Interesting Facts about Ethiopia – Trivia on the Firsts and the Greatest

Ethiopia is a country that is truly fascinating. Facts about Ethiopia or just mere trivia on the country are a pleasure and sometimes even amazing to read about. Who knew?

–          Ethiopia is the only African country with its own alphabet.

      –          Ethiopia is the only country in the world with 13 months.
      –          In Ethiopia time is counted on the opposite side of the clock: 6 o’clock is said to be 12 o’clock, and at 16:00 Ethiopians say Ethiopian-Calendar et-plain AlemAbateit is ’10 o’clock’.
      –          Ethiopia is one of only two countries in the world that have never been occupied. (The other one is Russia, in case you are asked). It managed to stay free by defeating the Italians … twice!
     –        Although Ethiopia was the first African state to join the League of Nations, it soon became apparent that ‘collective security’ would not be given to an African nation even after atrocities of ethnic cleansing and mass murders were evident after Italy invaded – everyone turned a blind eye and a deaf ear.
–           Ethiopia was the birthplace of Pan-Africanism. The belief that Africa should unite and be the master of its own destiny was hailed by Emperor Hailesellasie I. It eventually led to the birth of the African Union of today.

    –  The hydroelectric dam that was built on the Tekeze River and was inaugurated in November 2009 is Africa’s tallest arch dam standing at 188 meters. Gilgel Gibe IV a dam that will be operational sometime in 2012/13 will be the tallest dam on the continent at 200+ meters.
      –          Ethiopia and Ethiopians are mentioned in many ancient books. The Bible is one of them. Ethiopia or Ethiopians are mentioned around 40 times in it. It is one of the few countries that are mentioned in both the Bible andthe Koran. It is a country where the indigenous people are Christians, Muslims and Jews live together. It was the first country where Muslim prayers were held out of Arabia. Incidentally the first Muslim calls to prayer were done by an Ethiopian. And the first mosque to be built outside of Arabia was the Al Nejashi mosque in northern Ethiopia. When Mohammed and his followers were persecuted, they found solace in Ethiopia.
–          The very first and oldest illustrated book on Christianity is found in Ethiopia. This is in the form of a gospel that was written in 494 AD, colors and bindings still intact and was discovered in a monastery – ‘The Garima Gospels’. Abba Garima was a monk that arrived in Ethiopia from Constantinople in the fifth century; legend has it that he copied it in one day.

An Image from the Garima Gospels
–          Ethiopia has a long history of war, in  Homer’s ‘The Iliad’ in the Trojan War, Memnon was an Ethiopian king. Ethiopia and Ethiopians are also mentioned in his other book ‘Odyssey’. The ancient Greek love for the Ethiopians does not end there; another Ethiopian is in Greek astronomy too. According to legend, Cassiopeia was the queen and consort of King Cepheus in Ethiopia. And long story short, after her death, Cassiopeia was immortalized as a star by Poseidon.
–          The name ‘Candace’ is actually the name given to the line of Ethiopian Queens that ruled in ancient times.
–          Ethiopia and Ethiopians are usually mentioned with the words ‘athlete’ and ‘athletics’. The first African to win a gold medal in the Olympics was Abebe Bikila in the 1960 Summer Olympic in Rome; he wan the marathon with a record time of 2:15:16.2 – an even amazing thing was the fact that he ran the whole race barefooted. In the next Olympics held in Tokyo in 1964, Abebe Bikila won the marathon with a world record time of 2:12:11:2.4. Making him the first athlete, and as of yet the only African, in history to win the marathon twice in back to back Olympics. As of date, the marathon world record holder is another amazing Ethiopian athlete, Haile Gebreselasie. He holds the record at 2:03:59.
–          Ethiopia is the home of mankind. While the most famous ancestors of mankind are Lucy and Selam, archeological digs have and will continue to show that it was the valleys of Ethiopia that man came out of.
–          Ethiopia is the homeland of coffee; it was discovered by a shepherd named Kaldi who noticed his goats prancing about restlessly after eating the leaves of the coffee plant. It is thought the word coffee was borrowed from the southern Ethiopian lands of Kaffa.
–          The Mountain Nyala and the Walia Ibex are the two most famous animals that are endemic to Ethiopia. The others are the Semien Red Fox, The Chelada Baboon, Menilik’s Bushback, Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose, Harwood’s Francolin, Rouget’s Rail, Spot-breasted Lapwing, White-collared Pigeon, Yellow-fronted Parrot, Black-winged Lovebird and Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco. In January, 2011 a new member was added to the ‘Endemic Ethiopian’ list – The African Wolf.
–          Addis Ababa is the highest city in Africa. And many tourists mistakenly think that just because it is in Africa it is a hot place to be. It is amusing to see their reactions to the cold when they get off the plane at Bole International Airport as they shiver in Bermuda shorts and Hawaii shirts. The city was founded by Emperor Menilik II on the Entoto Mountain.
–          The Danakil Depression (also known as the Afar Depression or the Afar Triangle) found in North Eastern Ethiopia is the year-round hottest place anywhere on earth.
–          Amazingly, Ethiopians have a very impressive history when it comes to flying. The first African woman to fly was Wro. Assegedech Assefa. There is an argument that if it had not been for the Italian invasion in 1936, Wro. Mulumebet Emeru would have been the first licensed African to fly, but that she is the first to fly – the jury is still out on that one. The only jet fighter air-to-air shoot down by a female pilot is credited to Ethiopian Air Force Captain Aster Tolossa, who shot down her Ukrainian trainer who was flying for the Eritreans.
–          The first car to reach Ethiopia was Emperor Menilik II’s car (plate number D3130), in 1907. He was the first African Emperor, if not plain African, to actually drive a car.

–        On August 12th, 2012 Ethiopia became the first country in Africa, and only the second in the world to own and operate a Boeing 787. Owned by the flag carrier Ethiopian Airlines, the aircraft was named “Africa One” and assigned the tail number ET-AOQ.

–            Ethiopia is Africa’s top producer and exporter of sesame seeds. The country produces about 8% of the world total sesame seed production.

This list will be added on as information is available. Ethiopia is a country with over 3,000 years of history. Any suggestions or additions are very welcome.

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