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Mursi Tribesman
AUGUST 09 , 2007

Ethiopia - 13 Months of Sunshine

Ethiopia is an amazing country so differant to everything we have seen on our journey. Not only do they have thirteen months in their calendar, they are running on a totally different schedule, seven years behind the gregorian calendar. Their days start at 6 in the morning and finish at 6 at night (our 7 o'clock is Ethiopian 1 o'clock). Interestingly, Ethiopia culturally is gifted with two very unique selling points. In the south, the Omo valley has remained a cultural oasis, untouched by western influences for thousands of years. Tribal warriors still walk around in traditional outfits practicing the old ways. In the north, the rich history of Ethiopia shines with relics from the Axumite, Gondar and Lalibela empires, and a religious past as strong as that of Israel and Rome.

Contrary to popular belief (and in no small part due to those wonderful people at World Vision), Ethiopia is in fact one of the most fertile countries in Eastern Africa. While the deserts do exist they are thinly populated and unlikely to be visited by both tourists and Ethiopians alike. Ethiopia was formally known as Abyssinia, and in the last three years has grown from a population of 70 million people in 2005 to nearly 80 million this year.

A Little History
Excavations in Ethiopia mark the Rift Valley as almost certainly the birth place of the modern human and it's ancestors. In 1974 an archeologist found the most complete pre human skeleton yet of Lucy - this was an entirely new species dubbed A. Afarenis

There are strong links between Northern Ethiopia (and newly independent Eritrea) with the Ancient Egyptians (around 1000-4000BC). Some historians claim that the Osiris - founder of Egyptian civilisations was in fact of Ethiopian origins.

According to oral Ethiopian history - Ethiopia was founded by the great grandson of Noah, Ethiopic. Ethiopic's son went on to found Axum and nearly 100 generations of rulers thereafter. One of these rulers was the famous Queen of Makeda, better known as the Queen of Sheba (Sabea). Story has it she visited King Solomon in Jerusalem and returned with his unborn son. When the newborn was in his mid twenties he visited the king in Jerusalem and on his return brought with him the most sacred of relics - the Arc of the Covenant. The Arc is still located in the Church of St Mary of Zion to this day. The Arc forms the most precious of religious relics for the Ethiopians and every orthodox church in the country has a hidden replica in it's Holy of Holies.

While Christianity arrived in Ethiopia sometime between 50 AD and 500AD the first true European colonialists entering Ethiopia were the Portuguese by around 1500 AD, in search of Prester John and the mythical Christian stronghold within Africa...

Islam arrived around the time 600AD through Mohammed's wife who fled to the safety of Axum. While Islam slowly expanded through military domination around the world, it was in the early 1500's that they captured the city of Harer in eastern Ethiopia.

With the Muslims frequently attacking westwards towards it's capital, Axum, the Ethiopian rulers requested the Portuguese to assist them - possibly saving Christianity in Ethiopia.

The Muslim wars tore the country apart, and over the next 200 years Ethiopia persisted as a cluster of small fiefdoms, and it was not until the mid 1800's that it was united by Emperor Tewodros the second.

In the late 1800's Ethiopia was regularly battling with Egypt over control of the source of the Nile, with Italy over ports in the Red Sea, and finally with the Mahdist (Sudanese) invasion into Gondar in 1888. Britain had taken control of Egypt in 1882, which nominally meant control of The Sudan, and needed Ethiopian support to extract it's troops from the embattled forts of Khartoum. In 1889 the Ethiopian Emperor defeated the Mahdists however lost his life in the process. The same year the new Emperor signed a treaty with the Italians essentially granting them modern day Eritrea, and giving Ethiopia recognition as a sovereign state. The Italians were sneaky bastards however who put additional clauses in the Italian version of the treaty essentially making Ethiopia an Italian protectorate.

In 1895, after unsuccessfully trying to undermine the Ethiopian Emperor, Italy invaded northern Ethiopia from it's Eritrean bases. Due to their own incompetence the Italians were thoroughly defeated in battle by the Ethiopians and pushed back into Eritrea.

in 1930 Hallie Salassie was crowned as Emperor of Egypt. Four years later the Italians attacked without cause on an Ethiopian outpost. The Ethiopians beat the Italians again and took their plight to the League of Nations to no avail. A year later the Italians invaded again taking much of northern Ethiopia. In March of 1936 the last concerted Ethiopian defences were crushed by the Italians and they marched south into Addis Ababa - Salassie went into exile and mass violence broke out across the country.

Italy united Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somaliland into one large country called Italian East Africa with Addis Ababa as its colonial capital. They had only five years of rule however before the British came to their rescue, liberating Ethiopia, easily beating the Italian troops pushing them back into Eritrea and placing it and Somaliland under British rule. After much pushing by Britain, the US and emperor Selassie, the UN handed Eritrea over to Ethiopian rule.

The Eritreans did not take the ruling quietly and for 30 years fought back through rebel movements against the Ethiopians. In the late 1980's rebels overthrew the socialist Ethiopian government. A transitional government was put in place in Ethiopia which in turn did the same to Eritrea - in 1993 after a referendum Eritrea gained full independence from Ethiopia.

In 1985 Ethiopia suffered its worst famine yet. Three years of poor rainfall in the north was exacerbated by poor governing and mismanaged policies; over one million people died in the north.

In 1998 the Eritreans invaded Ethiopia prompting a sporadic shoot out and subsequent smaller pitched battles. Eritrea was pushing for more land in the deserts of northern Ethiopia. Their first major offensive involved the bombing of Mekelele - a northern Ethiopian town. Ethiopia responded and troops were massed at the border. Over the next few months, after failed peace talks, the Ethiopians managed to retake the useless triangle of disputed land and hold it. Finally the Eritreans backed down and the UN peacekeepers moved in.

Interestingly none of the above history delves into south Omo - a remote zone hidden away in the south west of Ethiopia literally untouched by outsiders until 50 years ago. Two dozen tribes including the Hamer, the Mursi, Karo and Ari peoples whose dominant way of life remains in cattle herding and basic self sustenance farming.

Australian Government Travel Warning
We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Ethiopia at this time due to the high threat of terrorist attack against Western interests and ongoing political tensions.

On 1 March 2007, a group of Western nationals, including some members of staff from the British Embassy in Addis Ababa were kidnapped.

We strongly advise you not to travel to the border areas with Kenya, Somalia (in particular the Ogaden region) and Sudan, including the Gambella region, or to the disputed border area between Eritrea and Ethiopia because of the extremely dangerous security situation in these areas.

A series of explosions took place in Addis Ababa targeting public areas and public transportation resulting in death and injury. Tensions remain high and further violence could flare up at any time, including in other centres in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian security forces do not have a widespread presence in the country and may not have the capacity to respond to incidents.

Landmines are a hazard in the border areas with Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia.

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You obviously don't heed these warnings!

Anonymous - 27 November, 2007

You are making me nervous - please be safe and careful

mum - 26 November, 2007


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