Interesting Facts about Ethiopia


  • The area of Ethiopia is 1,104,300 sq. km, which makes it approximately as big as France and Spain combined.
  • The capital of Ethiopia is Addis Ababa, which means “new flower” in Amharic. The altitude is 2,355m (7,726 ft), making it the 3rd highest capital city in the world. It is also the diplomatic capital of Africa.
  • More than 70% of Africa’s mountains are found in Ethiopia. Probably due to the high altitude in the country, Ethiopians are famous for being great long distance runners.
  • Lake Tana is the source of the Blue Nile River, which meets the White Nile River in Sudan to form the Great Nile River. Lake Tana supplies 85% of the water to the Great Nile River.
  • The Danakil Depression is home to one of the lowest points on the African continent – Dallol, at 116m below sea level – and one of the only lava lakes in the world – at Erta Ale volcano.
  • The Great Rift Valley, the most significant physical detail on the planet that is visible from space, cuts through Ethiopia from the northeast to the south of the country


  • There are more than 80 different ethnic groups in Ethiopia with just as many languages and over 200 dialects are spoken throughout the country.
  • Ethiopia is the only country in Africa with its own unique script.
  • Ethiopia claims to hold the Ark of the Covenant as well as a piece of the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified.
  • Ethiopia is known as the Cradle of Mankind, with some of the earliest ancestors found buried in the soil. Lucy (3.5 million years old), the most famous fossils found, were unearthed in Hadar.
  • Ethiopia remains one of the only nations in Africa never to be colonized. It was occupied briefly by the Italians from 1936 to 1941.
  • Ethiopia is home to 9 UNESCO World Heritage sites, more than any other country in Africa.


  • Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar consisting of 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month of 5 or 6 days. It is roughly 7 and a half years behind the Gregorian calendar.
  • The Ethiopian fiscal year begins on 8 July and the Ethiopian new year begins on 11 September (12 September in leap years). Ethiopians will ring in the year 2005 on 11 September, 2012.
  • As with many equatorial countries, the sun dictates time in Ethiopia. The sunrise marks the beginning of the day and the sunset marks the end of the day. What most of the world would call 7:00, Ethiopians would call 1:00. Both noon and midnight are 6:00 in Ethiopia.

Food & Drink

  • Coffee, one of the world’s most popular beverages, was discovered in Ethiopia, in the region of Kaffa.
  • Ethiopia has the largest per capital density of cattle in Africa and the 10th largest in the world.
  • Teff, the grain used to make the Ethiopian staple injera, is an ancient grain believed to have originated in Ethiopia between 4000BC and 1000BC. It is the smallest grain in the world and is rich in calcium, phosphorous, iron, copper, aluminum, barium and thiamine and is a good source of protein, amino acids, carbohydrates and fiber. It is a great gluten-free option.


  • Ethiopia is the home of the Black Jews, known as the Falashas, or Beta Israel.
  • Ethiopia adopted Christianity in the 4th century, making it one of the oldest Christian nations in the world.
  • Islam also appeared early in Ethiopia, during the time of Mohammed, when his followers fled persecution in Arabia and sought refuge in Ethiopia.
  • Emperor Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia, is worshipped by Rastafarians as a devine being. In fact, their name comes from Haile Selassie’s birth name, Ras Tafari, which means “Prince Tafari”.


  • There are 279 species of mammals found in Ethiopia, of which 5 are critically endangered, 8 are endangered, 27 are vulnerable and 12 are near-threatened. There are 31 endemic mammal species found in Ethiopia.
  • There are 924 species of birds found in Ethiopia, making Ethiopia a bird-watchers paradise. Of these, 23 species are endemic to Ethiopia.
  • There are 175 species of fish found in Ethiopia, 40 of which are endemic.
  • The gelada baboon is, in fact, not a baboon, but an old world monkey often classified in its own genus. They are the last surviving species of ancient grazing primates that were once widespread. They have a complex social system where women are dominant. The patch of skin on their chest becomes bright red on females when they are most fertile. Young males form bachelor groups and older males serve as grandfatherly figures, looking after the young. They can be found in large groups, sometimes up to 800 or more, particularly when there is food to be found.