1,104,300 sq km (426,372 sq miles).
96.6 million (2014).
87.5 per sq km.
Head of state:
President Mulatu Teshome Wirtu since 2013.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn since 2012.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins and Italian-style plugs with three round pins in a line are both used.
Though Ethiopia’s reputation remains somewhat tarnished by its turbulent history, tourists are returning to the country in increasing numbers, keen to discover its wondrous landscapes, ancient religious sites and fascinating indigenous tribes.
One of the oldest Christian nations in the world, Ethiopia is a multicultural, multifaceted destination where the art of hospitality is alive and well: visitors are typically greeted with a steaming cup of coffee, which was first discovered in this very country.
Most visitors start their Ethiopian odyssey in the sprawling capital, Addis Ababa, a lively city nestling in the lofty Entoto Mountains. Renowned for its ubiquitous cafés, brutalist architecture and awful traffic jams, in Addis Ababa it is not uncommon to see smartly dressed businessmen walking down the same streets as local shepherds.
Few linger long in the Ethiopian capital, choosing instead to head north to Lalibela, a pilgrimage site famed for its ancient churches, which have quite literally been hewn out of a cliff. Lalibela is one of nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Ethiopia: other notables include the fairytale castles of Gondar, the walled city of Harar and the mysterious stelae of Aksum.
Ultimately, though, it’s Ethiopia’s epic landscapes that really capture the imagination; from the verdant peaks of the Simien Mountains to the sulphur fumaroles of the Danakil Depression, the scenery could inspire paintings, provoke poetry.
These wild environments sustain ancient tribes such as the Bodi, whose men live on a diet of blood and milk in a bid to become the region’s fattest man, and the Hamer, famous for their dangerous bull-jumping ceremony, which is considered a rite of passage for young men.
Ethiopia has come a long way since the famine of 1984 (which prompted Bob Geldof to write the fundraising hit Do They Know It’s Christmas?), but the country, though culturally rich, remains economically poor. Travelling around it can be hard going, but for those who ride it out, the rewards are immense.
Last updated: 19 October 2015
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
There is a high threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate including in places frequented by foreigners.
In October 2013, a bomb in Addis Ababa killed 2 people, and in November 2013, Ethiopian security officials said that they believed that terrorist groups plan to carry out attacks in Addis Ababa and other parts of Ethiopia. Further attacks are likely.
The terrorist group Al-Shabaab, although based in Somalia, poses a threat across the East Africa region. There are credible reports that Al Shabaab plan, and have the capability, to attack targets in Ethiopia, particularly in Addis Ababa, Jijiga and Dolo Odo. On 14 October 2014, the US Embassy in Addis Ababa issued a travel warning advising “those in Addis Ababa to avoid areas where both Ethiopians and westerners frequent”, and citing threat reports of Al Shabaab’s intent to target the Bole area of the city. You should be vigilant at all times, especially in crowded areas and public places like transport hubs, hotels, restaurants, bars and places of worship and during major gatherings like religious or sporting events.
In the past 4 years, Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for attacks in Uganda, Djibouti and Kenya. The group continues to link attacks in the region to military presence in Somalia as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission, and continues to threaten all countries who have military forces in Somalia, which includes Ethiopian forces. The ultimate aim of Al-Shabaab is to establish an Islamic Caliphate in the wider region, including parts of Ethiopia.
A number of indigenous Ethiopian and ethnic Somali groups which operate in Ethiopia are actively engaged in a militant campaign against the Ethiopian government, with most of their activity centered on the Ogaden region.
There is a high threat of kidnapping in Ethiopia’s Somali region, particularly in the eastern areas to which the FCO advise against all travel. You should be vigilant, particularly in towns and cities in the Somali region of Ethiopia, even in areas where the FCO do not advise against all travel. In May 2014, there was an increase in incursions across the Ethiopian-Somali border with reports of large numbers of casualties.
There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.