Saturday, 17 March 2012

What I know about Ethiopia

About six months ago, this would be a very short post, as until I heard that the U of T goes there to teach, I knew almost nothing. I had heard of the Rift Valley, where the earliest human remains were found, but did not know that was in Ethiopia. I did not realize that the name coffee comes from an area in Ethiopia. I did not realize that much of the country is 3,000 m above sea level, so that, even though it is near the equator, it gets cold at night.

Ethiopia has a very strong culture, with its own way of telling the time. Each day starts at dawn, which is the first hour of the day. 12 o'clock in the day is dusk, then there is the first hour of the night.

The main language is Amharic, which is written in a script which allows for combinations of any one of about 34 consonants with any one of seven vowel sounds to make a single written character.

The calendar has thirteen months, most with 30 days but one with only five days, except on leap years, when it has six. In Ethiopia its the year 2004, not 2012, as they don't keep to the same calendar as we do.

They are a proud people. Ethiopia and Liberia were the only African countries which were never colonized., but Ethiopia were occupied by the Italians for a few years (1936-1941) around the time of the second world war.

I hope to see some of the tourist sites, including hiking to Imet Gogo, which one site lists as the fifth best hike on the whole African continent. The churches at Lalibela. deserve to be much better known. They are carved out of the ground, in some cases out of a single rock, so that the whole church is below grade. They have their own ancient branch of Christianity, with many ancient churches and monasteries. They also claim to have the Ark of the Covenant.

The food is unusual too. The staple is injera, a large pancake made of a flour called teff. This is put on a big plate in the middle of the table, then various vegetarian and meat curries are poured onto it, and eaten communally using more bits of injera to pick the food up The things they put on the injera are quite tasty, but the injera itself looks and tastes like corrugated cardboard soaked in warm water. Maybe its an acquired taste, or maybe I will be heading to the pizzerias, coffee shops and bakeries the Italians left behind!

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