Customs and traditions
Much of what is perceived as typically
Ethiopian originated among the Amharic people. As state
representatives, they have historically spread and left
cultural imprints in large parts of the country. Not
least in the lowlands there are groups of people with
other traditions and ways of living.
Many Ethiopians take great pride in the country's
long history and tradition of self-determination. They
are happy to point out that it has never been colonized
and that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is one of the
oldest churches in the world. Ethiopia is often called
the cradle of humanity (although southern Africa can
compete for the title) and was the site of one of
Africa's first civilizations (Aksum, see Ancient
History). In addition, Ethiopia is the home of the
coffee bush on earth!
Overview of the capital city of Ethiopia, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
Ethiopians are sometimes described as relatively
abusive and formal, especially against strangers but
also against acquaintances. When you meet you often
shake hands, sometimes with both hands, but often a
little more cautiously than a Westerner is used to.
Friends can embrace each other if they are of the same
sex, and also exchange multiple kisses on the cheeks.
Traditionally, Ethiopians have only one name. What a
Westerner perceives as a last name is the father's name.
Former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was thus called Meles.
Zenawi was his father. Sometimes a third name is added:
Home visits and meals
Among the Amharas, it is not usual to visit people in
the home without an invitation. Anyone visiting someone
for the first time should bring a small gift. As a guest
you should say yes to the food or drink offered.
Respect for the elderly is important. If an elderly
person or guest enters the room, you stand up until it
The right hand or both hands should be used to hand
over or receive objects. Eating is also done with the
It is important to wash your hands before eating as
everyone eats from the same dish. The guest begins. You
take the food with your hands, and stick to the area
just in front of your own plate. It is considered polite
to leave some food on the plate and thus show that the
host has given the guest more than enough. Pointing is
otherwise considered unfair.
Food, drink and clothing
Basic food is injera, a flat, sour and
slightly spongy bread made on the teff (see
Agriculture and Fishing). You tear off pieces of bread
and use them to scoop up wat, a mess of
vegetables, lentils or meat. The chilli-based spice mix
berber is included for the most part.
Strict dietary and fasting traditions are followed by
many, especially among Muslims but also among
Christians. The Orthodox Christians follow Old Testament
taboos around food. Pork is virtually absent. Lamb,
goat, beef and poultry are common, although many meals
are vegetarian. During fasting periods, the Orthodox
completely abstain from milk and meat products.
Coffee has a central role in Ethiopia where the plant
originates. According to legend, a shepherd discovered
over 1,000 years ago that his goats became a pig after
eating the red berries from a bush. Today's Ethiopians
are happy to gather for a traditional coffee ceremony,
where green coffee beans are roasted over charcoal,
ground in mortar, cooked in a black jug, a jebena.
The coffee - bun - enjoy with toasted barley,
On festive occasions they drink happy hembrygt beer -
Tella - or honey wine, tej.
Traditional clothing in the highlands is a white
Togal-like shamma - a white piece of cotton
fabric, often with an embroidered border. Both men and
women can use the garment, the men with tight white
cotton trousers and women with colorful dresses
underneath. In the cities, it is not uncommon for people
to wear Western clothes during a shamma. There are some
ethnic groups where the men wear turban. Foreign
visitors should dress quite strictly and not appear too
Holidays and Holidays
Among the official holidays in Ethiopia are
Christian, Muslim and national holidays. The Ethiopian
calendar has 13 months, of which 12 with 30 days each
and a 13th month with five days (six during leap year).
The calendar is based on the resurrection of Jesus and
the Ethiopian New Year, the Enkutatash, normally falls
on September 11.
The different calendar means that the Orthodox
Christmas is celebrated on 7 January. The thirteenth
day, the hour, is celebrated on January 19 in
remembrance of Christ's baptism and is one of the more
important celebrations. It is also the meskel, which
falls on September 27, when the celebration of the
cross's celebration. Easter dates vary.
Muslim holidays occur at different times from year to
year, as they are determined by the lunar calendar.
Official holidays are Prophet Muhammad's birthday
mawlid, id al-fitr ending the fasting month of Ramadan
and the sacrificial holiday id al-adha which lasts for
anywhere from two to ten days depending on the region.
On March 2, the Battle of Adwa is celebrated in 1896
and on May 5 the Patriots' Day in memory of Italy's
defeat in 1941. National Day on May 28 is celebrated in
memory of the fall of 1991.
Peace treaty with rebels
The government signs a peace agreement with a breakaway faction of the rebel
group ONLF in Ogaden. More than 100 imprisoned rebels are released.
Opposition leaders are released
Opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa is released from prison (see
December 2007). She later leaves the country.
Offensive against ONLF rebels
The military is said to have killed over 100 ONLF rebels in Ogaden and seized
Rebel group is said to have taken up army base
The rebel group ONLF in Ogaden claims to have taken up an army base in
Malqaqa and killed 94 soldiers. The government refutes the information and says
that 59 rebels were killed in connection with the attack.
Government coalition wins big in elections
The EPRDF wins a major victory in federal and regional elections. The
opposition alliance Medrek receives a single mandate, and one goes to an
independent candidate in the national election. EPRDF secures 499 of the mandate
and 46 goes to Allied regional parties: Somali People's Democratic Party (SPDP,
24 seats), Benishangul-Gumuz People's Democratic Party (BGPDP, 9), Afaras
National Democratic Party (ANDP, 8) GPUDM, 3), Amharas National Democratic
Movement (ANDM, 1), Harari's National Alliance (HNL, 1). In the regional
elections, the EPRDF and its allies take all but one of a total of 1,904
Hundreds of oppositionists are reportedly arrested
The opposition says more than 200 of their supporters have been arrested by
police for the purpose of preventing demonstrations against the government.