Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia -Doha

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Geography and People

Ethiopia is strategically located in northern part of Africa known as the “Horn of Africa”, at crossroads between Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.  It has a population of 72.4 million (2004) ranking the third most populous country in Africa after Nigeria and Egypt.  It covers an area of 1.14 km2 (445,000 square miles) with population density of 58.9 inhabitants per km2 (2002). It is bordered by Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Eritrea to the north, the Sudan to the west and Kenya to the south.  It is situated within easy reach of the Horn’s major ports, which connect it with the Middle East and Europe.  Access to these ports has played a prominent role in enhancing the country’s international trade.

Geographically, Ethiopia is a country of immense contrasts. It has high and rugged mountains, flat –topped plateaux called “Ambas”, deep gorges, incised river valleys and vast rolling plains. Its altitude    ranges from 148 meters below sea level at the Dallol Depression, (the lowest depression in the world) in the northeast, to the highest peak at Ras Dashen, which is 4620 meters above sea level on the Seimen Mountains in the northwest.  Surrounding the highlands, which constitute 56% of the total area of the country, are extensive low lands with altitudes of less than 1,000 meters.

Ethiopia’s major physical features are the result of extensive and spectacular faulting that cracked the old crystalline block of the African continent along the eastern side, creating the Great Rift Valley that stretches from Africa’s juncture with the eastern end of the Mediterranean Basin down to Mozambique in the southern part of the African continent.  Therefore, the major features of Ethiopia’s landscape are lines of great escarpments overlooking the Afar plains.  Furthermore, these fault structures have created escarpments along its western border lands. The Great Rift Valley, which divides the country into western and eastern highlands, is another fascinating geographical feature of the country. Besides the aforementioned diverse physical features, Ethiopia is also endowed with canyons, gorges and rivers.  The major river basins include the Abay (Blue Nile), Awash, Baro, Omo, Tekeze and Wabe Shebele. 

Ethiopia enjoys a pleasant climate varying from cold to temperate and from sub-tropical to tropical.  Much of the country has, however, a climate tempered by high altitude though it lies just within 150 north of the equator.  There are two rainy seasons in the country: the “small” rains in Februrary and March, and the “big” rains from June to September.

The principal climate groups in Ethiopia are: tropical rainy climate, dry climate and warm temperate rainy climate.  The country has 18 agro-ecological zones and three main traditional climatic zones:
•    Dega- cool temperate highlands over 2,500 meters above sea level;
•    Woyna Dega- moderate warm lands lying between 1,500-2,500 meters above sea level; and,
•    Qolla- hot lowlands lying below 1,500 meters.

These three groups can again be divided into other climatic types.  The two extreme cases are hot arid climate with a mean annual rainfall of less than 450 mm, and mean annual temperature of 270c-320c; and a cool highland climate where the mean temperature of the warmest month is less than 100c with a mean annual rainfall of 800-2000 mm.  Thus, arid areas and areas of plentiful moisture, hot lowlands and cool highlands are found in the country.

The people are ethnically and culturally diverse.  There are about 80  ethnic groups. These groups altogether speak over 80 different languages constituting 22 Cushitic,12 Semitic, 18 Omotic and 18 Nilo-Saharan Languages. Amharic is the working language of the Federal Government.  English is the medium of instruction in secondary schools and higher education institutions, and it is widely used in business transaction, particularly in banking and insurance.

Ethiopians are generally considered as courteous and hospitable.  They are also regarded as trustworthy, sincere, friendly and hard working. The Italian historian, Conti Rossini, wrote in his book that Ethiopians are people of never failing good will and kindness and exceedingly polite.