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Wednesday, 18 June 2014 18:53

Conditions Governing Package Tours

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Conditions Governing Package Tours

All rates are valid only for a period of one year and are subject for change without a prior notice. It is advisable to contact Pathfinder Tour Operator before any rate comment is made.
Rates include hotel or camp accommodation, meals while camping and in a hotel, too, unless excluded by the question of the clients, vehicle, boat, and train transportation, guide service and entrance fees.
Rates do not include expenses of Airfare, Visa, Custom, Embarkation, Alcoholic drinks, Laundry Internet and any item of personal nature.

Payment Conditions

I. Pathfinder Tour Operator accepts wholesalers’, agents or private individuals’ request to provide services in connection with tours and safaris, trekking, rafting etc in Ethiopia in good faith and diligence.
II. After confirmation of tours, agencies making bookings with Pathfinder Tour Operator, shall make payments in the following manners as Pathfinder Tour Operator also enter in to contracts on their behalf with service rendering agents for the tour arrangements.
I. Fifty percent (50%) of the total cost of the tour will be transferred through bank account three month prior to the commencement of the tour.
II. Full payment of the tour will be transferred one month prior to the commencement of the tour.
If complete payment of the tour has not been made at the commencement of the tour, Pathfinder Tour Operator is not obliged to conduct the tour, unless something special is arranged


I. If tour booking would be canceled one month before the commencement of the tour, Pathfinder Tour Operator will charge 25%, as it has to pay cancellation fee for the reservations it made on your behalf
II. If tour booking would be cancelled two weeks before the commencement of the tour, Pathfinder Tour Operator will charge you 50% of the total cost of the tour.
III For tour cancellation of less than two weeks before the commencement of the tour no refund will be made.


We have a fleet of 4WD,Buses, Coaster buses and others for the tours we provide in the capital and outside the capital.


English, French, and German speaking professional Ethiopian Guides are provided. When requested, we can arrange Italian and Spanish speaking guides and specialists in Botany, Ornithology and others.


I. Pathfinder Tour Operator and its agents act only as agents of the passengers in all matters related to hotel and tent accommodation, transport, and other tour arrangements, and shall not be liable for injury, flight schedule change and delay, discomforts loss or damage arise from any cause and in any manner.
II. Pathfinder Tour Operator liability for its passenger carried by its vehicles is governed by the present laws of Ethiopia and all claims are subject to the jurisdiction of the court of Ethiopia.
III. Whilst every care is taken, Pathfinder Tour Operator will not be held responsible for any damage or loss of baggage.

Regarding Hotels

Our company has reliable business partnership with hotels in the capital and in other tours out of the Addis Ababa.
In the Capital, we can book hotels from simple recommended hotels to the luxury collection Sheraton Addis hotel. Outside Addis, we can arrange and book from camping up to the 3* hotels, or the best possible in the localities.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014 15:08


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Ethiopian Festivals

One of the unique things that you will find in Ethiopia as compare to many African countries is that the festivals that are taking place in the country. The main one are Enqutatash/ Ethiopian New year/, Meskel/ finding of the true Cross/, Genna/ Ethiopian Christmas/, Timket /epiphany/, and Sheikh Hussein.




Meskel / Finding of the True cross

Meskel is celebrated every year on 27 September for the commemoration of finding of the true cross by Empress Helena who is the mother of Constantine the great by praying to god using a smoke for guiding her in finding the place where it is buried. This the cross where Jesus Christ was crucified and this cross-found at Gishen Mariam, the Amahra regional state of South Wollo and there is special pilgrimage festival taking place every year on 31st of September.



Timket/ Feast of epiphany

Timket is the biggest festival of the year that is celebrated every year on 19th January. It is a three-day affair starting from the eve of epiphany with the colorful procession. And the following day is celebrated in commemoration of Christ baptism at Jordan River by John the Baptist, which is the day of epiphany and the third day is devoted to the archangel of St. Michael's day.




Genna (Ethiopian Christmas)

Genna is celebrated on the 7th of January every year and it is a religious festival that is celebrated throughout the night inside the church and will be followed by a special ceremony of chanting and dancing outside the church and this celebration is best attended at Lalibella for it's colorful ceremony, since it is unique to lallibella, at St.George church with all the drum, dancing and chanting ceremony by the cliff of the rock-hewn cross design church, which is the last and best architectural work of King Lalibella.




Sheikh Hussein / Ethiopian Muslim Pilgrimage

As Ethiopia is the only country that offered sanctuary to the first Muslim immigrant when they were denied the right to pursue their religion by the Quraysh people who were the rulers of Mecca during prophet Mohamed and King Negash granted an asylum during his ruling time of 615 and among the refugees were the prophet's daughter Ruquyya, his future wives Umma Habiba and Umma Salama and his cousin and leader of the religious exiles. Sheikh Hussein pilgrims' festival takes place on September and February at desert planes of Bale province in Sheikh Hussein shrine, which is decorated with glistening white domes float in a vast sea of emerald green scrub. This shrine is devoted to the renowned saint, sheikh Hussein and the tomb of sheikh Hussein is placed at the shrine.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014 14:33

Historic Route

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BAHER DAR: Lake Tana and The Blue Nile Falls

Is located on the southern Showa of lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile, with its ancient monasteries and both the Blue and the White Nile's most spectacular feature, The Tis Isat falls water falls. On the island of Dega Estifanos you will find the church of Saint Estifanos, which has a collection of icons and manuscripts and houses the mummified remains of member of Ethiopian emperors. Ethiopia is often referred to as the water tower of eastern Africa because of the many rivers that pour off its high tableland and visit to this part of Rift valley studded with Lakes volcanoes and savannah grassland offers the visitor a true safari experience.


GONDAR: the Camelot of Africa

Which emperor Fasilidas founded as his capital in 1636, is the site numerous castles- like palaces dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. The city was Ethiopia's capital until the region of Emperor Tewodros II also known as 'Theodre' during the long years when it was a capital the settlement emerged as one of the largest, and most populous, cities in the realm. Besides the famous palaces in the royal compound there is Debre Birhan Sellasie church with is remarkable ceiling decorated with winged angels.



AXUM: mysterious monoliths

Ethiopians most ancient city and renowned for its cathedral of st.marry of Zion where as the legend has it, the original Ark of the convent is housed. Axum is also famous for its seven mysterious monolithic stelea, all made of single pieces of granite and with identical decorations. The biggest of them is 33 meter high and weights over 500 tones it was the largest monolith in the world but fell at some time in the past. Near it stands a smaller, but nevertheless most impressive, 24 meter high obelisk, and a larger oblise was taken to Rome, by the fascist Italian dictator Bento Mussolini in 1937 but now it is returned to its country and its reerction is under way. And Axum, is the home town of Queen of Sheba, and her Palace is located Axum. Axum, in its day, was a great commercial central issuing its own currency and trading with Egypt, Arabia, Persia, India and Even Ceylon.

YEHA: Ethiopia oldest town

This is the site of a huge and most impressive, temple, thought to date from around the sixth or seven century B.C. Even the journey takes you past the site of Ethiopia's historic victory over Italian colonialists, at the battle of Adwa of 1896, the greatest victory time of Hannibal
This pre-christian' temple of the moon' was the ancient center of the Sabena civilization.



DEBRE DAMO: Stairway To Heaven

A monastery built on the summit of a towering mountain close to the Eritrea border. The monks enter or leave the monastery by means of a wrist-thick rope made from twinged leather strips




LALIBELA: A city of Caved From Legend

Described as a creation of angels lalibela has seen preserved as one of UNESCO's 5th wonder world Heritage sites for its 11 rock hewn monolithic churches, which have been built by king Lalibela in the late Twelfth or early Thirteenth century.




AFAR: The roots of mankind.

Afar is the origin of human being, The Homemade named Lucy (Dinkinesh in Amharic) whose aged 3.5 million years old is found at Afar Region. Afar is also the park of an active volcano and the Danakil depression at 120 meters below sea level one of the lowest dryland points on earth.





Located about 600 kilometres from Addis Ababa on the river Baro, Gambela has a strange history. From 1902 until it was captured by the Italians in the Second World War, it was administered by the British, the only part of Ethiopia to be so governed, The reason for this is that the British opened a port there on the wide and navigable Baro River, which during four months of the rainy season is navigable and provides direct access to the sea via the Nile through Khartoum.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014 11:32

Who Is Pathfinder Tour Operator?

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Pathfinder Tour Operator is a private company engaged in tour operation Business based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Pathfinder Tour Operator believes that tourism is an educational forum that brings people from different parts of the world and enhances peace and common understanding among people. So, it strives to the development of this human industry, tourism.

Pathfinder Tour Operator is staffed with multilingual, professional personnel, and equipped with tourist standard fleet of car, camping gears, and other paraphernalia to provide efficient service.

Pathfinder Tour Operator is aware of the impact of unplanned tourism activities and is trying its best in this regard. It consults with government bodies, tourism institutions, and other concerned Stakeholders at national and regional levels.

Promoting Responsible Tourism:

Pathfinder Tour Operator is one of the only company that strongly discourage begging and specially when the tourist are coming with school materials such as pen, pencils, books etc as well as toys, used clothes and other materials and an empty water bottle to give to the children around the villages that are running after the tourist, instead we facilitate to donate the materials to the needy ones like remote area schools, orphanage and clinics.

Pathfinder Tour Operator believes that the community should be benefited from the tourism income that we generate and on this regard we have already supports the needy ones like a school that is located at Iloweha, which the Mursi village school, Tsegie Orphanage that is located in the outskirt of Addis Ababa at the village called Legetafo and donates food to the needy ones twice a year at Saint Michael Church at Addis Ababa for almost 1200 peoples.

And we at Pathfinder Tour Operator strongly believes that for a sustainable tourism flow to the country all tour operators in the country should follow a Responsible Tourism (RT) so that the next tourist should find the same as that of the first and also benefiting the community at large so that whenever the tourist drive to that particular tourist village the group or individual should be welcomed with a very pleasant hospitality and we are working on this regard with the concerned stake holders as well as government bodies.

Pathfinder Tour Operator Organizes

• Historic and cultural route tours

• Horse riding

• Botanical tours

• Fishing

• Ornithology tours

• Camping facilities

• Trekking and safari

• Arrange Airplane and Helicopter charters




Wednesday, 18 June 2014 11:23


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Do I need a Visa to come to Ethiopia?

No visa is required for the nationals of Kenya Djibouti, and The Sudan. In addition nationals of the following countries can easily get a visa on arrival in the air port.
Nationals out of the mentioned countries above can apply for a visas at where available the Ethiopian Diplomatic Missions Offices.

What can you tell me about Ethiopia?

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is a developing country located in the northeastern part of Africa commonly known as ' The Horn of Africa'. It leis in the equatorial region between 30 - 180 north and 330 - 480 east, Eritrea and Djibouti bound in on the northeast, on the east and southeast by Somalia, on the south by Kenya and on the west by the Sudan. Ethiopia, as large as France and Spain combined, has an area of 1,104,300 km? It is the tenth largest country in Africa. It is a democratic national comprising of 11 semi-autonomous administrative regions organized loosely along major ethnic lines. It has an agriculturally dominated economy, which is about 65 per cent of the land is presently cultivated. Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa having its own calendar, alphabet and clock.

Is Ethiopia really the cradle of mankind? What can you tell me about 'Lucy'?

Lucy is a 3.5 million years old female skeleton, which is among the important archaeological discoveries that make that make Ethiopia to have the prestigious title of 'the cradle of mankind'. It is a complete direct hominid fossil discovered in the north - eastern part of Ethiopia at the place called Hadar. Now any tourists in the National museum in Addis Ababa can visit it. So the fact that the most crucial discoveries, including the Lucy's, have taken places in Ethiopia make the country the most probable site for the cradle of mankind

What can you tell me about the people of Ethiopia?

Ethiopia is considered to be the' mosaic of cultural diversity. 'The population of Ethiopia is estimated to be about 65 million. It is the home of more than 80 ethnic groups. Based on the language they speak, they can be divided into Semitic, Hamitic, Nilotic and Omotic stocks. Despite their diversity, Ethiopians are characterized with peace, hospitality and struggle to develop. The Ethiopians, often called the 'Habesha' are generally sociable and friendly, not at all hostile to tourists. Ethiopians are proud of their culture and civilization, which pre-date those of Europe. They are known for their unforgettable hospitality and well-deserved cultures.

I want to taste the national foods and drinks of your country.

A wide variety of different dishes are available in Ethiopia and most of them are unique to the country so you have to familiarize yourself first with the names of different dishes. You can choose from the spicy and hot Doro Wot, Kitfo, or Key Wot to less spicy dishes like Alicha Wot you can get these foods virtually anywhere in the country and portions are generous and very cheap. There are also home made and fabricated local drinks for you to choose from Araki- a strong alcoholic beverage made from millet and maize, Tej - a mead like drink made from honey and Tela - locally brewed beer from maize, wheat and barely and Guder- the Ethiopian wine.

What is the base of the Ethiopia economy?

Ethiopia's economy is predominantly agricultural. The highlands are very fertile, which contain many large rivers with enormous untapped potential for irrigation projects. About 90 per cent of the population earns their living from the land, mainly as subsistence farmers. Agriculture is the backbone of the national economy and the principal exports from this sector are coffee, oil seeds, pulses, flowers, vegetables, sugar and foodstuffs for animals. There is also a thriving livestock sector, exporting carrel on the hoof and hides and skins. 25% of the populations grow coffee and it accounts for 55% of Ethiopia's exports.

What can you tell me about the topography of Ethiopia?

A volcanically formed central plateau, isolated on three sides by low- lying desert dominates the Ethiopian landscape. The central plateau, often referred to as the Ethiopian highlands, has an average altitude of above 2,000m and includes 20 peaks of 4,000m or higher. The Ethiopia highlands are dramatically mountainous, no more than where hey are bisected by the Rift valley, which starts at the Red sea, then continues through the Denakil depression and through southern Ethiopia to Mozambique in Southern Africa. The part of the Rift valley, south of Addis Ababa, is notable for its string of eight lakes. The most extensive mountain ranges on the highlands are the Semien, which lie directly north of Gondar, and Bale, which lies in the southern highlands to the east of the Rift Valley. Mount Ras Dashen in the Semien is at 4,620m, the fourth highest peak in Africa. The highlands also form the source of four major river systems. The nest known of these is the Blue Nile or Abbay, which starts at Lake Tana in the northwest and supplies nine- tenths of the Nile's water, which eventually reaches Egypt's Nile valley.

What is the climate in Ethiopia?

Ethiopia shows a wide climatic variation, ranging from the peaks of the Semien and Bale, which receive periodic snowfall, to regular daytime temperatures of over 500 C in the Denakil Desert As a rule, the highland has a temperate climate and average day time temperature of 160C. Due to their proximity to the Equator, the eastern lowlands and far south is dray and hot. The western lowlands are moist and hot, making them one part of the country that feels truly tropical. The southern rift valley, much of which is at the relatively high altitude of 1.500m, is temperate to hot and seasonally moist. The general precipitation pattern is that the bulk of the rain in the highlands and Rift valley falls between mid-June and early October. The rainy season in the Rift Valley generally starts and ends a few weeks earlier than in the highlands. The northeastern highlands have a less reliable rainy season than other highland parts of Ethiopia. In normal rainy season the highlands receive an average rainfall of 1,000mm. From a tourist's point of view, rain tends to fall in dramatic storms, which end as suddenly as they start a situation that is infinitely easier for travel than are days of protracted drizzle.

What does thirteen months of sunshine mean?

Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which consists of twelve months of thirty days each and a thirteenth month of five days (six days on leap year). You can see the sun every day of the year That is why we call our country- a country where the sun shines thirteen months. You will be seven years younger when you arrive in Ethiopia because the calendar is seven years and eight months behind the western calendar.Back to top

What is the time difference in Ethiopia?

Ethiopia has a different time calculating system and three hours ahead of Green witch Mean time (GMT). The Ethiopian day is calculated in a manner similar to that in many equatorial countries, where day and night is always the same length. Time remains constant through the year counting starts from western 6 and 6 Western 7 is there fore one o'clock, noon is 6 o' clock and 6 is 12 o'clock. In Addis Ababa, then sunrise and sunset at around 6:30 and 18.45 respectively.

What is the best time to visit Ethiopia?

Ethiopia can be visited at any time of the year. People are often advised against traveling during the rainy season, which normally runs from June until early October. But it has its own advantages. The scenery is particularly wonderful green in September and early October. At this time the whole country will be a riot of wild flowers. The ideal time to visit Ethiopia is between October and April, when the rains are over but the countryside is still green.




Wednesday, 18 June 2014 11:18

Ethiopia Tour Advisory

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Anyone who visited Ethiopia a couple of decades ago will recall joyous nights sleeping in rural hotels that were nothing but stables for animals and urban hotels that were essentially just brothels.  No matter where you stayed, fleas were a constant companion. Fortunately, Ethiopian accommodation has come-on in leaps and bounds.  Fleas, sheep and prostitutes are now the exception rather than the rule.


            Tents are useful in Ethiopia for trekking and the exploration of remote areas. If you’re just planning a short trek, tents can be hired from Addis Ababa’s tour operators or from other business centers.

            Campsites have been set up in some of the national parks and in the Omo Valley, but most lack facilities and consist of little more than a clearing beside a river.  It’s always essential to treat drinking water at the sites.

            There are increasing numbers of upmarket hotels now allowing camping on their grounds, though prices are close to what you’d pay for nice budget accommodation. All camping fees in this book are per person unless stated otherwise.

            In Ethiopia, hotels will play home to everyone who’s not camping.  Even in the capital, there are no hostels, home stays or rental accommodation available to travelers.

            Pricing invariably leads to resentment from many travelers as countless hotels (many openly) charge substantially higher rates for faranjis (foreigners, especially Western ones).   Although you make take offence to a hotel owner calling you a rich faranji, remember prices are still dirt-cheap and you’ll always be given priority, as well as the best rooms, facilities and service.

            Charging same-sex couples more for rooms than mixed couples is also pervasive but less justifiable. Some hotels (particularly government owned ones) charge a 10% service charge and 15% tax on top of room prices.  We’ve incorporated these extra charges into the room prices listed.

            In Ethiopia, a room with a double bed is confusingly called a ’single”, and a room with twin beds a “double”.  Single travelers are often forced to pay the same as a couple.  In our reviews we’ve used the Western interpretation of singles, doubles and twins, although singles are listed only where the room price is different from that for a couple.

            Reservations are wise in Addis Ababa,Awassa,Bishoftu,Gonder, Aksum and Lalibela when one wants to book in advance. While there are no left-luggage facilities in Addis Ababa, most hotels will hold your belongings for no extra charge. More expensive hotels sometimes quote their rates in US dollars, but all accept payment in birr.  We have quoted prices in the currency the hotel uses.


            Though very many books are available on the History and Culture of the nation,decent Ethiopian-themed books are provided below.

            Graham Hancock, the author of the Sign and the seal, spent 10 years attempting to solve one of the greatest mysteries of all time: the bizarre “disappearance” of the Ark of  Covenant.  Though Hancock’s research and conclusions raised an eyebrow or two among historians, this detective story is very readable and gives a good overview of Ethiopia’s history and culture no matter how tenuous the facts may be!

            Evelyn Waugh’s Remote people, though rather dated now, include some wry impressions of Ethiopia in the 1930.  Waugh in Abyssinia is based on the author’s time as correspondent covering the Italian Ethiopian conflict in the 1930.  Both books provide invaluable information though they may not be easily found.

            The charming A cure for serpents by the Duke of Pirajno recounts the duke’s time as a doctor in the Horn and is beautifully and engagingly written.  Episodes include encounters with famous courtesans, noble chieftains and giant elephants.

          The newly reprinted (locally) Ethiopian journeys, by the well-respected American writer Paul Henze, charts travels during the emperor’s time.

            In search of King Solomon’s Mines entertainingly takes the reader through Debre Damo, Lalibela, Gonder and other exotic  Ethiopian locations on author Tahir Shah’s quest to find the mythical mines of Solomon. In typical Shah fashion it’s full of magic and bizarre encounters.

            Thomas Pakenham’s fascination with the historical anecdotes revolving around Ethiopia’s ambas (flat-topped mountains) is the basis of The Mountains of Rasselas, an engaging and nicely illustrated coffee-table book on Ethiopia’s history.



            In general, banks, post offices and telecommunications offices are all open the core hours of 8:30am to 11:00am and 1:30pm to 3:30pm on weekdays and from 8:30am to 11:00am Saturday.  However, many open earlier, close later or stay open for lunch.

            Most government offices are open from around 8:30am to 12:30pm (to 11:30am Friday) and 1:30pm to 5:30pm Monday to Friday.  Private organizations and NGOopen from 8:00am to 1:00pm and 2:00pm to5pm weekdays.  Shops usually operate half an hour later.  Outside Addis Ababa, restaurants typically open around 7am or 8am and close around 9.30pm or 10.30.  The restaurant reviews in this guide don’t provide business hours unless they differ from the standards given above.

            Cafes are typically open daily from 6am or 7am through to 8pm or 9am, while tej beats (honey-wine bars) usually run daily from 10am to 10pm.  Bars open from 6pm to midnight.

            Internet cafes are typically open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Saturday.  Some have limited hour on Sunday.



            Compared to countries in the horn, Ethiopia’s climate on the whole is very mild.  Average daily temperatures on the wide-ranging highlands are below 20oc.  It's only the lowland fringes in the east, south and west where daytime temperature can soar past 30oc.

            The majority of rains traditionally fall between mid-March and early October, with the central and western highlands receiving up to 1600mm annually.  The far east and northern highlands only receive significant rainfall in July and August (400mm to 1000mm).  The far south breaks the trend, receiving most of its rain in April, May and October.

            More information on weather patterns can be found in the climate section of each destination chapter.


            Eating out in Ethiopia is ridiculously cheap, with local meals in remote areas costing less than 1 USD.  In large regional cities a local meal will ding you 1.50 USD, while a Western meal will rob you of 2 to 3 USD.  If you pull out all the stops and dine on succulent braised lamb with caramelized onions, lentils, lemon and raison orange couscous in Addis Ababa’s best restaurant, you’ll be out about 10 USD. If cafes are more known for their pastries and cakes, they’ll fall under Eating. Conversely, if it’s their coffee or juices that shine, you’ll find them under Drinking.




            In Ethiopia and Eritrea, homosexuality is severely condemned-traditionally, religiously and legally-and remains a topic of absolute taboo.  Don’t underestimate the strength of felling.  Reports of gays being beaten up aren’t uncommon and during the course of researching this travel advisory, a rumour was circulating that a US diplomat was murdered for being gay.  In Amharic, the word bushti (homosexual) is a very offensive insult, implying immorality and depravity.  One traveler wrote to us to report expulsion from a hotel and serious threats just for coming under suspicion.  If a hotel only offers double beds, rather than twins, you and your companion will pay more or may even be refused occupancy.

            Women may have an easier time; even the idea of a lesbian relationship is beyond the idea of a lesbian relationship is beyond the permitted imaginings of many Ethiopians! Behave discreetly, and you will be assumed to be just friends.

            Note that the Ethiopian penal code officially prohibits homosexual acts, with penalties of between 10 days ‘and 10 years” imprisonment for various “crimes”.  Although gay locals obviously exist, they behave with extreme discretion and caution.  Gay travelers are advised to do likewise.

            Information on homosexuality in the Horn is hard to come by, even in the well-known gay publications.  Try the international Lesbian & Gay Association (ILGA; for more information.



             A travel-insurance policy for all medical problems is essential for travel in Ethiopia, while one to cover theft and loss really is helpful but not vital. Vehicle insurance is covered on almost all occasions.

World wide cover to travelers from over 40 countries is available online at www.lonely



            Aninternet café in Ethiopia is like a pimple on your wedding day – always found where everyone looks and never where nobody can see.  In Addis Ababa, pretty easy to spot in major towns and nonexistent in places that see few tourists.  Most are open with limited hours on Sunday.

            However, just because internet cafes exist that doesn’t mean internet exists all the time and everywhere, and connections in Ethiopia are among the worst in the continent.  It can easily take an hour to download one simple, two line e-mail. And that’s in Addis! To avoid intense frustration it’s better to assume that while in Ethiopia you will not be able to get online.  When it does work, costs range from birr 0.20 to birr 0.30 laptops, a number or up market hotels in Addis now supposedly offer Wi-Fi access.  We say “supposedly” because we never actually managed to get it to work.



            Remember that when in Ethiopia you’re subject to Ethiopian laws.  If you’re arrested, you must (in theory) be brought to court within 48 hours.  You have the right to talk to someone from your embassy, as well as a lawyer.  For the most part, police in Ethiopia will show you as much respect as you show them.  If confronted by the police, always remain cool, smile and be polite.  Compared to some other African nations, police here rarely, if ever, ask for bribes (we’ve yet to experience it).



            Alcohol cannot be served to anyone under 18 years of age in Ethiopia.  Disturbance caused by those under the influence of alcohol is punishable by three month’s to one year’s imprisonment.  Driving while under the influence is also illegal and attracts a fine.


            Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs (including hashish) are strictly enforced in Ethiopia.  Convicted offenders can expect both fines and long jail sentences.

            Consumption of the mildly stimulating leaf chat is permitted in Ethiopia.


            For simply travelling around the country on public transport, the maps in this magazine should suffice.  For those of you venturing off into the nether regions with 4WDs, a more detailed map is essential.  Since trekking without a guide is illegal in the Bale and Semien Mountains, additional maps aren’t necessary, though topographic maps can help you plan your routes with more precision.  In Ethiopia, the map produced by the defunct Ethiopian Tourism commission (1987; 1;2,000,000) isn’t  bad and can be picked up in some Addis Ababa hotels or in the gift shop next to the Tourist information centre in Addis for birr 60.

            A more accurate map (although it lacks distance labels between cities) of the same scale is available from the Ethiopia Mapping Authority in Addis Ababa.

            Of the maps currently available outside the country, the best is that (1998; 1:2,000,000).  It’s much more up to date than both maps available in Ethiopia.

            The cartographic map of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti (19996; 1:2,500,000) comes second and isn’t a bad choice for the region.



            Ethiopia’s currency is the birr.  It’s divided into 100 cents in 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, and 50 cent coins, and there are 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 birr notes.  Despite a weekly auction determining exchange rates, the birr is one of Africa’s most stable currencies.  At least that was still the case at the time of research, but there was much talk of devaluing the birr, which could lead to large fluctuations against hard currencies.


            According to National Bank of Ethiopia regulations, all bills in Ethiopia must be paid in birr.  But this isn’t enforced and Ethiopian Airlines, most major hotels, most travel agencies and even the Department of Immigration accept (and sometimes demand!) US currency.

            One regulation that’s strictly enforced is the conversion of birr to US dollars or euros; this transaction can only be done for people holding onward air tickets from Ethiopia.  This means people leaving overland must budget accordingly.  There are black-market traders around the borders, but rates are poor and it’s risky. 



            Except in few private banks currently under formation almost all banks in the country accept international Visa cards.  At present the service is expanding to regional towns apart from major cities.



            As with African countries the US dollar is the preferred foreign currency in Ethiopia and although the euro is growing in popularity, not all banks will accept it; therefore you should still pack a wedge of green backs.  You’ll have no trouble exchanging US cash wherever there are forex facilities.

            While more banks in Ethiopia change cash than travellers cheques, you will usually end up getting slightly worse rates for cash.


Credit Cards

            Credit cards (Visa and Master card) are increasingly useful in Addis Ababa but remain completely Useless (with the exception of some Ethiopian Airlines offices) outside it.  The travel agencies, airline offices and major hotels that do accept card typically ding you 3-5% extra for the privilege of plastic. Cash advances are possible at a couple of banks in the capital and in larger cities.



            Tips (gursha in Amharic) are considered a part of everyday life in Ethiopia, and help supplement often very low wages.  The maxim’ little but of ten’s is a good one, and even very small tips are greatly appreciated.  It’s a great mistake to over tip: it unfairly raises the expectations of locals, undermines the social traditions and may spoil the trips of future travelers.  Local guides can start to select only those tourists who look lucrative, and can react very aggressively if their expectations aren’t met. 

            If a professional person helps you (or someone drawing a regular wage), it’s probably better to show your appreciation in other ways: shaking hands, exchanging names, or an invitation to have a coffee and pastry are all local ways of expressing gratitude.

            Furnishing yourself with a good wad of small notes- birr 1 and birr5- is a very good idea.  You’ll need these for tips, taking photographs etc.  You should budget around birr 50 for tips per week.



Travellers Cheques

            Travelers cheques remain more useful in Ethiopia than most other countries, and banks in Addis Ababa and the larger towns (but not smaller ones) will exchange them.  Like cash, traveler’s cheques are best carried in US dollars.  Note that most banks ask to see your passport and the cheque’s proof- of-purchase receipt (which most travelers-cheque companies advise you to leave at home!)



            Ethiopia’s telecommunication industry is entirely government-run.  The industry is in desperate need of privatization as currently making a phone call is certain to turn you grey and, just like with the internet (run by the same company), it’s best to assume that you won’t be calling home very much.

            Countless shops operate as “telecentres” and can normally/sometimes/ once in awhile connect you to the big wide world for birr 15 to birr 25 per minute.  Some hotels offer phone service, but they are usually at least 20% more expensive.

            When calling abroad from Ethiopia, use followed by the appropriate country code.  Collect calls are only available at the telecommunications offices and can be made to the UK, USA,Canada,Australia, Germany and France; you still have to pay a “report charge” of birr 5 to 8, plus a birr 10 (refundable) deposit.

            Cheap local calls can also be made from telecommunications offices, telecentres and public phone boxes.  Most boxes take both coins and cards (sold at the telecommunications offices in denominations of birr 10,15,25, birr 50 and birr 100).

            Note: all Ethiopian numbers were changed in 2005 to have 10 digits.  The old six-digit numbers now trail a new four-digit area code that must always precede the old number, no matter where you’re calling from. Important telephone numbers and Ethiopia’s country code can be found at ethio telecom offices.


Mobile Phones

            The speed with which Ethiopia’s mobile phone network has expanded would make Starbucks blush.  However, like all other aspects of Ethiopian telecommunications, the service can hardly be described as reliable.  Whether you’re using your home phone on a roaming plan or a locally bought phone and SIM card, expect days to go by when, despite having a reception, it’s impossible to actually make a call- and as for sending a text message…



Ethiopia is three hours ahead of GMT/UTC.

            Time expressed so sanely in Ethiopia that it blows most travelers’ minds! At sunrise it’s 12 o’clock (6am our time) and after one hour of sunshine it’s 1 o’clock.  After two hours of sunshine? Yes, 2 o’clock.  The sun sets at 6pm ( 12 o’clock our time) and after one hour of darkness it’s… 1 o’clock! Instead of using ‘am’ or ’pm’, Ethiopians use ‘in the morning’ ‘in the evening’ and ‘at might’ to indicate the period of day.

            The system is used widely, though the 24-hour is used occasionally in business.  Be careful to ask if a time quoted is according to the Ethiopian or ‘European’ clock (be Ethiopian/faranji akotater no?)- is that Ethipoian /foreigner’s time?).  For the purposes of this book, all times quoted are by the European clock.




Saturday, 05 May 2012 09:38


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The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is a land-locked country in northeast Africa lying between 3.5 and 15°N and 33 and 48°E. Formerly known as Abyssinia it is the oldest independent nation in Africa.

Ethiopia is a rugged country of tall mountains and arid deserts. It has a diverse population, with more than 80 distinct ethnic and linguistic groups.
It was home to the powerful Christian kingdom of Aksum that emerged around the first century AD. It was also the only African country to successfully defend its sovereignty against colonial powers in the 19th century.

Ethiopia is bounded on the north by Eritrea, on the east and southeast by Somalia and Djibouti, on the southwest by Kenya, and on the west and northwest by South Sudan and Sudan. The country is divided into nine regions, one for each of its main ethnic groups. Addis Ababa is the country’s capital and largest city.
It covers an area of 1,133,380 sq km (437,600 sq mi). The country’s landscape is dominated by volcanically formed highlands which are split diagonally in a northeastern to southwestern direction by the Great Rift Valley. In northern Ethiopia the highlands rise to its highest point at Ras Dashen (4,620 m/15,157 ft). The mountain’s jagged surroundings are home to several animal species unique to Ethiopia.

Ethiopia shows a wide climatic variation, ranging from the peaks of Bale which receive periodic snowfall, to daytime temperatures of over 50 °C in the Danakil desert.
The tropical zone below approximately 1,800 m has an average annual temperature of about 27°C (about 80°F) and receives less than about 500 mm (about 20 in) of rain annually. The subtropical zone, which includes most of the highland plateau and is between about 1,800 and 2,400 m (about 6,000 and 8,000 ft) in elevation, has an average temperature of about 22°C (about 72°F) with an annual rainfall ranging from about 500 to 1,500 mm (about 20 to 60 in).
The country’s main rainy season occurs between mid-June and September, followed by a dry season that may be interrupted in February or March by a short rainy season.

The resources of Ethiopia are primarily agricultural. The plateau area is fertile and largely undeveloped. The wide range of soils, climate, and elevations permits the production of a diversified range of agricultural commodities. A variety of mineral deposits exist -- iron, copper, petroleum, salt, potash, gold, and platinum are the principal ones that have been commercially exploited.

The great variations in elevation are directly reflected in the kind of vegetation found in the country. The lower areas of the tropical zone have sparse vegetation consisting of desert shrubs, thorny bushes, and coarse savanna grasses. In the valleys and ravines almost every form of African vegetation grows profusely. The temperate zone is largely covered with grassland. Afro-alpine vegetation is found on the highest slopes.

The larger species of African wildlife are native to most parts of the country. These include the giraffe, leopard, hippopotamus, lion, elephant, antelope, and rhinoceros. The caracal, jackal, hyena, and various species of monkey are common. Birds of prey include the eagle, hawk, and vulture. Heron, parrot, and such game birds as the snipe, partridge, teal, pigeon, and bustard are found in abundance.

Most Ethiopian people live on rural farm communities. About 84 percent (2005) of the Ethiopian population is rural and occupations in agriculture support 78 percent of all Ethiopians. The population is concentrated heavily in the central plateau region, where agricultural resources are most developed. The ethnic composition is extremely diverse, as a result of racial and linguistic integration that began in ancient times.

The population of Ethiopia (according to 2011 estimate) is 90.8 million people which makes it the second-highest population in Africa after Nigeria, yielding an overall density of 70 persons per sq km (181 per sq mi). The Amhara, and Tigreans, both of which are highland peoples of partly Semitic origin, constitute about 32 percent of the total population. They occupy the northwestern Ethiopian highlands and the area north of Addis Ababa. The Oromo, a pastoral and agricultural people who live mainly in central and southwestern Ethiopia, constitute about 40 percent of the population. The Somali, Sidama, Gurage, Afar, Gamo, and Hadya have also a population that goes beyond 1 million. The non-indigenous population includes Yemenis, Indians, Armenians, and Greeks.
Ethiopia is divided into nine states—Tigray, Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Somalia, Benshangul-Gumuz, Gambela, Harari and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples, which comprises about 41 ethnic groups.

Addis Ababa is the largest city in Ethiopia; other major cities include Dirē Dawa, Makalle, Hawassa, Adama and Bahir Dar. In 2005 about 84 percent of the population was classified as rural.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church (Christianity), a Christian sect headed by a patriarch and closely related to the Coptic church of Egypt, was the state religion of Ethiopia until 1974.

About half of the people of Ethiopia are Christians. Christianity is predominant in the north, while the southern regions have Muslim majorities. An Ethiopian Jewish sect known as Bete-Israel existed in the country until the entire community was airlifted to Israel during Ethiopia’s civil war of the 1980s and early 1990s.
Of the 70 or more languages spoken in Ethiopia, most belong to the Semitic and Cushitic branches of the Afro-Asiatic family. The language of the Ethiopian church liturgy, Ge’ez belongs to the Semitic language family. Currently the country has no national language according to the Constitution. Unlike in the previous regimes Amharic is just the official language of the federal government. Afan Oromo is also a widely spoken language in the country. English and Arabic are also spoken by many people.

The country has 31 universities including the Addis Ababa University which was founded in 1950.

The most significant area of Ethiopian culture is in the field of literature, represented predominantly by translations from ancient Greek, Arabic, and other languages into the ancient Ge’ez and modern Amharic. Ethiopian literature goes back to the 5th century by the time it developed its own alphabet and calendar before any African country.

Agriculture by traditional methods, including the raising of livestock, is the most characteristic form of Ethiopian economic activity.
Commercial estates supply coffee, cotton, sugar, fruit, and vegetables to the nation’s processing industries and for export. Legumes and oil seeds are also grown on a commercial scale. The most important food crops grown primarily for local consumption are cereal grains such as wheat, corn, and sorghum. Ethiopian herders raise cattle, sheep, goats, and fowl.

Although many mineral deposits exist in Ethiopia, thick layers of volcanic lava cover the older ore-bearing rock and render exploitation difficult. Outcroppings of iron, copper, zinc, and lead have been mined since ancient times, but deeper reserves of these minerals remain largely unexploited. Gold, limestone, and marble are mined for export.

Ethiopian industry is limited and centered on processing agricultural commodities. Principal manufactured products include fabrics, leather goods, footwear, cement, and beer. The principal manufacturing center is Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia’s unit of currency, the birr, is issued by the National Bank of Ethiopia (18.70 birr equal USD 1 average).
Ethiopia is primarily an exporter of agricultural products and an importer of consumer and capital goods, and typically experiences a very high trade gap. Leading purchasers of exports are Djibouti, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Germany; chief suppliers of imports are Saudi Arabia, Italy, China, India, and Germany.
The country has one of the best airline companies in the world. The Ethiopian Airlines which provides both domestic and international air service has a remarkable success story of connecting African countries for over five decades.

Ethiopia is the literal cradle of humankind, with bones discovered in eastern Ethiopia dating back 3.2 million years. The country is the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the oldest in the world.







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