A country of ancient civilization and extraordinary vistas is how one would describe Ethiopia. An ancient monarchical state, Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest nation, which has escaped the clutches of the colonization and always remained an independent state. Situated on what is known as the ‘horn of the Africa’, Ethiopia is a landlocked country-sharing border with Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya south Sudan and North Sudan. A site of pre-historic human settlement, Ethiopia has a rich history, an indigenous culture and its own language (Amharic) and alphabetic structure. It is also one of the world’s most ancient Christian countries.
Judging by the story of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon recounted in the Old Testament and elaborated at great length in the Ethiopian epic, The Kebre Negest (Glory of the Kings), the rest of the world commonly acknowledges 3000 years of Ethiopian civilization. Comparing the history of most of the countries of the world, a national legacy of even 3000 years is quite remarkable. This is especially so when that means an uninterrupted and independent march of the history of a people, organized as a polity, answering to very much the same set of self-identifying values and symbols, and occupying more or less the same geographical area.
While travelling through Ethiopia you would come across a wide of geographical features from the Great Rift Valley which runs from north-east to south-west, to high rugged mountains of the north, to the highlands, to arid lowlands of the south. The Simien National Park – a UNESCO world heritage site houses the Simien mountains Ethiopia’s most spectacular and highest mountain range. At 4553m RasDashen is the highest peak of Ethiopia. A trek up those heavenly peaks offers you a panoramic view of the sheer rock surfaces with precipitous drops and brings you close to nature. Enjoy the company of the Gelada Baboons, the Walia Ibex, the endangered Simien Wolf, Black Rhinoceros, Grevy’sZebra, Mouse tailed Bat and a host of other exotic creatures. A starking contrast, at 125m below sea level, the Denakil Depression with its salt flats, lunar landscape and sulphur fumaroles is Ethiopia’s lowest point.
In the northwest part of the country, near the town of Bahir Dar, visit Lake Tana – the source of the Blue Nile and the Blue Niles Waterfalls. Located at the heart of the country on the central plateau at an altitude of 2400m Addis Ababa is the capital of the country. One of the largest and most populated African cities, Addis Ababa is home to the Africa Hall, the Ethiopian National Museum, the Jubilee Palace, Ethiopian Natural History Museum, Ethiopian Ethnological Museum, Ethiopian Railway Museum, National Postal Museum, St. George’s Cathedral and the Meskal Square.
A historical treasure trove, Ethiopia has several UNESCO World Heritage sites. Visit the Aksum ruins in the northern part of the country. The capital of the ancient kingdoms Aksum has marvelous tombs, granite obelisks, ruins of ancient churches and an impressive archaeological museum. In the east Gondar often referred to as ‘Africa’s Camelot’ houses some of the most magnificent 17th century castles. Yet the site that you must positively visit is Lalibela – a sacred Christian pilgrimage site, which houses 11 ancient churches cut into volcanic rocks built by the Zagwe dynasty. BeteMedhaneAlem is the biggest monolithic church ever to be built. You can also visit Harar in the eastern fringes of the country, which houses 10th century Islamic shrines.
Combining the mystical enchantment of the ancient ruins with the soothing beauty of nature, the thrills of adventure and the colorful people, Ethiopia is not an ordinary destination. It is sure to remain etched in your heart and mind for a long time.