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Wednesday, 18 June 2014 11:18

Ethiopia Tour Advisory


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



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.







Saturday, 05 May 2012 09:38

Modules positions

Below i made a demonstration of each position. As you can see in most of the rows there are 6 positions per rows, which is more then enough when publishing modules. In total there are 69 modules positions!!!

View all module positions live by going to Template Manager and clicking on the button Options from right-top toolbar. Here, in the pop-up enable the option "Preview Module Positions".

The biggest advantage of this framework, because of it's grid system, is that you can set-up your desired layout:



Modules positions

Saturday, 05 May 2012 08:05


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