About Ethiopia

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Ethiopia tours provided by Panoramic Simiens allow you to experience a beautiful and unique culture. Ethiopia has a population of approximately 70 million people. With a land-mass covering 1,104,300 km2 (426,370 sq miles), five times the area of the United Kingdom, it is the tenth largest country in Africa. The major ethnic/linguistic groups are the Oromo (40%), Amhara (22%) Tigrai (10%), Sidamo (9%) and Somali (6%). Its capital is the breathtaking Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia’s economy is dominated by subsistence agriculture. Coffee accounts for 55% of Ethiopia’s exports. Despite the international renown for its coffee, Ethiopia is still one of the poorest countries in Africa. What it lacks in finance is made up for by the warmth of its people and its natural beauty.

Ethiopia Tours Geography

Ethiopia’s landscape is dominated by the Ethiopian Highlands, dramatic mountains with peaks reaching more than 4000m. The Rift Valley, starting at the Red Sea and continuing south to Mozambique in southern Africa, divides the country in two. Ethiopia’s natural beauty is a sight to behold, meaning that Ethiopia tours are the perfect getaway for the nature seeker.

The two major mountain ranges are the Simien Mountains (a World Heritage Site), in the north of the country; and the Bale Mountains to the east of the Rift Valley, in the southern highlands.

The major rivers include the Blue Nile, in the northwest; and the Baro to the west (Gambella), which feeds the White Nile in Uganda, and ultimately joins the Blue Nile in Sudan. The Wabe Shebelle courses through southeast from the Bale Mountains into Somalia. The Omo River starts in the western highlands and feeds Lake Turkana on the Kenyan border. The Awash feeds a series of desert lakes to the east of the country near the Djibouti border.


Given Ethiopia vast variety of landscape, from highlands to desert, it naturally follows that climates are also very varied: the eastern lowlands and the far south are dry and hot. The western lowlands are moist and hot. The Rift Valley to the south is temperate to hot and seasonally moist. Therefore, it is possible to experience frost, and even snow in the mountains, or dry soaring temperatures in the desert all in one trip.


Historical Places in Ethiopia

Lalibela Rock -hewn Churches
The isolated churches of Lalibela are set high in the mountain of lasta, and is world renowned for it’s rock-hewn churches sometimes considered one of the “eight wonders of the world.″ It is arguably the one place in Ethiopia that no tourist should miss! Lalibela was the capital of the zegwe Dynasty, which ruled over Ethiopia from the 10th century to the mid 13th century. Rumor has it that the Lalibela Empire was formed because the “arc of the covenant″ in Axum was lost to Lalibela. Lalibela set about gathering the world’s greatest craftsman and artisans in order to crave the churches. Even before you visit the churches, Lalibela is a strikingly singular town. The setting alone is glorious. Perched at an altitude of 2,630m, among wild craggy mountains and vast rocky escarpments, there is a stark cathedral-like grandeur to Lalibela that recalls the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa and Lesotho. The houses of Lalibela are of a design unlike anywhere else in Ethiopia. Two-storey circular stone constructs that huddle in an enormous mass over the steep slopes on which the town is built. Bet Maryam is thought to have been the first church built in Lalibela. Because of its association with the virgin, it remains the most popular church in the complex among Ethiopians. Smaller and less imposing than Medhane Alem , but also a monolith, Bet Maryam has a more intimate and elaborately carved interior, with carvings of the original Lalibela cross and of the star of David with dense paintings on parts of the roof. The Church is 13m high and its upper floor has seven rooms used to shore church treasures.


Gondar Fasil Ghebbi & Debra Birhan Selassie.
Gondar is one of the main tourist attractions on the northern historically circuit, best known for its 17th-century castles and palaces as well as the fantastically decorated church of Debra Birhan Selassie. Gonder was founded in 1635 by Emperor Fasilidas and was the imperial capital for 250 years prior to the rise of Emperor Tewodros.
The Fasil Ghebbi lies at the heart of modern Gondar and gives the city much of its character. This enclosure holds many castles with the most impressive castle being the original one. This first castle was built by Fasilidas Circa 1640. It is made of stone and shows a unique combination of Portuguese and even Indian influences.. Than in the mid 20th century it was partially restored until 1999 when the castle was more fully restored, using the original construction methods, with UNSECO funding. Construction lasted until 2002.


Debre Birhan Selassie
Today there are said to be 44 churches in Gondar, at least seven of which date from Fasilidas’s rule.
Debre Birhan Selassie, or Mountain of the enlightened Trinity, was one of these churches. Founded in the 1690s by Iyasu it was the most important church in the 18th century due to the fact that was the site of many royal burials. Debre Birhan Selassie is also the only one of these seven that was left completely untouched during an attack by the Dervish or Mahdist of Sudan in 1888. Debre Birhan Selassie was saved from the Dervish attacks by the intervention of a swarm of bees… or so they say in Gondar. The rich history permeating Ethiopia is one of the greatest things you have to look forward to on Ethiopia tours.


Axum Tsion
Axum is recognized as the first empire of Africa and the 3rd largest Empire of the world! Myth has it that King Solomon of Israel and Queen Sheba had a son named King Menelek. King Menelek was the first king of the Empire which created a mysterious lineage between Ethiopia and Israel. Rumor has it that the “arc of the covenant″ from Mount Sinai was passed on to Ethiopia which gave the Empire ruling power and long roots to the Old Testament. Regardless of anthropological fact from fiction, the imperial capital of the Axum Empire was created at least three centuries before the birth of Christ and was the first African nation to accept Christianity.
Axum is also home to the cathedral of Tsion Maryam which was founded in the 4th century. Tsion Maryam is Ethiopia’s oldest Christian sanctuary and is still regarded as the spiritual home of Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity. Ethiopian’s first church, the original Maryam Tsion church, which consisted of 12 temples, has been destroyed probably around the 16th – century. This illustrious nation formally recognized as “Abysinnia″ was also home to the first acceptance of Islam in the 7th century, where the 4th holiest city of Muslim faith, Harar, is located.


Tigraiy rock-hewn churches
Ethiopia tours have much to offer by way of man-made items of cultural significance. Tigrai, Ethiopia’s northern-most region, has more than 120 rock-hewn churches. Famous Lalibela boasts 12 churches only. The rock churches are found in Gheralta, Tsaeda Imba, Atsbidera, and other parts of Eastern Tigrai. Some of the churches are dated as early as 5th century – 800 years before Lalibela, others were built, or rather carved, much later – and they are dated aroun