Capital | Addis Ababa
Population | 90,873,739 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 1,127,127 SQ KM
Official Language | Amharic, Tigrinya, Somali, Arabic, Oromiga, Guaragigna
Holidays | National Day (defeat of MENGISTU regime), 28 May (1991)
Currency | Birr (ETB)
Time Zone | UTC +3
Best Time to Visit | October to January, when rains have turned the land into lush, blooming best.
Connecting with the Culture | Walking around the rock-hewn churches at Lalibela at dawn. Trekking into the Bale Mountains in search of the elusive Ethiopian wolf. Exploring Gonder’s castles and the colourful interior of Debre Birhan Selassie Church. Visiting the ruins of Aksum, once home to a mysterious and mighty ancient civilization. Taking a boat to Lake Tana’s island monasteries, then visiting the spectacular Blue Nile Falls.
Read | Graham Hancock’s The Sign and the Seal, a fascinating historical detective story which traces the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia, while providing an overview of the country’s history and culture.
Listen | to anything by Mahmoud Ahmud, a legend of Ethiopian music with his soulful and funky Amharic sound. Start with his Live in Paris set.
Eat | injera, a phenomenally bouncy bread that is found throughout the country. Try it with fiery kai wat sauce.
Drink | the excellent Ethiopian beer, especially Harar. Delicious fruit juice mixtures known as spris shouldn’t be missed.
In a Word | Denkenesh (you are wonderful), the Ethiopian Amharic name given to Lucy, the oldest complete hominid skeleton ever found, on display at the national Museum in Addis Ababa
Characteristics | Ancient churches; Live Aid; Haile Selassie; Radio Ethiopia.
Surprises | Ethiopia is home to one of the oldest Christian civilizations in the world; Ethiopians believe their country is the resting place of the Ark of Covenant; the country is at peace.