Though still considered an ‘off the beaten track’ destination, Ethiopia’s popularity with tourists is rising year on year, and it’s easy to see why. With a history unrivalled anywhere on earth – some archaeological finds date back 3 million years – and often considered the birthplace of humanity, the heritage found in the country is astounding.
That’s not to say it’s a place living in the past. In fact, Ethiopia is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, and the capital Addis Abada is a modern, thriving city with a sense of fun and excitement at its core. If all of that doesn’t have you opening up a tab for skyscanner and comparing flight prices, then perhaps this will convince you; all you have you do is apply for an Ethiopia eVisas and check out these, our 5 IDEAL reasons to visit Ethiopia.
DISCOVER A NEW CUISINE…
Ethiopia’s unique cuisine has to be one of the world’s most criminally underrated, with chilli and dried spice used liberally and to heady effect. The most typical spice blend is called ‘bebere’ and contains cardamom, fenugreek and a whole host of other closely guarded ingredients. Each family has their own recipe and most are rightly proud and protective of it. When food is taken this seriously, you know you’re getting fed well.
Delicious flatbreads adorn even the most humble of dinner tables and it all starts with injera, a spongy bread made from sourdough which the rest of the meal revolves around. Alongside it, you’ll find lots of intriguing side dishes, all designed to be scooped up with a piece of the injera (cutlery is rarely used here). Other popular dishes include Shiro be Kibbe, a legume stew; tibs, a spicy meat dish; and kitfo, a kind of beef tartare mixed with ghee and usually enjoyed with fresh cheese. Just gorgeous.
…AND FANTASTIC COFFEE CULTURE
In case you didn’t know, Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and it’s impossible to separate the country’s identity from the world’s most popular drink. And neither would we want to; Ethiopians are incredibly proud of their coffee and it’s delicious.
The Ethiopian coffee ceremony is ubiquitous throughout the country and needs to be experienced when you’re visiting. Called the jebena buna, this ceremony occurs in cafes and involves a roasting of green coffee beans which are then crushed in a pestle and mortar. They are then added to the jebena, the traditional coffee brewing vessel, which has been heated over fire already. A three step brewing process follows, and it’s considered respectful to remain for each round of coffee, which gets progressively weaker. Those who last the course are rewarded with a blessing.
A VARIED, BREATHTAKING LANDSCAPE
Ethiopia boasts some of the most spectacular scenic views anyone can imagine. Well, you don’t have to imagine now. Perhaps we’ll start with the Simien Mountains and National Park, which is a combination of valleys of depth and sheer peaks and is dramatic as it comes. The area is home to rare animal species like the Gelada baboon, Walia ibex, and the Ethiopian wolf.
Blue Nile Falls is another must-visit; located 30km downstream of the magnificent, all-encompassing Tana river, this gorge is more than 45 metres high and the drop is a sheer sheet of water actually made up of four separate streams. In Ethiopia’s official language Amharic, this translates as Great Smoke, and if you’re lucky enough to see the Nile Falls in action, you’ll see why; they look like giant plumes of white smoke coming off the water.
We could go on forever, but finally, we have to mention the Danakil Depression which is one of the hottest (and most inhospitable) places on Earth. That makes it sound like it’s not worth a visit (or one is not possible, in fact) but with such extremity also comes a place which looks and feels dramatic, otherworldly, and to be honest, completely beautiful. Sulphur springs and lakes and infinite orange hues…this one simply has to be seen to be believed.
Ethiopia’s cultural and commercial hub and the capital city is Addis Ababa, and it’s a great starting point before exploring the country. A little chaotic but ultimately a welcoming, hip place to hang, Addis Ababa has plenty going on. Check out the Merkato – the city’s main market – to see Ethiopian produce and bartering methods in full, lively swing. Also dive deep into the history of the country (and therefore, some of the world’s deepest heritage) at the National Museum, which displays prehistoric fossils including one of the oldest ever discoveries of a human skeleton, ‘Lucy’, believed to be 3.2 million years old.
For that revered, fantastic coffee, head to Tomoca Coffee Shop off Churchill Avenue, one of the country’s most famous joints serving the good stuff. Finally, the Old Central Piazza at night is boisterous and throbbing with music and dancing, the Ethiopian’s favourite past time.
The major religions of this nation are Islam and Christianity, with various sects and practices. This leads to a whole host of big festivals and celebrations in the country. Yep, the Ethiopians love a festival, and these festivals offer a fascinating insight into this country and its traditions.
In fact, there is a festival to attend at any time of the year, with many involving a colourful display from the traditional dances (did we mentioned that the Ethiopians love a dance?) to traditional cuisine. What’s more, tourists are encouraged to take part in these festivals, so you won’t simply be an observer, but rather a fully-fledged participant. Famous religious festivals of Ethiopia include Timket, Meskel, Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha. Aside from religious festivals, film and art festivals are also held, most actively during the month of May. Get involved!