Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Ethiopia, the best kept secret in Africa

From television images of the country's serious droughts in the early 1980's many foreigners think of Ethiopia as a dry and barren place, devoid of beauty and greenery. This could hardly be further from the truth.

It is undoubtedly a land of contrasts- there are hot, dry, and barren places, as well as rolling hills, fertile highlands, savannah, and mountainous regions that often see frost and sometimes even snow. There are deserts, canyons, gorges, and a wealth of beautiful waterfalls, lakes and rivers. It all combines to make Ethiopia a country of breathtaking scenery that changes constantly from one region to another, a microcosm of an entire continent in a nation the size of France and Spain combined. More than 800 species of birds are found in Ethiopia, of which twenty-eight are found exclusively in the country. There are also 103 separate mammal species, seven of which are endemic.

Although it’s anything but desert wasteland or a perpetual home of famine and war, Ethiopia is monetarily poor and travel here is tough, both physically and mentally. However, those willing to take some doses of displeasure with Ethiopia’s bounty of treasure will be pleasantly rewarded.


With a population of more than two million people, Addis Ababa is not only the political capital but also the economic and social nerve-centre of Ethiopia. Founded by Emperor Menilek in 1887, this big, sprawling, hospitable city still bears the stamp of his exuberant personality. more than 21,000 hectares in area, Addis Ababa is situated in the foothills of the 3,000 meters Entoto mountains and rambles pleasantly across many wooded hillsides and gullies cut through with fast-flowing streams.

Like any other capital in the world, there is more than enough for anybody to do in Addis. There are numerous restaurants offering various exotic dishes from many parts of the world. Ethiopian food is served at the majority and there are Chinese, Italian, Indian, Armenian, Arabic, Greek and many other specialist restaurants. Indeed, it is possible to eat your way round the world without ever leaving Addis Ababa. on the entertainment side several cinemas show international films with English dialogue or sub-titles. Most of these cinemas also stage dramas in Amharic depicting Ethiopia’s social and cultural life during different historical epochs. Shopping in Addis is a delight and the shops are fairly well stocked with almost all consumer goods. The local jewellery, sold by the weight of gold or silver, is in particularly high demand .The main market-known as the Mercato, is largest open market place in Africa and has a wonderful range of goods and products, items of local art and Ethiopian curios and antiques. Here, haggling over prices is expected - and one should allow ample time for this, At the shops in town, however, prices are fixed, although a small discount is often allowed on large purchases.

If you want to visit this country full of surprises, go to and book a hotel. We advise you not to book a room during the wet season. The heaviest rains traditionally fall June to early October, making the rest of the year prime time to visit. Directly after the rains the highlands are wonderfully green, covered with wildflowers and sublime for trekking.

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