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Frequently  Asked Questions

Location
Today’s Ethiopia is situated in the Horn of Africa. It is the 2nd-most populous nation in the continent (after Nigeria), bordered by Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, and Sudan to the west.

History
Ethiopia has long been a crossroads between the civilizations of North Africa, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike any other African countries, Ethiopia was never colonized, maintained its independence throughout the Scramble for Africa. Ethiopia has long been a member of international organizations: it became a member of the League of Nations in 1923, signed the Declaration by United Nations in 1942, and founded the UN headquarters in Africa, and is one of the founding members of the former OAU in 1963 and current AU in 2003.

Climate
The country is situated in Tropical monsoon with wide topographic-induced variation. The weather can be chilly in Addis and other areas where the elevation is high. Overall, in the highlands there are two major seasons: the dry season prevails from October through May; the wet season runs from June to September.

Topography
High plateau with central mountain range divided by Great Rift Valley.
Elevation extremes: Lowest point: Denakil Depression -116 m
Highest point: Ras Dashen 4,543 m
Landlocked - entire coastline along the Red Sea was lost to Eritrea in 1993.

Economy
About 85% of the population earns their living from the land, mainly as subsistence farmers. Agriculture is the backbone of the national economy and the principal export from the sector are coffee, oil seeds, pulses, flowers, hides and skins, and “chat”.

Coffee
Coffee production contributes to more than 67% to the main economic sector, which is agriculture.

Time and calendar
Ethiopia is in the GMT + 3 hours time zone. Ethiopia uses its own calendar, which dates back to the Coptic calendar 25 BC and never adopted the any reforms ever since. One Ethiopian year consists of twelve months, each lasting thirty days, plus a thirteenth month of five or six days. The Ethiopian new year begins on September 11 (in the Gregorian calendar), and has accumulated 7-8 years lag behind the Gregorian calendar: thus, for the first nine months of 2010, the year will be 2002 according to the Ethiopian calendar. On September 11, 2010, Ethiopia celebrated New Year's Day (Enkutatesh) for 2003.
In Ethiopia, the 12-hour clock cycles do not begin at midnight and noon, but instead are offset six hours. Thus, midnight (or noon) referred as 6 o'clock.
Familiar Music and instruments of Ethiopia
The music of Ethiopia is extremely diverse, with each of Ethiopia’s ethnic groups being associated with unique sounds and instruments. Ethiopian music has religious root, Christian element, traced to St. Yared, who lived in 6th century. In north-eastern Ethiopia, in Wollo, a Muslim musical form called Manzuma developed. Later has spread to Harar and Jimma. In the Ethiopian highlands, traditional secular music is played by itinerant musicians called Azmaris.
In the highlands, traditional string instrument include the Masinko, a one string bowed lute; the Kirar, a five string lyre; and the Begena, a large ten-string lyre. The Washint is a bamboo flute that is common in the highlands as well. Trumpet-like instruments include the ceremonial Malakat used in some regions, and the Holdudwa (animal horn) found mainly in the south.


Cities
• Addis Ababa - Capital of Ethiopia and the city is one of the biggest shopping cities in Africa.
• Nazareth - A popular weekend destination; also known as (Adama)
• Axum- home of ancient tombs, ruins of palaces and stelae fields
• Bahir Dar - Near the source of the Blue Nile and Lake Tana
• Dire Dawa -The second largest city of Ethiopia
• Gondar - Some of East Africa's only castles
• Harar - Ancient walled-city
• Lalibela - Home to 11 rock-hewn churches
• Mekele - a town in the Tigrayan Highlands.


Visa
All visitors to Ethiopia (except for Kenyan and Djiboutian nationals) are required to obtain an entry visa which can be secured from Ethiopian Diplomatic and consular missions abroad. However, visitors from the 33 countries listed below can obtain entry visas upon their arrival at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea Republic, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and United States.

By plane
Ethiopian Airlines is one of the most successful and reputable airlines in Africa. Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa is the main hub for Ethiopian Airlines and also hosts Lufthansa, Sudan Airways, British Airways, KLM, Turkish Airways and Emirates. A new runway and international terminal, which was said to be the largest in Africa, opened in 2003.

By train
There is a slow and uncomfortable railroad between Addis Ababa and Djibouti which will be reopened in the near future. The main stations are Addis Ababa, Nazareth, Dire Dawa and Djibouti. The train-speed will be in about 70km/hour. But at the moment only from Dire Dawa to Djibouti is functional.

By car
One way to get in from Sudan is via the border village of Metema. One way to get in from Kenya is via the border town of Moyale. The road from Kenya to Ethiopia through the town of Moyale is much better and well maintained than the road from Sudan to Ethiopia through Metema. On the Kenyan side of Moyale the road is horrible and is known for banditry so be careful and make sure you have plenty of time, at least 24 hours, to travel from Moyale to Nairobi.

By boat
Ethiopia is landlocked and currently uses the seaport in Djibouti. From there, Ethiopia can be reached by bus or car following a good road to the border and a dirt track from there onwards.

Get around
By plane

Ethiopian Airlines is reasonably priced and has fairly comprehensive domestic services. Flights are often overbooked, so it is essential to reconfirm your tickets at least a day in advance and show up at the airport on time. If you forget to reconfirm, they will assume you aren't going to show up and may give away your seats.

By train
A train between Addis and Dire Dawa is not functioning any more, only from Dire Dawa to Djibouti.

By bus
The newly introduced upscale bus services such as Sky Bus and Selam Bus can be the best choice to historic route in reasonable comfort. In fact, there are other cheap buses along the major roads, although these are slow and basic. Buses travelling shorter distances generally leave whenever they have filled up with passengers; nearly all long-distance buses leave at dawn 0600AM. Everyone on the bus must have a seat by law -- this prevents overcrowding, but often makes it difficult to catch a bus from an intermediate point on a route.
Therefore, you have to go to the different bus stations to catch a bus. The bus stations usually open somewhere around 0500AM. If you are catching an early morning bus, you should get to the station at 5AM. They are very chaotic first thing in the morning, and many buses will sell out of seats before they leave at 6AM. To make things easier and less stressful, you can often buy a ticket the day before. The ticket will be in Amharic, but there will be a legible bus number written on it somewhere. Simply find that bus the next morning at the bus station. In smaller cities, you can often buy your ticket from the conductor when the bus arrives from its previous trip the afternoon before you travel. Even if you already have a ticket, arrive early and claim a seat as soon as possible. If you don't have a ticket, you will have to ask people to show you the correct bus (unless you can read Amharic). In this case, don't waste time trying to buy a ticket from the window or from the bus conductor -- push your way on board the bus and claim a seat! The conductor will sell you a ticket later. Medium sized backpacks can usually be squeezed under the seats, but large packs and most luggages will have to go up on the roof. Claim your seat before you worry about your luggage. Anyone assisting you with your luggage, including the person passing it up to the conductor's assistant on the roof, will expect a small tip, around Birr 5.00
On several routes you may find also a kind of informal traveler cars with no fixed departure; when looking around at a bus station you may be approached by somebody who offers you a faster connection by going with a private car; this is more expensive than the normal bus but also much faster. You'll be handed a cell phone number where to call in order to make an appointment. These cars may leave before sun dawn or travel even at night.

By car
A good way to tour Ethiopia is by car. You will take in more of scenery if you travel by car. Go Ethiopia Tours takes you off the beaten track so you can see the beauty and attractions of Ethiopia.

By bicycle
Road conditions vary considerably around Ethiopia; nevertheless, nowadays you have new asphalted roads to all major routes which let the tourists enjoy the remarkable landscapes and warm people of the country by biking around.

Language
Recent studies report that over 83 languages are spoken in the country. Amharic is the official language. The language is a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic, and if you know either one you'll recognize some similarities. In all parts of the country everyone speaks Amharic to some extent, no matter what their first language may be. The language is written in the Ge'ez script, which is its forerunner. The other major local languages are, Afan Oromo, Tigrigna, Guaragigna, and Somali. Being the primary foreign language taught in schools, English is widely spoken. Other languages of international significance that are widely spoken include Arabic, French, and Italian

Money
The official currency is the Ethiopian Birr (ETB). You are only supposed to import and export 100 birr. There is no limitation on importing foreign currency provided that declaration is made to customs on arrival by filling in the appropriate Foreign Currency Declaration Form.
The exchange rate is approximately www.nbebank.com
Any commercial bank in Ethiopia can change cash and travelers cheques. The rates are the same everywhere. There are dozens of commercial banks in Addis, including in the Sheraton and Hilton hotels, and in the corner of the baggage claim hall at the airport. Most cities and towns that tourists visit will have at least one commercial bank, except for villages in the Omo valley. US dollars, Euros, or British pounds are the best currencies to carry.
It is illegal to change money on the black market. And always keep with you the exchange slip, as you need it later if you wish to change back to hard currency the excess ETB.

Meal
Injera is Ethiopia's national dish. Injera is spongy, tangy tasting bread made from the indigenous grain teff, which grows in the highlands of Ethiopia. It is eaten with wot, the traditional stews made with spices and meat or legumes. Some popular wots: Shiro(chick-pea) wot, Doro (chicken) wot, Key (lamb) wot and Asa (fish) wot. Another popular dish is Tibbs, spicy beef fried in butter.
The Injera sits directly on a large round plate or tray and is covered with wot placed symmetrically around a central item. The various wots are eaten with other pieces of Injera, which are served on a side plate. Injera is eaten with the right hand - rip a large piece of Injera from the side plate and use it to pick up one of the various flavors of wot on the main platter. Do not eat with your left hand unless you are lefty!  Another popular injera dish is firfir: fried,shredded injera. It can be served with or without meat or with all sorts of veggies. Kitfo is minced meat, spiced with chili. You can have it raw, 'leb-leb' (lightly cooked) or fully cooked. It comes with a local cheese 'ayeb' and spinach.

Beverage
The coffee ceremony involves drinking a minimum of three cups of coffee and eating popcorn. It is a special honor, or mark of respect to be invited into somebody's home for the coffee ceremony. Overall, attending a coffee ceremony in Ethiopia, means entering in the real culture of the country. It is very ancient celebration which is still visible in every household; it has more of social side where friendship, respect and hospitality are revealed.
In preparation for the ceremony the coffee beans are roasted in a flat pan over charcoal. The beans are then ground using pestle and mortar. The coffee is brewed with water in a clay coffee pot and is considered ready when it starts to boil. Coffee in Ethiopia is served usually black with sugar or salt or and butter.Tej is a honey wine, similar to mead, which is frequently drunk in bars (in particular, in a Tejbeit) A variety of local beers and wines are also available.

Lodging
There is a wide range of accommodation in Ethiopia. The two luxuries and biggest hotels in Addis remain the Sheraton and the Hilton. Both are enormous and have swimming pools, good restaurants, souvenir shops and bakeries: the rooms are comfortable. And of course, there are many other hotels of international standard as well.

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Lo  Zee was our tour guide for a visit to Ethiopia. Our group had a fantastic experience and we recommend Zee to other travelers. Dave Dionisi, President of the Teach Peace Foundation (USA)  

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