Here's To Abyssinia...

Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, roughly seven years behind the Gregorian (the country just welcomed year 2007 on September 11, 2014) , consisting of 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month of five or six days - the only country in the world with 13 months. This uniqueness is well-suited to this East African nation which is full of delightful facts - enjoy some of them below. (special thank you to Africa - Mail and Guardian, Samantha Spooner).

1. Coffee Homeland: Coffee, one of the world’s most popular beverages, was discovered in Ethiopia, in the region of Kaffa - the province which gave coffee its name. Today, Ethiopia is Africa’s top coffee producer and exporter.

Photo from Blessedcofee.us 

Photo from Blessedcofee.us 

2. World Heritage gem: Ethiopia is home to nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, more than any other country in Africa.

Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela © Ko Hon Chiu Vincent In a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia, some 645 km from Addis Ababa, eleven medieval monolithic churches were carved out of rock. Their building is attributed to King Lalibela who set out to construct in the 12th century a ‘New Jerusalem’, after Muslim conquests halted Christian pilgrimages to the holy Land

Rock-Hewn Churches, Lalibela © Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

In a mountainous region in the heart of Ethiopia, some 645 km from Addis Ababa, eleven medieval monolithic churches were carved out of rock. Their building is attributed to King Lalibela who set out to construct in the 12th century a ‘New Jerusalem’, after Muslim conquests halted Christian pilgrimages to the holy Land

The fortress-city of Fasil Ghebbi - one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites - was the residence of the Ethiopian emperor Fasiledes and his successors in the 16th and 17th centuries. Gondar - was founded in 1635 by Emperor Fasil as a capital of Ethiopia known as Abyssinia during that era -was home to a number of emperors and warlords, courtiers and kings. And it is one of Ethiopia's largest and most impressive towns today. 

The fortress-city of Fasil Ghebbi - one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites - was the residence of the Ethiopian emperor Fasiledes and his successors in the 16th and 17th centuries. Gondar - was founded in 1635 by Emperor Fasil as a capital of Ethiopia known as Abyssinia during that era -was home to a number of emperors and warlords, courtiers and kings. And it is one of Ethiopia's largest and most impressive towns today. 

3. Cradle of MankindIn 1974, anthropologist Professor Donald Johanson and his student Tom Gray discovered “Lucy”, 3.2 million-year-old “Australopithecus afarensis” - in a maze of ravines at Hadar in northern Ethiopia. In December of 2000, Ethiopian scientist Zeray Alemseged discovered the most complete hominid skeleton ever found in the world, in the Dikika region of Ethiopia. The fossil was older than the remains of "Lucy" and described by scientists as one of the world's greatest archaeological finds. The new bones belong to a three-year-old girl who lived 3.3 million years ago - 150,000 years before Lucy. The fossil has been named "Selam," which means peace in Ethiopia's official Amharic language.

3.2 million year old "Lucy"

3.2 million year old "Lucy"

3.3 million year old "Selam"

3.3 million year old "Selam"

4. ‘Immune’ to colonialismEthiopia has never been colonized by a European power.  In March 1896 a well-disciplined and massive Ethiopian army did the unthinkable—it routed an invading Italian force and brought Italy’s war of conquest in Africa to an end with the battle Adwa. Between 1936 and 1941, Mussolini’s Italy briefly occupied the country.

Battle of Adwa (image from Elitre)

Battle of Adwa (image from Elitre)

Photo from newafricanmagazine.com

Photo from newafricanmagazine.com

5. Urban Hyenas: The Capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, is currently plagued by urban hyenas. These carnivorous animals have moved into the city from the surrounding hills and taken up residence. It is estimated that there are now between 300 and 1,000 of them living in the city. 

Photo from scmp.com

Photo from scmp.com

6. Lots of cows: With approximately 52 million head of cattle, Ethiopia has the largest livestock population in Africa. South Africa’s national commercial cattle herd is estimated at 13.5 million.

Photo by Kelley Lynch 

Photo by Kelley Lynch 

7. Special baboons: Ethiopia is home to the Gelada Baboon. This fascinating animal is in fact, not a baboon at all, but an old world monkey classified in its own genus. It is the last surviving species of ancient grazing primates that were once widespread in Africa. 

Photo by Rod Waddington

Photo by Rod Waddington

8. Unique script: Ethiopia is the only country in Africa with its own unique script. Commonly called “Ethiopics” it is widely adopted throughout the country and used by almost all the languages spoken in Ethiopia. It has more than 260 characters, 10 numerals and several punctuation marks. 

9. Rasta roots: The word “Rastafarian” actually comes from the name of the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (Ras Tafari Makonnen) who is regarded by Rastafarians as the God of the Black race. Rastafarians regard ‘Ethiopia’ as their sacred homeland

10. Landlocked giant: With a population of approximately 97 million, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world. 

11.  High Addis: At an altitude of 2440m, Addis Ababa - one the fastest growing metropolises in the word – is Africa’s highest city and the third highest capital in the world.

12. Commodities exchange: Ethiopia is home to Africa’s first commodities exchange. Established by Eleni Gabre-Madhin in 2008, the Ethiopia Commodities Exchange (ECX) created a reliable interface where buyers and sellers to meet

Photo from www.terraproject.net

Photo from www.terraproject.net

13. First gold: Derartu Tulu was the first woman from Africa to win an Olympic gold medal, doing so in the 10,000m sprint event at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

14. Biggest dam: Ethiopia is currently constructing the Grand Renaissance Dam  on the River Nile near the Sudan border. When completed, it will be the largest dam in Africa. 

15. Super food: Ethiopian food is gaining popularity worldwide. Today, an Ethiopian restaurant can be found in almost every major city. The super-star of Ethiopian ingredients is the teff grain, now poised to be the world’s next “superfood”. It is a nutritious, gluten-free alternative to wheat that has fed millions of people for virtually thousands of years.

16. Oldest flag: The Ethiopian flag of green, yellow and red color is the oldest flag in Africa. According to historical records, the flag’s tri-color scheme was previously the official banner of the Ethiopian Empire’s Solomonic dynasty