Ethiopia Ethiopia Ethiopia is a land of plenty with a long and noble history giving rise to ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity. It is the only African country never to have been colonised. It has more than 80 unique rich ethnic, cultural and linguistic groups. Ethiopia is renowned for its distinctive Christian tradition and association with the Ark of the Covenant. It offers the most dramatic scenery of unsurpassed grandeur (i.e. Simien Mountains National Park), unique rock-hewn churches, the spectacular Blue Nile Falls, the Great Rift Valley, the Danakil Depression, imperial castles, monuments of an ancient civilisation linked with the legend of the Queen of Sheba. Ethiopian Treasures' overall aim is to provide readers the many varied aspects of Ethiopia. It will, I hope, be a great help to school/college students and travellers, and by using this site readers can either begin to learn and discover Ethiopia, or enhance their knowledge of it. Culture Ethiopia has a diverse mix of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. It is a country with more than 80 different ethnic groups each with its own language, culture, custom and tradition. One of the most significant areas of Ethiopian culture is its literature, which is represented predominantly by translations from ancient Greek and Hebrew religious texts into the ancient language Ge'ez, modern Amharic and Tigrigna languages. Ge'ez is one of the most ancient languages in the world and is still used today by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has its own unique customs and traditions, which have been influenced by Judaism. The Tigrayans' history and culture is derived from the Aksumite Kingdom tradition and culture whereas the history and culture of the Amhara people is derived from the post Aksumite imperial reign of Menelik II and Haile Selassie. Food The Ethiopian national dish is called wat. It is a hot spicy stew accompanied by injera (traditional large spongy pancake made of teff flour and water). Teff is unique to the country and is grown on the Ethiopian highlands. There are many varieties of wat, e.g. chicken, beef, lamb, vegetables, lentils, and ground split peas stewed with hot spice called berbere. Berbere is made of dried red hot pepper, herbs, spices, dried onions, dried garlic and salt ingredients. Watis served by placing it on top of the injera which is served in a mesob (large basket tray). The food is eaten with fingers by tearing off a piece of injera and dipping it in the wat. Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christians do not eat meat and diary products (i.e. egg, butter, milk, and cheese) on Wednesdays and Fridays except the 50 days between Easter and Pentecost, the Fast of the Prophets, the fast of Nineveh, Lent, the Fast of the Apostles and the fast of the Holy Virgin Mary. According to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church belief, the faithful must abstain from eating meat and diary products to attain forgiveness of sins committed during the year, and undergo a rigorous schedule of prayers and atonement. Vegetarian meals such as lentils, ground split peas, grains, fruit, varieties of vegetable stew accompanied by injera and/or bread are only eaten during fasting days. Meat and diary products are only eaten on feasting days i.e. Christmas, Epiphany, Easter and at all other times. Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christians, Jews and Muslims do not eat pork as it forbidden by their religious beliefs. Drink The favourite drink of many Ethiopians is bunna (coffee). Bunna is drunk in Ethiopia in a unique and traditional way known as a "coffee ceremony". First the coffee is roasted, then ground and placed in a Jebena (coffee pot) with boiling water. When ready it is then served to people in little cups, up to three times per ceremony. Other locally produced beverages are tella and tej, which are served and drunk on major religious festivals, Saints Days and weddings. Tella and tej are also sold by numerous designated commercial houses all over the country. Currency The Ethiopian currency is called Birr and is issued by the National Bank of Ethiopia. One Birr is made up of 100 cents. The Bank notes are in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 Birr and the coins are in denominations of 5, 10, 25,50 cents and 1 Birr. Banks are open from 8 AM (2 o'clock local time) to 4 PM (10 o'clock local time). Some banks close for lunch between 1 PM (7 o'clock local time) and 2 PM (8 o'clock local time). Geography Ethiopia was known as Abyssinia until the twentieth century. It is the oldest independent country in Africa. Ethiopia is in Northeastern Africa. Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia are known as the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia is located at 3 degree and 14.8 degree latitude, 33 degree and 48 degree longitude in the Eastern part of Africa laying between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer. It is bounded on the Northeast by Eritrea and Djibouti, on the east and Southeast by Somalia, on the south by Kenya and on the west and Northwest by Sudan. Since 1995, Ethiopia has been divided into 10 administrative regions based on ethnic lines. These are Tigray, Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Somali, Benishangul, Southern Peoples' State, Gambella, Harar and Addis Ababa.