Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and the second-oldest official Christian nation in the world after Armenia. Unique among African countries, Ethiopian maintained its freedom from colonial rule with the exception of a short-lived Italian occupation from 1936-41.
Ethiopia is in the northeast African region known as the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa (after Nigeria), bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, and Sudan and South Sudan to the west.
With a total area of 1,104,300 sq km, Ethiopia is slightly less than twice the size of Texas, USA (or as large as France and Spain combined). The country has a high central plateau, with some mountains reaching more than 4,000 meters (13,000 feet). The Great Rift Valley splits the plateau diagonally. The western highlands get summer rainfall; the lowlands and eastern highlands are hot and dry.
The climate can be described as tropical monsoon but it varies greatly depending on the topography. Ethiopia’s lowest point is at the Denakil Depression, -125 m (-410 feet) below sea level; the highest point is Ras Dashen standing at 4,553 meter (14,938 feet). Ethiopia’s entire coastline along the Red Sea was lost with the de jure independence of Eritrea on 24 May 1993. The Blue Nile, the chief headstream of the Nile by water volume, starts at Lake Tana in northwest Ethiopia. Three major crops are believed to have originated in Ethiopia: coffee, grain sorghum, and the castor bean.
The predominant climate type is tropical monsoon, with wide topographic-induced variation. As a highland country, Ethiopia has a climate which is generally considerably cooler than other regions at similar proximity to the Equator. Most of the country’s major cities are located at elevations of around 2,000 – 2,500 metres (6,600 – 8,200 ft) above sea level, including historic capitals such as Gondar and Axum, and Addis Ababa – the highest capital city in Africa at 2,400 meters (8,000 feet).
The average annual temperature in Addis Ababa is 16°C (61°F), with daily maximum temperatures averaging 20 – 25°C (68 – 77°F) throughout the year, and overnight lows averaging 5 – 10°C (41 – 50°F). A light jacket is recommended for the evenings, though many Ethiopians prefer to dress conservatively and will wear a light jacket even during the day.
Time and calendar:
Ethiopia uses the Ethiopian calendar, which dates back to the Coptic calendar 25 BC, and never adopted the Julian or Gregorian reforms. One Ethiopian year consists of twelve months, each lasting thirty days, plus a thirteenth month of five or six days (hence the “Thirteen Months of Sunshine” tourism slogan). The Ethiopian new year begins on September 10 or 11 (in the Gregorian calendar), and has accumulated 7-8 years lag behind the Gregorian calendar: thus, for the first nine months of 2018, the year will be 2010 according to the Ethiopian calendar. On 11 September 2018, Ethiopia celebrated New Year’s Day (Enkutatesh) for 2011.
The local currency is the Ethiopian birr, made up of 100 cents. Notes are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 birr. There are five different coins: 1,5, 10, 25, and 50 cents.
All visitors, except Kenya and Djibouti nationals, are required to obtain entry visas. Since 2002, tourists from 33 countries (listed below) are able to obtain entry visas upon their arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, and at the airport in Dire Dawa. In August 2011, the fees for visa-upon-arrival were US$20 or EUR 17, regardless of whether one is applying for a Tourist, Business or Transit Visa. The procedure is relatively quick and painless; just look for a door with a sign “Visa” on the left hand before the immigration counters.
Nationals of the following countries can get three months tourist visas upon their arrival at Bole International Airport: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Democratic people’s Republic of Korea (northern Korea), Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea (south Korea), the Russian Federation, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America.
Travelers are advised to check latest travel policy and additional information from Ethiopia Embassy websites.