Ethiopia owes its rich biodiversity to the combination of a tropical location and an altitudinal span ranging from 4,533 metres above sea level to 116 metres below sea level. The country is known for its unusually high level of endemism i.e. plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world. Among vertebrates alone, at least 140 species are unique to Ethiopia, including more than 40 mammals and 18 birds.
The varied flora embraces the world’s most extensive tracts if Afroalpine moorland, along with a varied mix of forest, savannah, desert and cultivation.
Ethiopia provides refuge to a typical Afro-tropical fauna, ranging from parrot and pelicans to lions and crocodiles, but it is most notable perhaps for endemic species such as the Ethiopian wolf, gelada baboon and Prince Ruspoli’s turaco.
Noted for the singularity of its cultural landscapes, Ethiopia produces food, music and art that bears little resemblance to anywhere else in the world - as well, more familiarly as some of the most delicious coffee you’ll ever taste.
Ethiopia is the original home of coffee and its rich coffee culture is embodied in the aromatic and age-old ‘coffee ceremonies’ held daily all over the country.
Ethiopia’s unique cuisine - dominated by pancake-like injera, heaped with a tantalizingly spiced selection of vegan or meat dishes - will delight visitors with adventurous palates.
A host of colorful Christian and Islamic festivals includes the Meskel Ceremony held in Addis Ababa or Aksum, and Timkat, best experienced in Gondar.
High quality silver and wooden crosses, delicately hand woven fabrics and goatskin ‘picnic baskets’ are among several unique handicrafts produced in Ethiopia.
Homegrown music includes atmospheric 1,500-year-old church liturgies and chants, bright lurching Ethio-pop from the 1970s, and the often mischievous improvised lyrics of bard-like azmari singers.
Best known to scholars for the mediaeval paintings that adorn some of its older churches, Ethiopia also has a lively contemporary artsscene centred on Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia is a country of exceptional interest to educational and specialist groups. A tally of nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, more than any other country in Africa, underlines its remarkable wealth of fascinating and often unique cultural, historical, ethnographic and paleontological sites. Ethiopia also offers rich pickings to natural history students, thanks to the presence of many endemic and near-endemic species including Africa’s only indigenous wolf and goat.
• Historic and cultural circuits incorporate the 3,000-year-old city of Aksum, the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, and walled Islamic city of Harar.
• Some of the world’s oldest and holiest religious sites, including several churches founded in the 4th to 6th century AD, and the oldest mosque site in Sub-Saharan Africa.
• An ethnographic diversity ranging from the Semitic-speaking Amhara and Tigray people of the northern highlands to the pastoralist Afar of the Danakil and the rich mosaic of traditional beliefs that inhabit South Omo.
• Archaeological sites include ancient palaces and pools associated with the Queen of Sheba, the towering 2,800-year-old temple at Yeha, and the world’s tallest field of stelae (obelisks) in Aksum.
• Ethiopia’s unique wealth of paleontological sites, including fossils dating back more than 5 million years, makes it the leading contender for the Cradle of Humankind.
• The world’s oldest active lava lake, the ancient white salt flats of the Danakil, mysterious crater lakes, Africa’s deepest riverine gorge and the craggy peaks of the upper Simien are among the landscapes and features that make Ethiopia fascinating to geologists.
• Endemic mammals such as the Ethiopian wolf and gelada baboon can be seen alongside a full 18 bird species of bird found nowhere else in the world, and a similar number shared only with Eritrea.
• The western highlands of Ethiopia are the original home of coffee, which still grows wild in the forest undergrowth.
• An ancient tradition of hand-woven cotton and other textiles is exemplified by the skilled Dorze weavers of the southern highlands
• Ranging from contemporary Ethio-jazz and funky Ethio-pop to the time-honoured blues performed by traditional azmari, Ethiopia has one of the most unique and liveliest music scenes in Africa.
Abyssinia, now Ethiopia, is the original home of the coffee (arabica) plant. Kaffa, the province in the south-western highlands where they first blossomed, gave its name to coffee. The formal cultivation and use of coffee as a beverage began early in the 9th century. Prior to that, coffee trees grew wild in the forests of Kaffa, and may in the region were familiar with the berries and the drink. According to Ethiopia’s ancient history, an Abyssinian goatherd, Kaldi, who lived around AD 850, discovered coffee. He observed his goats prancing excitedly and bleating loudly after chewing the bright red berries that grew on some green bushes nearby. Kaldi tried a few berries himself, and soon felt a sense of elation. He filled his pockets with the berries and ran home to announce his discovery. At his wife’s suggestion, he took the berries to the Monks in the monastery near Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile River.
Kaldi presented the chief Monk with the berries and related his account of their miraculous effect. "Devil’s work!" exclaimed the monk, and hurled the berries in the fire. Within minutes the monastery filled with the aroma of roasting beans, and the other monks gathered to investigate. The beans were raked from the fire and crushed to extinguish the embers. The chief Monk ordered the grains to be placed in the ewer and covered with hot water to preserve their goodness. That night the monks sat up drinking the rich fragrant brew, and vowed that they would drink it daily to keep them awake during their long, nocturnal devotions.
While this popular account provides a religious approval for the drinking of roasted coffee berries, it is believed that Ethiopian monks were already chewing the berries as a stimulant for centuries before it was brewed. Ethiopian records establish that Ethiopian and Sudanese traders who traveled to Yemen over 600 years ago chewed the berries en route to their destination to survive the harsh difficult journey. Residents of Kaffa, as well as other ethnic groups such as the Oromo were also familiar with coffee. They mixed ground coffee with butter, and consumed them for sustenance. This practice of mixing ground coffee beans with ghee (clarified butter) to give it a distinctive, buttery flavor persists to this day in parts of Kaffa and Sidamo, two of the principle coffee producing regions of Ethiopia.
Brewed coffee, the dry, roasted, ground, non-alcoholic beverage is described as Bunna (in Amharic), Bun (in Tigrigna), Buna (in Oromiya), Bono (in Kefficho), and Kaffa (in Guragigna). Arabic scientific documents dating from around 900 AD refer to a beverage drunk in Ethiopia, known as ‘buna." This is one of the earliest references to Ethiopian, coffee in its brewed form. It is recorded that in 1454 the Mufti of Aden visited Ethiopia, and saw his own countrymen drinking coffee there. He was suitably impressed with the drink which cured him of some affliction, and his approval made it popular among the dervishes of the Yemen who used it in religious ceremonies, and subsequently introduced it to Mecca.
The transformation of coffee as a trendy social drink occurred in Mecca through the establishment of the first coffee houses. Known as Kaveh Kanes, these coffee houses were originally religious meeting places, but soon became social meeting places for gossip, singing and story-telling. With the spread of coffee as a popular beverage it soon became a subject for heated debate among devout Muslims.
The Arabic word for coffee, kahwah, is also one of several words for wine. In the process of stripping the cherry husk, the pulp of the bean was fermented to make potent liquor. Some argued that the Qu'ran forbade the use of wine or intoxicating beverages, but other Muslims in favor of coffee argued that it was not an intoxicant but a stimulant. The dispute over coffee came to a head in 1511 in Mecca. The governor of Mecca, Beg, saw some people drinking coffee in a mosque as they prepared a night-long prayer vigil. Furious he drove them from the mosque and ordered all coffee houses to be closed. A heated debate ensued, with coffee being condemned as an unhealthy brew by two devious Persian doctors, the Hakimani brothers, who wanted coffee banned, because melancholic patients who otherwise would have paid the doctors to treat them, used it as a popular cure. The Mufti of Mecca spoke in defense of coffee. The issue was finally resolved when the Sultan of Cairo intervened and reprimanded the Khair Beg for banning a drink that was widely enjoyed in Cairo without consulting his superior. In 1512, when Khair Beg was accused of embezzlement, the Sultan had him put to death. Coffee survived in Mecca.
Genna is Ethiopian Christmas, and coincides with other Orthodox Christmas celebrations around the world. The feast marks the end of the 40-day fasting period of Advent. On Christmas Eve, the faithful participate in church services through the night before celebrating with family and friends on Christmas day.
Lalibela is the most popular place to celebrate Genna, as thousands of pilgrims flock to the holy city for this celebration.
The Ethiopian celebration of Timket (also known as Epiphany), is a symbolic reenactment of the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. For Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, it serves as a renewal of their baptismal vows.
Timket is a two-day festival, starting the day before, when the church tabot (replica of the Ark of the Covenant) is taken from the church to a nearby location, usually near a body of water. This is representative of Jesus coming to the River Jordan. The tabot spends the night in this location while the priests and other faithful hold a vigil through the night. In the morning the water is blessed and is then sprinkled on the gatherers (or they may chose to bathe in the water), renewing their baptismal vows. Long parades then carry the tabot back home to the church while the revelers sing and dance.
Gondar is a popular place to witness Timket, as the Bath of Fasilidas provides a stunning backdrop for the festivities. Lalibela is another popular location, as is Addis Ababa, where it is held at the Jan Meda fairgrounds.
Fasika is Ethiopian Easter and is celebrated in conjunction with Orthodox Easter celebrations around the world. Fasika is the most important holiday in the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar andfollows a long 55-day fast, where no meat or dairy products are consumed. Strict followers generally consume one meal of vegetables and lentils during this time. Church services are attended on the eve before the holiday, where revelers participate in a colorful service lit with candles. The following day, families and friends celebrate Fasika with special feasts that mark the end of the long fast. Doro wat, a spicy chicken stew, is the most traditional food served in all households. Celebrations continue for the following week, with an unofficial "second Fasika" the following weekend.
Axum has a colorful procession for Palm Sunday (known as Hosanna), the week before Fasikawhich is well worth a visit. Like most holidays, the celebration takes place the night before the actually holiday (Saturday night).
Enkutatash, which means “Gift of Jewels” is the celebration of the Ethiopian New Year. Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which consists of 13 months - 12 months each with 30 days and a final month with 5 days (6 days in leap year). The Julian calendar is 7 years and 8 months behind the Gregorian calendar, which is used throughout most of the Western world. In 2007 (Gregorian calendar), Ethiopia rang in the year 2000 and the new Ethiopian Millennium with colorful celebrations throughout the country.
Enkutatash happens to come near the end of a long rainy season, coloring the green landscapes with bright yellow flowers (called the Meskel Flower, or adei abeba in Amharic) and giving great reason to celebrate the new harvest. Torches of dry wood are burned in front of houses on New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Day, girls dressed in new clothes go door-to-door singing songs. Families and friends celebrate together with large feasts.
This day also happens to coincide with the saint’s day of St. John the Baptist. This religious ceremony can be seen at the Kostete Yohannes church in the village of Gaynt, where celebrations are carried out for three days. Just outside of Addis Ababa, on the Entoto Mountain, Raguel Church has the largest religious celebration in the country.
Meskel (Finding of the True Cross), is the celebration of the finding of remnants of the actual cross on which Jesus was crucified. The word "meskel" means "cross" in Amharic. According to Christian tradition, St. Eleni (Empress Helena) discovered the hiding place of three crosses used at the crucifixion of Jesus. In her dream, Eleni was told she should make a bonfire; the direction of the smoke would tell her the exact location of the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified. She followed the directions from her dream, and the smoke landed exactly where the cross was buried.
Meskel celebrations begin the night before with large bonfires topped with a cross and decorated with meskel flowers. The bonfire preparations are blessed and burned while revelers sing and dance around the fire, locally calleddemera. It is believed that the direction of the smoke will predict the future for the year to come. After the demerahas burnt out, the faithful mark crosses on their foreheads with the ash.
The biggest Meskel celebration is in Addis Ababa, held in the centrally-located Meskel Square. Gondar, Axum and Lalibela are also good locations to celebrate this festival. Probably the most exuberant celebrations take place in the region of the Gurage people, southwest from Addis.
Ethiopia’s immense cultural, paleontological and natural wealth is reflected in its tally of nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the most of any country in Africa. Eight of these nine sites are cultural, and one - the Simien Mountains National Park - is natural. Five other sites in Ethiopia are currently under consideration by UNESCO as Tentative World Heritage Sites.
• The mediaeval complex of rock-hewn churches at LALIBELA is sub-Saharan Africa's most breathtaking historical site, comprising as it does eleven churches and two chapels excavated in the 12th century.
• Founded more than 3,000 years ago, the ancient capital of AKSUM - surrounded by towering obelisks and ruined palaces dating back to its heyday - was once home to the Queen of Sheba and is now reputedly the last resting place of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant.
• The Fasil Ghebbi at GONDAR - dubbed the Camelot of Africa - is renowned for its fairytale castles and intricately decorated churches built during imperial Ethiopia’s 17th century prime.
• The walled citadel of HARAR JUGOL is the the fourth-holiest city in the Islamic world, after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, and its 48 hectares are crammed with an incredible 82 mosques and 438 other shrines.
• The most striking feature of the KONSO Cultural Landscape is its warren-like terraced hilltop villages and anthropomorphic wooden grave-markers known as waka.
• Ethiopia’s only Natural World Heritage Site, SIMIEN MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK is renowned for its spectacular mountain scenery and the presence of endemic animals such as Walia ibex and gelada baboon.
• A short drive south of the capital Addis Ababa, TIYA is an archeological site comprising 36 engraved megaliths or stelae erected in mediaeval time as to mark a mysterious burial complex of unknown cultural affiliations.
• Though not geared towards tourism, the Lower VALLEY OF THE AWASH RIVER is one of Africa’s most important paleontological sites; having yielded numerous important hominid fossils including the 3.2-million-year old Australopithecus afarensis female nicknamed Lucy.
• The LOWER VALLEY OF THE OMO RIVER is another important but difficult-to-explore palaeontological region, having yielded Australopithecus and Homo fossils dating back 2.4 million years.
Toyota Yaris is a sensible choice, with affordable running costs, a strong reliability record, lots of safety equipment, and a practical and spacious cabin for carrying people or luggage.
This one is different. For a start, it looks more solid and expensive than previous models, something that's reflected in the smartly designed, roomy, high-quality interior. And, unlike in previous versions there's decent room for adults in the back seats.
Toyota also significantly improved the way the car drove with this model. It's pretty much as good to drive as a Ford Focus, even though its handling may not be quite as involving. Comfort and composure are excellent in all conditions.
Toyota has also improved the Land Cruiser's already formidable off-road ability by adding a host of new driver aids. These include adjustable terrain settings and Crawl Control for inclines and descents, as well as a tyre-angle display and speed-sensitive power steering with an off-road setting.
Those who do most of their driving on road will probably be more interested in the new Turn-Assist system, which reduces the turning circle.
As with the previous model, only one engine is available: a 4.5-litre V8 diesel that now has a diesel particulate filter and new fuel injectors to help it meet the latest European emissions standards. CO2 has been reduced from 270g/km to 250g/km, while average fuel economy is up from 27.7mpg to 29.7mpg.
We have the Toyota Commuter as our 12-Seater Minibus for hire. With this minibus, you can travel in a larger group of 12 adults. This minibus represents the largest vehicle type that we have in our fleet. This minibus is very practical in transporting a larger group of people.
12-Seater Minibus Specifications:
Covering an area of 2200 km2 Bale Mountains National Park is the largest remaining alpine habitat on the African continent. Founded in 1970, the Park contains the biggest continuous area of Afro-alpine vegetation (~1000 km2, circa 17.5% of all Afro-alpine vegetation) and a large proportion of moist tropical forest.
Bale Mountains National Park offers opportunities for unsurpassed mountain walking, horse trekking, scenic driving and chances to view many of Ethiopia's endemic mammals, in particular Ethiopian Wolves, Simien Foxes, Menelik's Bushbucks and Mountain Nyalas.
Birds such as the Thick-billed Raven, Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose, Rouget's Rail, etc. can easily be seen in the Park. Bale is the southern-most breeding population of Golden Eagles, Wattled Cranes and has a large breeding population of Bearded Vultures. The wetlands and forests of Bale are the source of major rivers which provide a significant proportion of the perennial water supply to approximately 10 million people in South-eastern Ethiopia and Somalia.
Including one of the principal mountain massifs of Africa, the Simien Mountains consist of several plateaus, separated by broad river valleys. With over twenty peaks towering to heights above 4000 meters, Simien escarpments are also known as the "Roof Of Africa". Its highest peak, Ras Dashen at 4543 meters, is the fourth highest peak on the African continent. The Simien escarpments, which remind of the Grand Canyon of the USA, have been adopted in 1978 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The Park which covers 179 km2 lies at an altitude between 1900 and 4500 meters.
The mountains are lush and green: your former conception of Ethiopia is likely to be turned over. The park offers great possibilities for trekking, with dramatic and exhilarating scenery.
The dramatic landscape of the Simien Mountains is the result of massive seismic activity in the area about 40 million years ago. Molten lava poured out of the earth's core reaching a thickness of 3000 m. This massive eruption has created one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, with jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys and sharp precipices dropping some 1,500 m. The famous pinnacles - the sharp spires that rise abruptly from the surrounding land - are volcanic necks: solidified lava and last remnant of ancient volcanoes.
Access to the park is from Debark; about 2 hours drive north of Gondar. Buyet Ras, Sankaber, Geech and Chenek are the four major campgrounds of the park
The beautiful landscapes and the peaceful environment are favorable conditions for mountain biking in Ethiopia. Zelalem Tours organizes a unique and truly rewarding biking holiday. Our cycling tour includes the spectacular ride either to Bale Mountains or to the Rift Valley region. It can also be arranged following the great historic route of Ethiopia.
Biking in Ethiopia is mostly along paved and gravel roads, crossing mountains and through undulating landscapes. Most of the time clients ride their bike, but there are also places where you are driven in the car in case of exhaustion, long distances or road conditions.
Taking the riding distances into consideration we arranged camping days on our biking trips. Our cook prepares delicious meals while camping. Join one of our biking tours and enjoy an Ethiopian outdoor experience