Ethiopia is a beautiful country blessed with a rich history and wonderful wildlife and greenery. As the country has never been colonized, even today the ethnic cultural identity has been retained by its people. Most people just know Ethiopia as the most beautiful country in Africa, but there’s more to it. We bring to you 10 lesser-known and perplexing facts about Ethiopia so you can learn about some of the wonders that this country has.
1. The Ethiopian calendar has 13 months, and currently, it is November 2011 in Ethiopia around seven years behind than the rest of the world. Moreover, they also follow a 12-hour clock system.
The Ethiopian calendar has 12 months of 30 days which is almost similar to the Gregorian calendars that we follow. But there is a slight difference in which a 13th month exists that is comprised of five to six days. These extra days are known as “epagomenal” days which are, basically, leap days. These extra days ensure that the calendar follows the seasons and the phases of the Moon. This addition has led to a vast difference of seven years in the Ethiopian and the normal calendars.
The Ethiopians also follow a very different clock system. They follow a 12-hour clock as opposed to the 24-hour time system that the rest of the world follows. While day starts at the stroke of midnight for most people, Ethiopians start their day at dawn. So. 7 a.m. in the rest of Africa is 1.00 in daylight hours for the Ethiopians. By the time it’s 12 noon for the rest of Africa, it’s 6.00 in daylight hours for Ethiopia. Despite international standard norms, this time system exists to this day. (1, 2)
2. In 2017, even though Ethiopia became the fastest growing economy in the world, almost one-third of its population is still below poverty.
According to the Global Economic Prospects of the World Bank, Ethiopia was the fastest growing economy in the world in 2017. While global growth was projected to be 2.7%, Ethiopia’s was projected to be 8.3%! Even though these numbers sound amazing, there is more to it than meets the eye. Despite the high growth rate, Ethiopia is buried deep in public debt. There has been an aggressive growth in public infrastructure which comprises more than 50% of the GDP.
3. Ethiopia is the home to the saltiest lake in the whole world.
When anybody talks about saline water bodies, the first thing that comes to mind is the Dead Sea. But there are lakes much more saline than the Dead Sea. In fact, the Dead Sea comes in the seventh place! The water body that occupies the first place is the Gaet’ale Pond located in Afar, Ethiopia. The formation of the pond is very recent. It was formed in 2005 after an earthquake that opened up an underground thermal spring. The water in the pond is comprised of 43.3% salt. (source)
4. Ethiopians do not have family names. Children take the first name of their father as a surname.
Common naming convention around the world dictates a person’s own name followed by the family name. But in Ethiopia, the rules are a bit different. People’s names are comprised of their own individual name followed by the first name of their father. Sometimes, people might also take the name of their grandfather or any other male ancestor in the family. Also, women do not change their name after marriage as their second name is not a surname. (source)
5. Ethiopia is one of the least calorie-consuming countries in the world. On an average, they consume 1,950 calories.
Out of 172 countries, Ethiopia occupies the 167th position when it comes to calorie consumption. Ethiopians, on an average, consume 1,950 calories on a daily basis. This is less than the minimum calorie consumption amount per day as prescribed by the World Health Organization (2.200 calories).
For many communities in Ethiopia, day-to-day survival is a real hardship. According to a 2008 study, 16% of the Ethiopian population earns less than $1 per day. Only 65% of rural households earn enough to meet the daily minimum food intake of 2,200 calories. (1, 2)
6. Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia. Legend has it that a goat herder first discovered it after his goats went nuts upon consuming the leaves.
There is a saying in Ethiopia—”Buna dabo naw.” This saying translates to “Coffee is our bread.” This clearly demonstrates how important coffee is to the people of Ethiopia. And why not? There is a widespread belief that Ethiopia might have been the birthplace of coffee. The country has a popular legend associated with this. A goat herder by the name of “Kaldi” was busy grazing his goats when he noticed a particular goat getting really excited.
The goat was practically dancing with its hind legs and was restless throughout the night. Later, Kaldi realized that the goat has eaten a few red berries from a small shrub. Out of curiosity, he tried a few of the beans and was surprised when it made him energetic. He took them to the monks at a nearby monastery. The monks, at first, were skeptic about the beans, but once they tried them out with hot water, they were amazed.
7. The oldest fossilized human skeleton was discovered in Ethiopia in 1974. Named “Lucy,” she lived 3.2 million years ago!
Ethiopia is one of the most talked about countries when it comes to the paleontology world. In 1963, Gerrard Dekker, a Dutch hydrologist, discovered numerous stone tools that were used around 1 million years ago. Another significant discovery was made by Tim D. White, a paleontologist. when he discovered a 4.2 million-year-old hominid fossil.
But the most talked about hominid fossil would have to be Lucy. The skeleton was of a woman, hence named “Lucy,” and she lived 3.2 million years ago. She belonged to the Australopithecus afarensis species, an extinct hominid species. She is the best-preserved skeleton discovered until now and has been fully reconstructed. (source)
8. One of the major delicacies in Ethiopia is raw meat.
What does the world do after chasing the Easter Bunny? Well, they eat chocolate. And what do Ethiopians do after Easter? Well, they get rid of their hunger by indulging in raw meat. This trend is primarily seen in the city of Addis Ababa where raw meat is slowly becoming a sought-after delight! To break the fast of Orthodox Easter Sunday, Ethiopians binge on raw meat. The most common animal that is consumed raw is the ox. Raw goat meat is a little pricey and is reserved for special occasions. Some of the dishes cost almost $10 per kilo, a price that is out of range for many Ethiopians. (source)
9. Many Ethiopian holy sites forbid the entry of women. This law is not just for humans but also extend to animals such as cows, dogs, and goats!
The point above might make you laugh but it’s 100% true. People who have visited Ethiopia would vouch for it. Known as “Mount Athos,” this monastic institution follows rules that were drafted back in the 800s C.E. There are around 20 monasteries within the campus, and it is home to 2,000 monks. These monks live a life completely isolated from the rest of the world. They are so isolated that anybody who wishes to visit the holy site has to climb a big wall, and that too only upon receiving permission from the monks.
Females, both human and animals, are forbidden from entering the holy site. Exceptions have been made for female cats, female insects, and female songbirds. Interestingly, there have been many incidences when women have tried to sneak into the grounds of the monasteries.
In the 1920s, Maryse Choisy, a French writer, dressed as a sailor and entered the monastery premises. Another woman, Aliki Diplarakou, a Miss Europe beauty pageant winner, dressed as a man and entered the mountain. Her story was published in Time Magazine in 1953 in an article called “The Climax of Sin.” (source)
10. In the Harar city of Ethiopia, humans, and hyenas have co-existed since the 16th century. Every night, one of the families take the responsibility of feeding the animals.
A common sight within the walled city of Harar in Ethiopia is hyenas roaming the streets in search of food. Here, hyenas do not harm people, and people are not afraid of the animals. The hyenas live in caves just outside the city, and whenever they need food, they come searching for it within the city. They are seen as nature’s agents sent to clean up the mess that people make in the city.
Ever since the 16th century, the people have been offering food to the hyenas to mark the birth of the Prophet Mohammed. They believe that if the hyenas accept the food, then good times are coming and vice-versa. (source)