 80 different ethnic groups with 200 dialects spoken there might be some misunderstandings with people and some arguments but that doesn’t mean expats can’t make a living and succeed here.

At the end of the day the awareness of what our grandparents fought for, for freedom against colonialism, would help us live in harmony with each other and with foreigners. This survived the country and even today people wish to live together and not without each other.

Culture of Ethiopia: the Unique timing

Yes, Ethiopia is a land of thirteen months of sunshine. Including the five day leap year, the mild sun is every month, even in between the rain.

We have our own calendar that we follow having an extra month named Puagume with 5 days in it and also we are 7 or 8 years behind the western calendar. Sun dictates time usually calling 7:00 a 1:00 we do not observe daylight saving time. All Ethiopians use a 12-hour clock system. The daytime cycle begins at dawn at 12:00and ends at dust at 6:00.

Culture of Ethiopia: Friendly Like no Other

Ethiopia is a diplomatic capital of Africa, housing the African union centered herein in the main city Addis Ababa. Emperor Haile Selassie was one of the founders of the African Union and Ethiopia has always been the seat of the union ever since.

Tourists mainly choose Ethiopia as its one of the most amusing country with its green landscapes, historic sites like Gondar, Aksum, and the holy city of Harar. And national parks and mostly for hiking as Ethiopia has 70% of the mountains in Africa. We take care of tourists with a heart warmed welcoming and give them a friendly stay and environment.

Many tourists who visited the country get a unique experience before departure. Many share their experiences through blogs and social media. Ethiopia experiences high tourism growth with an income highly increasing year after year.

Culture of Ethiopia: The Dazzling Local Food

Another very fascinating thing about Ethiopia would be food. To name a few, sourdough flatbread(injera), Sautéed meat chunks(tibs), Shiro (Cheak peas) and Ethiopian beef tartare(kitfo) are amongst the wide range verity of food we have. some say the majority of our food is enriched with a great number of spices and is rather hot. Secret sauces passed through generations, makes the same food with different tastes.

Tourists recommend tasting Injera along with Misir wot, Salata, Shechebsa, Doro wat, key wat, and Gomen Besiga. These foods are made of grains such as teff, wheat, barley, corn, sorghum, and millet.

Ethiopian people are powered by injera, the most common in everyday meals. It is a nutritious and gluten-free tef grain that flourishes in the highlands of Ethiopia. It contains a high proportion of fiber more than other types of bread around the world.

While talking about the foods let’s not forget about the drinks. Tej and tela are mostly consumed drinks in the rural areas as well as in urban These are basically a mead or honey wine that is brewed and consumed. Flavored with the powdered leaves and twigs of Gesho. And others are very popular traditional fermented alcoholic drinks like Areki, Borde and Shamita.

Ethiopia is originally known for coffee. It is a longstanding tradition dating back to dozens of centuries. The story goes back to a shepherd called Khaldi who discovered the ‘hypering’ effect of coffee seed after he witnessed his goats getting active after consuming the plant. One of our identifications as Ethiopians is our coffee ceremonies and how we make coffee for the purpose of drinking and it is considered to be one of the best coffees in the world because of its high altitude growing conditions. The bean is steeped in a rich history of tradition and culture. From all the countries that grow coffee, ours is very special and unique and here is why.

Ethiopian beans of coffee have a high flavor profile and it is known for their bright fruited and floral flavors. It has high acidity (not the harmful they are with relatives, neighbors, or other visitors. It’s served after large meals and even at restaurants. It also plays a big role when it comes to income by exploring a large amount of coffee. People drink coffee on a daily basis. Hence, visiting or living in Ethiopia cannot be complete without having coffee with the ceremony. We can say that is the huge piece of the puzzle when It comes to discovering culture in Ethiopia.

Culture of Ethiopia: The local Music and Dance

Another culture in Ethiopia would music we listen to. The main genre would be Ethio jazz having a rich and fascinating history. It is based on a pentatonic scale with asymmetrical rhythm. Aster awoke, Tewodros Taddeese, Ali Bira, Mahammod Ahmud of course one of the legendary Tilahun Gessese are amongst a few of the famous singers renowned around the world when it comes to singers in Ethiopia.

Culture of Ethiopia: Nature and Man

The natural beauty of Ethiopia amazes first-time visitors. Among the most visited sites in the country, the wildlife takes place up top. Ethiopia has an extraordinary and astonishing range of wildlife.

It is home to many species boasting over 24,000 species overall. Most iconic epidemic animals in Ethiopia whose primary source of food being grass are Walia ibex, the mountain nyala, Somali wild donkey, yellow fronted parrot, bale mountain vervet, Minilik bushbucks and gelada baboons. It also contains 7 lion populations that contain about 500 lions. The country has wild animals and flying animals that are not yet fully explored.

We hear that most people who want to come to Ethiopia would want to be aware of the climate first. Ethiopia is in the tropical zone lying between the equator and the tropic of cancer. The climate varies mostly with altitude and goes from hot and arid climates of the lowlands to cool climate of a plateau having 3 seasons mainly known as Belg, Kiremt , and Bega. Dallol, located in the northern part of Ethiopia takes over as being the hottest place in the world averaging 94 degrees Fahrenheit. Of all the times and seasons, November and February are better when sunny, clear days are present.

ethiopian woman wearing habesha kemis

Culture of Ethiopia: Clothing in Thousands

Clothing in Ethiopia could be a bit different when it comes to traditional costumes. The traditional clothes are mainly made of woven cotton and are named gabi and Netella. Women often wear dresses (Kemis) and Netella with borders of colored embroidered woven crosses.it is produced as white, gray, or beige chiffon woman’s dress that often falls to the ankles and is worn with a Shawa.

Basically, the ideal dress would be long flowing skirts and dresses that cover shoulders and knees are the common dressing styles. Shorts or sleeveless tops are rare, especially in rural areas. Whenever we attend funerals in our country we turn this Netella’s borders upside down stating or showing condolences to the family that is mourning and our Habesha Kemis is known to wear best for holidays, weddings, get together, and on so many other occasions.

Culture of Ethiopia: Diversity is a culture

The population in Ethiopia is a highly diverse mix of an ethnic and linguistic background containing over 80 different ethnic groups or tribes with a different way of living, different languages, different dressing styles, different types of foods and furthermore discrepancies among each other. And most known ethnics with most people in them are Oromo, Amhara, Tigray, Somali in that order.

Generally, Ethiopian languages are divided into four major language groups. These are Semitic, Cushitic, Omotic and Nilo-Saharan. And Oromo has the largest number of speakers. Though it is the official language of Ethiopia, and only a small percentage of the population speaks Oromo. Amharic taking over of being the first communicable language of all the others. Amharic is a Semitic language and comes behind Arabic as the most spoken Semitic language.

So, we could say that Amharic is the official national language of Ethiopia. English, Arabic, Italian, and French is widely spoken by many Ethiopians as well. And concerning religion, Ethiopia consists of a number of faiths. Among these many religions, the most numerous are Christianity (orthodox, protestant, catholic, and Jehovas) followed by Islam.

There is also a longstanding but small Jewish community called black Jewish or (felashas or bête Israel, various historians claim they are a lost tribe of Israel or descendants of king Solomon). Through all this diversity and differences, Ethiopia stands strong in living peacefully and cherishing one another.

When talking about Ethiopia geography, it is dominated by a vast highland complex of rugged mountains, flat-topped plateaus, and deep gorges and river valleys. Bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti, and Somalia to the east, Sudan and South Sudan to the west and Kenya to the south. It consists of erosion, volcanic eruptions, and tectonic movements overages and has a diverse topography. The climate and its dependent territories vary greatly.

Culture of Ethiopia: Social Hierarchy

Cultural values are the main principles and ideas upon which an entire community exists. Culture has several branches which are traditions and rituals. And values are beliefs and culture. When it comes to a family structure which is much extended. Children are expected to grow to respect very strict social rules. The basics are shaking hands, covering hair, taking shoes off when the inside house or guest house, standing up and bowing heads as we greet people and elders.

Giving our seats to our elders, lowering voice during talking and silence when elder people are present, always pray before and after meals. Chewing gum when talking to people, liking hands and wearing hats when eating is considered rude behavior. Respecting elders is our main culture and what we are known for. Almost every Ethiopian citizen is raised with this rule and has them throughout their lives. These rules are being washed off through city life, and yet these survive in many areas.

Culture of Ethiopia: Local Architecture

Our most visited sites would include best-known architect features. From numerous sites in the list, few are the ruin of the temple at Yeha found in Tigray Region, the church of Abune Aregawi at Debre Damo monastery constructed around the mid-century, Lalibela’s monolithic church bête Gebriel, Fasilides’ castle in Fasil Ghebbi found in Gondar and the list goes on and on. Ethiopian architecture has been influenced by cultures and the country’s history. Architecture, especially the churches, and culture stick together.

orthodox church timket celebrations

Culture of Ethiopia: Celebrations

Regarding holidays, Ethiopia is wealthy in vibrant and colorful festivals holidays and well known for celebrating them with the gatherings of our family, closest ones and our community at large. Leddet (Christmas), Timket (epiphany) victory of Adwa Commemoration day, good Friday, ester, new year.

Most tourists like to be present during our Meskel ceremony and Timket holiday that honors the baptism of Jesus Christ in the river of Jordan. Hosted and celebrated on street consisting very huge population of the Christian community, the day goes in chants, songs, and performances. After the ceremony, at home, a family gathers at a big plate (mesob) to eat and have a coffee. They play games and share memories.

No doubt when talking about the beauty of Ethiopian women. Some say that Ethiopian beauty results from the mixing of ancient Yemeni people with people in eastern Africa. The facial and a body different from the other part of Africa may support this. Belonging to Semitic and Cushitic ethnic groups mostly from North Country people say that our generation of race elongates from that.

Culture of Ethiopia: Traditional

Traditional medicine is part of this culture. When one suffers from sickness and when they are in excruciating pain, grandparents used to make traditional medicine that quickly eases the pain and heals the pain. They do that using herbs to treat pains such as hepatitis, pneumonia even tapeworms.

Even scientists point out that common western drugs such as Asprin and other renowned medicines were realized and derived from traditional folk medicines. Doctor Aklilu lemma is a great proof who found Endod leaf and used it to kill snails that carry disease.

Culture of Ethiopia: Literature

Ethiopian literature dates from ancient Ethiopian literature up until modern Ethiopian literature, Started writing in either in classical Ge’ez or in Amharic. But Ge’ez had by now lost its vigor and mostly used in the Ethiopian orthodox church and Amharic is widely used to write poems reaching and touching people’s hearts. Poem reviles hidden expressions, feelings and used to expose the reality of the world using waves of beautiful words and phrases reflecting nationalism, patriotism, and unity of the country.

Poetry has the greatest power in uniting and motivating society together to work unshakably and live untroubled life. And Ethiopia is heavenly gifted with writers and poets succeeding in this department of culture. Writers like Zera Yakob, Dinaw Mengestu, Nega Mezlka and many more and among from poets most famous poet laureate Tsegaye Gebremedhin shows us the true color of the world both sides of the coin and are best for it. I will finish this essay with one of laureate Tsegaye’s best poems about Ethiopia.

This is where I am / Tongues of tombs, blazing / Sidetracking the breath of life / Egg, thorn the quiet of day / Override the stink of bodies / Leap and lash at what it seems / A wild dream coming true / This is where I am / A lone flame , distant/ aloof / A Time – bound serenity / Singularly embracing the shadow of deaths /Our truth crawling back /

From the grave of ages / Defying the demons of fear / With the stiff wings of younger hopes. / This is where I am. / Humming where eternal silence hung. / Calling, my innermost screaming / With a deafending silence, calling / Charging the multiple of outer silence. / This is where I am. / Lurking in my shere of the kill / Asking how I failed / The cause of the thousands dead /The cause of the thousands dying, / I , daily lurking in that fear /They overcome for me in their deaths. / This is where I am. –

This is where I am, Tsegaye gebre-medhin, November 1974

Finally,

Culture in Ethiopia begins hundreds of years before. The country is even mentioned in the bible and is painted as one of the powerful nations in the world at the time. The people evolved socially and economically, and today the country is part of low-income countries.

However, cultural, religious, and historic artifacts are kept intact. You will be amazed to visit Ethiopia and to experience the diverse social and historic and cultural diversities.

Ethiopia 2017 report

Ethiopia: Religion & Culture

Author: Ruth Tesfaye

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