Overland Travel Blogs
8Jan 2018
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5 things you may not know about Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a country into which many travellers arrive with preconceptions, in no small part due to the efforts of Mr Geldof & friends in the 1990’s.  However it doesn’t take long until those preconceptions are cast aside and the realities of modern-day Ethiopia come to the fore. Ethiopia still offers plenty of off-the-beaten track…

Simien Mountains, Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a country into which many travellers arrive with preconceptions, in no small part due to the efforts of Mr Geldof & friends in the 1990’s.  However it doesn’t take long until those preconceptions are cast aside and the realities of modern-day Ethiopia come to the fore.

Ethiopia still offers plenty of off-the-beaten track travel for those seeking a little more adventure on their overland tour.  This mountainous country has a lot to offer including stunning scenery in the Blue Nile Gorge, great trekking and unique wildlife in the Simien Mountains, and incredible man-made sights such as the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and the palaces at Gondar.

Ethiopia is also home to some unique food and drink, and a unique style of dancing where your shoulders do most of the work!

Skyline of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Here are 5 things you may not know about Ethiopia:

1. Ethiopia is one of only two African countries that was never colonised, the other one being Liberia.  In the mid 19th Century, the Italians attempted to conquer Ethiopia, however they suffered defeat at the hands of the Ethiopians, the first time an African military power had put a definitive stop to a colonising nation’s efforts.  The Italians tried again under Mussolini, but their conquest of Ethiopia was short-lived.

2. Ethiopia has a unique way of telling time.  Although they also use a 12-hour system, their day cycle starts at 6am (dawn) and finishes at 6pm (dusk), with the night cycle running from dusk to dawn.  So what we would consider to be 07:00 in Ethiopia is actually 1 0’clock in Ethiopian terms.  It has the potential to get very confusing when you are there, so always best to check whether they are talking Ethiopian time or international time!

3. Ethiopia also has a unique calendar.  In the Ethiopian calendar, the year is split into 13 months; 12 months of 30 days and a short month of 5 or 6 days depending on whether it’s a leap year.  Ethiopians celebrate Christmas on 7th January, and Ethiopian New Year is on 11th September (or 12th September in leap years).  Confused yet?  It gets more complicated!  The Ethiopian calendar is between 7 and 8 years behind western calendars.  So currently (January 2018), it is actually the year 2010 in Ethiopia.

4. Ethiopia is home to about 70 languages, of which Amharic is the most prevalent, with around 30% of the population speaking it as their mother tongue.Amharic script in Ethiopia

5. Legend has it that the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela were built in 24 years – built by men during the day, and angels throughout the night.  The true story behind the construction is still a mystery, but these incredible structures are one of the most remarkable man-made sights you will see, and are a highlight of any visit to Ethiopia, even for the non-religious.

We have several tours available that travel through Ethiopia including the 20-week overland tour between Cape Town and Cairo, and the epic 40-week overland tour from the UK to Cairo via Cape Town.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." 
Mark Twain

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