Ethiopia has remained an unfathomable encyclopedia for archaeologists, researchers, zoologists and social scientists. There have been Numerous expeditions, years of research, and yet they remain riddled by its countless indecipherable mysteries.
It is very early and my voice too small to even attempt describing the amazing Ethiopia!
Earlier this week, I escaped the noise and crowd of Addis Ababa for some educational time in the National Museum of Ethiopia. The museum is located at the heart of city, along with Addis Ababa university and is an easy taxi ride from almost anywhere in the city.
The museum building itself is a modest one. Construction going on in one major section limits the space of the museum, but the green lawn and colorful flowers in the yard makes up for this. This is the only (little) green oasis and flowers I had seen since I arrived in very much concrete Addis. I remember a friend working for the Swedish embassy here in Addis saying she takes her kids to the Sheraton Hotel for the only green space in town!
They do a full baggage inspection and a whole body pat before letting you into the museum, and the entrance fee is surprisingly only10 Birrs (1 USD ~ 27 Birrs), which is way less that what you pay to enter other popular public/tourist sites in Ethiopia.
Going through the museum and its display I couldn’t help but wonder at the marvels Ethiopia has to offer to humankind, our history and civilization.
Ethiopia- Cradle of humanity
This is the land where most of our oldest human ancestors once roamed.
Lucy is the most famous hominid fossil, dated 3.2 million years old, discovered in 1974 at the head of Rift valley, (made by a convergence of African and Arabian Tectonic plates) in Afar region. Lucy in Ethiopian language (Amharic) is known as Dinkenesh which translates into “you are wonderful”. Lucy even years later is still dignified as the mother of humanity, though much older hominid fossils have been discovered- most of them in Ethiopia.
Selam is the skeleton of a three year old child. But, is 150,000 years older than Lucy! She is the earliest human skeleton discovered, alive 3.3 million years ago. Selam stands for “peace” in Ethiopian language.
Ethiopia- the crucible of cultures
Ethiopia depicts a scene of complexity with immense diversity and a plurality of cultures. Ethiopia is the home of the oldest known alphabet in Africa, 2000 years old.
The religious and cultural diversities of Ethiopia give rise to sense of different nations in its different regions. Some of the major cities and its highlights are:
Axum– home of Monastery of Zion and biblical Ark of the Covenant.
Lalibela– its rock-hewn churches.
Gondar– the imperial city, with ancient stone castles.
Harar– the walled city, one of the holiest site for muslim religion.
Ethiopia- the home of warriors
One of the oldest known monarchies of the world, Atse (King of the kings) have a recorded history 3000 years old in Ethiopia. Ethiopia was the beacon of freedom, the only country in Africa to remain independent against colonizers. Ethiopian rulers like Emperor Tewodros and Menelik II gave this nation a sense of unity and led the country against the encroaching forces.
Ethiopia- the roof of Africa
Ethiopian massif is a huge plateau in the center of the country and occupies more than half of its land mass. This outstanding topographical feature was formed in the tertiary era as a result of its active volcanic activity, traces of which can still be seen in the great Dankal deserts. There are nine peaks which rise above 4,000 mts, among which Ras Dashen (4,620 mts) is the fourth highest peak in Africa.
Ethiopia- the home of Blue Nile
The blood line of Africa, river Nile has two major origins, White and the Blue nile. The White Nile originates from Lake Victoria in East Africa while the Blue Nile begins from Ethiopia’s lake Tana, about 30 kms downstream where it forms a thundering waterfall of 400 meters wide, 50 meters tall called Tissisat (smoke of fire) falls.
The Blue Nile river gets its name from the blue color it obtains during the dry season. This river flows around 800 kms in Ethiopia before entering Sudan, where it is joined by the White Nile forming the Great Nile and finally resting in the Mediterranean after its journey of almost 5000kms.
Ethiopia- 13 months of sunshine
The calendar and time telling are both unique in Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian calendar has 13 months. 12 lunar months of exactly 30 days from the Julian calendar and then one remaining month of 5 days (6- leap year). Their calendar is 7 years 113 days behind theGregorian calendar and their New Year is marked on September 11th.
For a novice person, the Ethiopian way of time telling can be a bit confusing. Here, the first hour of day, the sunrise is the beginning of the day. So six o’clock in morning international time is 12 in Ethiopia. The night hours begins at sunset, six pm standard time is 12 again.
And of course…
Ethiopia- home of coffee
Coffee, a crucial component in everyone’s daily routine today, calls Ethiopia its home. It can still be found growing wild in the South west tropical highlands of Ethiopia where it first originated.
Coffee and its stimulating properties are believed to be discovered by the Ethiopian goat herdsmen, who noticed that their goats were attracted to shiny red fruits which made them over-excited. Coffee was then introduced to the rest of the world through slave traffic routes originating from South Sudan, into Ethiopia ending in Saudi Arabia.
Today, coffee is Ethiopia’s largest produce and export, covering 60% of its total export and 5% of the worlds coffee!
One of the objective of my SCOPE fellowship here is to learn the culture, history, social demography. I continue to explore and learn more about this amazing nation and its people everyday: mesmerized by its marvels, I can just ponder and say “Ethiopia you are truly Dinkenesh”!