The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is situated on the “horn of Africa” across from Yemen but separated from the coast by Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia. With a population of over 100 million, it is the second-most populous African country.
Let’s have a look at the top 10 most interesting facts about Ethiopia.
1. Ethiopia is the only African country never to be colonized.
Ethiopia has never been officially colonized but had to fight off attempts by Italy on two occasions. In 1895, Italy made its first attempt to establish Ethiopia as an Italian protectorate. Emperor Menelik II, whose forces were aided by Russia and France, successfully warded off the attack. In 1935, Mussolini tried to invade Ethiopia once more, and by May 1936, had secured the capital, Addis Ababa. After Italy’s surrender to the Allies in 1943, it was forced to recognize the independence of Ethiopia and to pay reparations of $25,000,000, an interesting fact about Ethiopia.
2. Ethiopian coffee is some of the best in the world.
Ethiopia is the largest producer of coffee in Africa and one of the top ten in the world. It has been producing coffee for over a thousand years and is reportedly the place where it was discovered. The coffee industry employs 15 million Ethiopians and makes up almost a third of its exports. Ethiopia is the home of Arabica coffee beans, and it has trademarked varieties such as the Harar, Limu, Sidamo, and Yirgacheffe beans.
3. The oldest illustrated copies of the Gospel are in Ethiopia.
The Garima Monastery near Adwa, in remote northern Ethiopia, houses the oldest known illustrated copies of the Gospel, a fun Ethiopia fact. Legend has it that Abba Garima, the monk who copied them, did so in one day because God suspended the sun until he had finished. The Garima Gospels have been written about by western travelers since the 1950s but were thought to date to the 11th century. Recently, carbon dating has put their production at between 330 and 650, which coincides with Garima’s arrival in Ethiopia in 494 from Constantinople.
4. Ethiopia is also known as the “roof of Africa.”
The geography of Ethiopia is extremely diverse. The country is home to 70% of the mountains in Africa, and is known as the “roof of Africa.” But its Danakil Depression also houses the lowest point on Earth. At 360ft below sea level, Lake Dallol is one of the few lava lakes and the hottest place in the world. The Great Rift Valley runs through Ethiopia and is visible from space.
5. Female pilots in Ethiopia hold some impressive records.
Mulumebet Emeru was the first-ever African female pilot, and is known as the “mother of Ethiopian aviation.” However, her flight lessons were cut short in 1936 when the Italians invaded Ethiopia, so she never flew solo. In 1962, Ethiopian Asegedech Assefa became the first African woman to fly solo, an interesting Ethiopia fact. In 1999, Capt. Aster Tolossa of the Ethiopian Airforce, became the first female in world aviation history to shoot down an enemy aircraft in air-to-air combat, during the Eritrean-Ethiopian War.
6. Female genital mutilation is still practiced in Ethiopia.
The World Health Organization defines female genital mutilation (FGM) as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” The latest UNICEF data shows 65% of Ethiopian women between 15 and 49 years of age have been subjected to FGM. But, the figure drops to 47% when considering girls between 15 and 19 years old. The practice is officially banned, but some tribal traditions still dictate it, especially in rural areas where people are uneducated.
7. The Live Aid Concert was held to raise famine relief for Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is one of the poorest nations in the world, with one of the lowest life expectancies. Almost two-thirds of the populations live on under US$1/day, and the average calorie consumption is only 1,850/day. In the 1980s, Ethiopia experienced an extended and horrific famine. Media coverage of the stricken nation prompted pop-stars, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, to round up a group of other celebrity artists to release the charity single Band Aid, featuring the song “Do They Know it’s Christmas.” Shortly afterward, the famous Live Aid concert was broadcast simultaneously from London and Philadelphia. Over 2 billion people watched it, and, together with the Band-Aid single, raised over $200 million for famine relief.
8. Ethiopian Airlines is the fastest-growing airline in Africa.
Ethiopia’s national carrier was launched in December 1945. Its Vision 2025 strategy was implemented in 2010 and aims to make it the leading airline on the continent. In 2018, it took delivery of its 100th aircraft, the first African carrier to do so. Last year it transported over 11 million passengers, an increase over the prior year of more than 17%, making it the fastest-growing airline in Africa, an interesting Ethiopia fact.
9. Abebe Bikila ran the Olympic Marathon barefoot.
Abebe Bikila, the Ethiopian long-distance runner, won gold running barefooted in the 1960 Olympic Marathon. He was the first sub-Saharan African Olympic gold medalist, and in 1964, became the first person ever to win the event twice in a row.
10. Rastafarians regard Haile Selassie as the reincarnation of God’s son.
The Rastafarian religion believes Jesus Christ was black. The roots of the faith are founded on the philosophy of Jamaican, Marcus Garvey, who started the black nationalist movement in the US in the 1920s. Garvey prophesied that the crowning of a black king in Africa would herald the second coming of Christ. When Haile Selassie, known up until that time as Tafari Mekonnen, was made emperor of Ethiopia in 1930, a group of Jamaicans chose to view the event as fulfilling Garvey’s prophecy. They called themselves Rastafarians, concatenating the emperor’s first name and title, Ras. Neither Garvey nor Selassie followed Rastafari or advocated it.
Ethiopia is an ancient country with diverse geography, cultures, and history. I hope that this article on Ethiopia facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!