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Discovering Africa: Ethiopia

July 14,2013 (VENTURES AFRICA) – Ethiopia is a country of extraordinary natural beauty, great potential and historical and cultural interest.

Ethiopia-150x150 GondarLocated between the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn, in a region fondly referred to as the “Horn of Africa”. With an area slightly more than one million km2, the country’s different physical conformations territories offer tourists a huge variety of exceptional landscapes, majestic mountains, towering peaks, deep gorges, wonderful volcanic lakes, impressive waterfalls, luxurious tropical regions extraordinary savannah and semi-desert areas.

Ethiopia’s history is ancient, rich and extremely interesting. It dates back to the time of the Egyptian pharaohs, and even before, when merchant ships sailed from Egypt crossed the Red Sea to trade gold, frankincense and myrrh for ivory and slaves. In the Afar region, located in the Rift Valley, which runs through the gaping hole and extends Ethiopia to Mozambique, were found the remains of Lucy, a creature that lived in this part of the world more than three million years ago, and whose name in the local language means “you are wonderful” (Denkenesh / Birkinesh). Lucy belonged to the family of Australopithecus afarensis, with smaller brains and somatic characteristics similar to monkeys, but was already bipedal. Her skeleton is almost complete and is preserved in the National Museum in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

The history of Ethiopia begins with the biblical story of King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, their son Menelik (100 BC), and the Ark of the Covenant which is still preserved in the church of Axum, the capital of Axumite empire (300) during which Christianity was introduced in the early years of the fourth century. Around 600 followers of Muhammad, persecuted in their homeland because of their faith, were greeted by friendly Ethiopians kings and they introduced Islam from 1185 to 1210, king Lalibela and his successors built the extraordinary rock churches, even today, is a major artistic expression of the country and is considered the eighth wonder of the world. Then in 1636, the emperor Fasilidas founded the new capital, Gondar. The castles of the imperial quarters, the palace and the wonderful painted churches built by Fasilidas and his successors are known to everyone. Finally, the Emperor Menelik, beginning in 1800, ushered the country in a new era of modernization and reform.

Ethiopia is proud to be the only African country never to have been colonized by Europeans; it was briefly occupied by the Italians from 1936 to 1941 but was released at the beginning of World War II by Allied forces, British and resistance movements. The last successor of Menelik, Emperor Haile Selassie, who ruled from 1930 to 1974, initiated upon his return to power, a new period of reform, a new state bank was created, and a national currency, airline status, schools, universities and a new constitution was implemented.

Ethiopia is located in the “Horn of Africa,” it shares a border with Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Sudan. Its capital, Addis Ababa has 5 million inhabitants.

In Ethiopia there are two seasons: the dry season begins in mid September and ends in late May and the rainy season from June to mid September. During the dry season the average temperature is 25 degrees. The best time to visit Ethiopia is from September to May, during the dry season.

Tourist visas can be obtained from the Ethiopian embassy in your country or your travel agent. You can also get it at the airport in Addis Ababa, for a total of about 30 Euros. The currency is called the Ethiopian birr. Foreign currency can be exchanged at all banks in the most important cities.

Tourists must be in possession of a valid certificate of vaccination for yellow fever. Vaccination against cholera and hepatitis are recommended. Anti malaria prophylaxis is strongly recommended, especially in the south and in the lowlands, it must be accompanied by individual protection measures: use anti mosquito sprays, spanning clothing and closed shoes to wear at dusk and after.

What to see in Ethiopia?

The capital, Addis Ababa, with its gigantic houses is one of the sites not to be missed thanks to the Ethnological Museum, the National Museum which houses the famous “Lucy,” the windows of the cathedral Giorgis, and the vast and cosmopolitan market where everything is sold. All these are the main attractions.

The Simien National Park offers trekking enthusiasts a beautiful populated setting with all kinds of animals, baboons, jackals, bearded vultures, and watered by streams leading to green pastures. You can book several days to travel on foot or by riding a mule, starting from Debark, north of Gondar.

Bahar Dar is well worth a visit: go visit the small islands of Lake Tana with their centuries-old monasteries and Tissisat Falls, 400m wide, do so between October and December.

Finally, the seven lakes of the Rift Valley will be an opportunity to discover a beautiful and fertile valley rich in wildlife, especially for birds and crocodiles, and the hot springs of Wondo Genet where you can also swim.





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