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Tuesday 12th December
Ethiopia Facts
The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was formerly known as Abyssinia.

The highest point in Ethiopia is Ras Dejen (4,533 m). The lowest point is the Danakil Depression (125 m).

The Danakil Desert, in northern Ethiopia, is known as the "hottest place on Earth".

Lake Tana, Ethiopia's largest lake, is the source of the Blue Nile.

The Lower Valley of the Awash, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1980, is an important paleontological site. In 1974 fifty-two fragments of a hominid skeleton were found at Hadar. The skeleton was named "Lucy" after the Beatles' song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Lucy belongs to a hominid species known as Australopithecus afarensis which lived around 4 to 2.7 million years ago.

The Lower Valley of the Omo, near Lake Turkana, was also inscribed as a World Heritage site in 1980. Fossils found in the Valley have made an important contribution to the study of human evolution.

The World Heritage site of Tiya, south of Addis Ababa, is a megalithic site with thirty-six monolithic stones. Thirty-two of the monuments, known as stelae, are covered with carved symbols.

The temple in Yeha, in northern Ethiopia, is the oldest building in Ethiopia estimated to have been constructed between 800 and 500 BC.

The Kingdom of Axum (Aksum), in southern Eritrea and Ethiopia, is said to have been founded by the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Solomon was from the royal house of Judah. The Lion of Judah was also a title of the Emperor of Ethiopia.

Christianity arrived in Axum in the fourth century.

The church of St Mary of Zion (Axum) is said to be the location of the Ark of the Covenant. The Guardian of the Ark is the only person allowed to see the Ark.

Coffee, Ethiopia's main export crop, has been cultivated in Ethiopia for over a thousand years.

Islam reached Ethiopia in the seventh century.

The Portuguese established contact with Ethiopia at the end of the fifteenth century.

The fortified historic town of Harar Jugol, a World Heritage site in the eastern part of Ethiopia, is a Muslim city constructed between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries.

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 made Ethiopia more accessible from the Mediterranean.

Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1895 but was defeated in 1896.

Ras Tafari Makonnen (1892-1975) became Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1930.

The Rastafarian movement, which began in Jamaica, looks to Africa and believes that Haile Selassie (Ras Tafari Makonnen ) was divine.

Haile Selassie abolished slavery in Ethiopia and freed existing slaves.

Ethiopia was invaded by Italy in 1935.

In 1941 British troops, Commonwealth troops and the Ethiopian resistance defeated the Italians.

In 1952 the United Nations created a federation between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Ethiopia annexed neighbouring Eritrea in 1962.

It is estimated that two hundred thousand Ethiopians died between 1973 and 1974 as a result of famine.

Haile Selassie was overthrown in a military coup in 1974. He died in 1975.

Ethiopia became a socialist state in 1975. The military-controlled regime lasted for seventeen years.

Ethiopian Jews, known as Falashas, lived in isolation for centuries. From 1977 thousands of Ethiopian Jews left for Israel.

Western aid was given to Ethiopia during the famine of 1985.

Eritrea became independent in 1993. Border disputes continued.

War with Eritrea erupted in 1998. A ceasefire was signed in June 2000.

In August 2006 floods in Ethiopia left hundreds of people dead and many homeless.

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