Ethiopia Ethnic groups

With a culture dating back 3 millennia but many centuries of isolation, the people of Ethiopia have a great variety in cultural expressions and distinction, but with television and internet, many of those traditions are disappearing very fast. Many traditions are not likely to survive many more years. So don't wait long if you still want to see the real thing in stead of performances.


Why consider booking our our Ethiopia Culture & National Parks modules? Because for the same price, our tour gets you to ALL cultural places Ethiopia is so famous for, and on top of that, you get to see up to 12 National Parks/Reserves accompanied by a conservation forester. There is nothing similar on the market. As Ethiopia can be combined with other East African countries, we organize tours in modules. Destinations Overview: Historical Circuit; Danakil Depression; Eathern Route; Simien Mountains; Bale Mountains; Southern Parks Safari; Gambella; Addis Ababa BUT WAIT: if you buy your international ticket with Ethiopia Airlines, they will sell the internal flights at a price that you can't even ride the bus for. But you MUST plan it all in one package and making changes will be very costly. So let us help you plan your entire trip for an incredibly low price!


With a population of about 106 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the second most populous country of Africa. The government officially recognizes 86 ethnic groups, making Ethiopia most culturally and linguistically diverse nation of Eastern Africa, with the Oromo, Amhara and Tigrayan make up more 75% of the population, while some of the smallest tribes have less than 10,000 members. Most of the people of Ethiopia speak a language of Semitic or Cushitic origin. In a country with so much linguistic diversity and inter-ethnic strive it is not surprising that English widely spoken and an official language for legislation; all laws have an English version.


Christianity came to Ethiopia in the fourth century and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church plays an important part in the country’s culture, festivals and visual arts, while some churches of Ethiopia are among the oldest in the world. Islam was introduced in the seventh century and is now practised by about one-third of the Ethiopians, particularly in eastern regions. To reflect the importance of Islam in some areas of the country, major Islamic festivals (such as Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha) are also observed as holidays.


Many historical texts are translations from classical Greek and Hebrew religious texts into the ancient language Ge'ez, and from there into modern Amharic and Tigrigna languages. Ge'ez is a very ancient language and still used today by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

The Tigrayans' history and culture is derived from the Aksumite Kingdom tradition and culture whereas the history and culture of the Amhara people is derived from the post Aksumite imperial reign of Menelik II and Haile Selassie.


Like anywhere else in the world, traditionally, men and women  have very distinct roles, which greatly differ among the ethnic groups. One thing that seems rather common among many tribes though, it that women fetch water and firewood, walking great distances and many hours between the wells and wooded places and their homes. Like in so many other places in Africa, women - and children still serve as the "animals of burden" in the households. Spending many hours per day carrying water and other loads is one of the greatest obstacles in the modernization and emancipation of many women and the education of children in Ethiopia and Africa in general. While providing for beautiful pictures, women and children carrying water and firewood, actually is not a happy story.


Ethiopia is changing very rapidly though, particularly in the cities where more and more women are getting modern jobs, but even in rural areas, changes come rapidly, with smart phones providing internet access to even the most remote tribes and television showing traditional cultures alternative ways of life. While refraining from judging about advantages or disadvantages, this is an unstoppable process.


In the highlands, the Ethiopian traditional costume is made of cotton. Christian Ethiopians of both sexes wear a traditional robe called gabbi or Netella. Women often wear cotton dresses (Kemis) and netellas with borders of colored embroidered woven crosses, but other designs are also used. Other ethnic groups and tribes wear different costumes that reflect their own traditions. Some tribes partially cover their body with leather but others do not wear any clothes at all, while painting and marking their faces and bodies with distinctive images and markings.


The Ethiopian national dish is called wat, a spicy stew which may contain ingredients like chicken, beef, lamb, vegetables, lentils, and ground split peas stewed with hot spice called berbere. Berbere is made of dried red hot pepper, herbs, spices, dried onions, and dried garlic. The wat is served by placing it on top of injera which is served in a mesob, a large basket specially for the injera. Injera is a spongy, mildly sour pancake-like grain product made of fermented teff, an endemic - gluten free - grain of the Ethiopian highlands. It is served with all meals and eaten with the fingers by tearing off a piece of injera and dipping it in the wat and kneading it into a ball. Modern restaurants will serve the injera either on plates or in a round stainless steel tray in the mesob. Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christians fast on Wednesdays and Fridays and during a large number of religious celebrations when the faithful must abstain from eating meat and diary products. To foreigners the food choice during fasting may seem somewhat boring.


In the big cities, western food is available, but not haute cuisine, and in smaller cities and in the country side basically unavailable. While Wat is far more varied than local food in most other parts of Africa, the fact that Ethiopia has never been colonized, has resulted in the fact that Ethiopians have not been exposed to European food, other than some very basic Italian dishes. As a result, only very few restaurants serve western food and in most cases, it is very mediocre at best. Don't waste your money on wine: with few exceptions, whatever is being imported, is vinegar and you are better off with the local beer. 


The favourite drink of many Ethiopians is bunna (coffee). Bunna is drunk in Ethiopia in a unique and traditional way known as a "coffee ceremony". First the coffee is roasted, then ground and placed in a Jebena (coffee pot) with boiling water. When ready it is then served to people in little cups, up to three times per ceremony.


Other locally produced beverages are tella - fermented drink comparable to chicha in South America - and tej - a fermented honey elixer-, which are served and drunk during religious festivals and weddings.


Ethiopia’s traditional religious music is thought to date back to the seventh century, when St Yared is said to have invented the country’s form of notation. This is based on a pentatonic scale; so instead of seven notes in an octave, there are five. Traditional instruments include a flute made of wood/bamboo (washint), a small drum (atomo) and the krar, a five- or six-stringed lyre.


Ethiopia  has its own calendar. Its current year is 2006, which began on our September 11, 2013. This difference is often subject to misunderstandings in planning and appointments.


ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Horse-carriage Ethiopia.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Community project to dig village well, Ethiopia

Horse-carriage Ethiopia.

Community project to dig village well.


ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Woman spinning cotton, Ethiopia

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Women bringing maize harvest home.

Woman spinning cotton.

Woman bringing maize harvest home.


ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Ethiopian girl

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Ethiopian farmer, Simien Mountains

Lovely penetrating eyes!

Elderly man Simien Mountains.


ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Ethiopian school girl


Girl spinning cotton.

Afar elder at Lake Assale.


ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Ethiopian priest in Lalibela with tukul houses in the background.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Fisherman in papyrus boat or tankwa at Lake Tana.

Ethiopian priest in Lalibela with tukul houses in the background.

Fisherman in papyrus boat or tankwa at Lake Tana.


ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Funeral in Lalibela.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Fishermen at Lake Ziway.

Funeral in Lalibela.

Fishermen at Lake Ziway.


ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: women carrying firewood.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Elderly woman carrying firewood, Ethiopia.

Women carrying firewood.

Elderly woman carrying firewood.


Collecting and carrying firewood home is one of the daily chores of women and children throughout Africa, taking up many hours of the day and thereby one of the main causes holding back the development of women.


ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: women carring water.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Girls' daily task is fetching water.

Mothers and children fetching water at remote well.

Girls pumping water at the new village pump.


Women and children in Africa often spend several hours per day fetching water at remote - often dirty - wells. A well built village well can safe them many hours per day, and improve health with clean water.


ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Afar women with children in the Danakil Depression.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Guji women in Oromia, Ethiopia.

Afar women with children in the Danakil Depression.

Guji women in Oromia, Ethiopia.


ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Hyena man in Harar.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Woman spinning cotton at Blue Nile Falls.

Hyena man in Harar Jugol.

Woman spinning cotton at Blue Nile Falls.


ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Ankober farmer.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Anchobar country girl.

Ankober farmer.

Anchobar country girl.


ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: coffee roasting in Axum.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Coffee ceremony in Axum.

Coffee ceremony in Axum.


ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Cotton merchant at market.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Mother with child near Simien Mountains.

Cotton merchant at market.


Mother with child near Simien Mountains.


ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: The market at ankober.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Cotton market at Konso.

The market at ankober.

Cotton market at Konso.


Hamar people, near Omo National Park, Southern Ethiopia.

Hamer women near Mago National Park, South Ethiopia.

Hamar people, near Omo National Park, Southern Ethiopia.

Hamer women near Mago National Park, South Ethiopia.


ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Mursi warrior with AK47.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Mursi mother with baby.

Mursi warrior with AK47.

Mursi mother with baby.


ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Mursi girl with terracotta disk in her lip.

Mursi woman with terracotta disk in her lip.

Mursi girl with terracotta disk in her lip.


Mursi woman with terracotta disk in her lip.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Tigray girls.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Little girl, Ethiopia

Country girls from Gheralta.


ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Injera platter.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Injera dinner in Tigray.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: A simple injera meal en route.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Teff, endemic Ethiopian grain for injera.

ETHIOPIA PEOPLE: Injera farm in the highlands.

To the people of Ethiopia, Injera is the staple food, eaten with every meal of the day. Injera is a sour pancake shaped product mostly made from teff, although other grain products, like maize are sometimes also used.


Injera is eaten with the hands, by picking up meat or vegetables first and then dipping and soaking it in sauce of gravy.


Teff, (above and right) is an endemic gluten free grain, grown only in the highlands of Ethiopia.


Ethiopia modernizes and changes more rapidly than any other country in Africa. Many features may not be there anymore in the near future. If you want to see it the way it was for thousands of years, see it now before it has changed forever! Compose your own once-in-a-lifetime Ethiopia-Africa-Adventure from our affordable modules:

Famous Ethiopia Historical Circuit

Simien Mountains trek or car visit

Danakil Depression and Erte Ale Volcano Expedition

Awash Babile Harar Safari Tour

Ethiopia Central and Southern Parks & Tribes Safari Tour

Bale Mountains National Park and Sof Omar Caves Tour

Gambella National Park Safari

Addis Ababa City Tour & Airport Transfer

All Ethiopia modules and prices together

We designed our itineraries in such a way that you can compose a 2 to 4 weeks journey from different modules that can show you the entire country or just the parts that interest you, all depending on your personal preferences, available time and budget. Email us on your interests and we can discuss a custom program with you by phone (we have phone lines from the USA and Europe) or skype. So, weather you have a great ethnic affinity, are a birdwatcher or want to go on safari, contact us and we work out a customized program that focuses on YOUR interests.

Blue Nile Falls, EthiopiaSt. George Church, LalibelaStellas, Axum, EthiopiaTukuls, Lalibela, EthiopiaElephant bull, Babile, EthiopiaEthiopian Wolf, Bale National Park

Gelada, Simien Mountains National ParkFacilides Bathroom, Gondar, EtiopiaWabia Ibex, Simien MountainsChurch, Lake Tana, EthiopiaErica trees, Bale Mountains National Park.Facilides Castle, Gondar, Ethiopia

Addis Ababa Bole International Airport is home of Ethiopian Airlines, featuring Africa's youngest fleet of the latest intercontinental jet airplanes - including 2 Dreamliners - as well as short-distance Bombardier turboprops for very comfortable, affordable and reliable in-country flights servicing all major cities of Ethiopia. The second best airline of Africa, will fly you non-stop from the USA and Europe to Addis Ababa. Take our 1-week Ethiopia Cultural Monuments Tour and than continue for your Kenya or Tanzania safari - or any other East African capital - thus completing your journey. IF YOU BUY YOUR INTERNATIONAL TICKET FROM ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES, YOU WILL GET MOST INTERNAL FLIGHTS FOR $25 - $35 PER LEG! BUT CHANGING AFTERWARDS IS EXPENSIVE, SO WORK OUT A SCHEDULE WITH US TO GET A FABULOUS DEAL FOR FLYING THROUGH THE COUNTRY IN STEAD OF SPENDING ENDLESS TIME ON THE ROAD!!!


Phone USA:

(++)(1) 304 - 581 - 7740

Phone Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (++251) (0) 911 440 915

Talk or chat with us on Skype in English, Spanish or French. Our Skype name:


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