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People & Culture

People | Languages | Religion | Festivals & Events | Cooking & Recipes | Music & Musical Instruments| Art & Craft


The Amhara
are the politically and culturally dominant ethnic group of Ethiopia. They are located primarily in the central highland plateau of Ethiopia and comprise the major population element in the provinces of Begemder and Gojjam and in parts of Shoa and Wallo. In terms of the total Ethiopian population, however, the Amhara are a numerical minority. The national population has usually been placed at between 14 and 22 million.

It is generally estimated that the Amhara, together with the closely related Tigre, constitute about one-third of this total population. One of the most recent estimates gives the number of native speakers of Amharic, the language of the Amhara, as approximately 7,800,000. (cf. Bender 1971:217)

their national clothes are basically white, whether the shawls and light blankets worn over the shoulders by the men or the white dresses and wraps worn by the ladies

In comparison, there seems to be general agreement that the Oromo peoples form the largest ethnic component in the country, comprising around 40 percent of the population. They are a pastoral and agricultural people who live mainly in central and southwestern Ethiopia, constitute about 40 percent of the population.

The Shankella, a people in the western part of the country from the border of Eritrea to Lake Turkana, constitute about 6 percent of the population.

The Ethiopians The Ethiopians (Peoples of Africa)  ( - USA    ( - UK
by Richard Pankhurst, Barbara Pankhurst
complete history of the Ethiopians from pre-history to the present day draws on research in archaeology, anthropology, linguistics, and recent historiography.

It charts the development of Ethiopian peoples and their society, placing emphasis on the African origins of Ethiopian civilization.

Photographs of Ethiopian People and Places

Listen to Ethiopian National Anthem
Words of the Ethiopian National Anthem

Malawi Flag

Buy the Ethiopian Flag


Languages spoken include Amharic, Tigrinya, Orominga, Guaraginga, Somali, Arabic, other local languages, English (major foreign language taught in schools)

Here are a few words in Amharic
Hello - Selam
Goodbye - Dehna hun (for masculine), Dehna hugni (feminine), Dehna hunu (plural)
Thank you - amesegnalehu
Zero - Zero
One - Ande
Two - Hulet
Three - Sost
Four - Arat
Five - Amist
Six - Sidist
Seven - Sebat
Eight - Timint
Nine - Zetegne
Ten - Asir

Here are a few words in Arabic
Hello - Ahalan
Goodbye - Ma'a ElSalama
Thank you - shokran
You're welcome - Ala ElRahib Wa ElSaa
Zero - Sifer
One - Wahid
Two - Ithinin
Three - Thalatha
Four - Arba'a
Five - Kamisa
Six - Sita
Seven - Saba'a
Eight - Thamania
Nine - Tisa'a
Ten - Ashara

Other Websites

Languages of Ethiopia


Religion is a secure and accepted element of everyday life in Ethiopia and the language is full of references to God. Yet there is not the ever-present feel that one can experience in a totally Muslim country for example.
On the central plateau, the Ethiopian Orthodox church holds sway, again an individual and fascinating feature of this unusual country. Priests and deacons abound in their often colourful robes, carrying their staffs and ornate crosses that people frequently kiss as they pass.

Christianity came to Ethiopia in ancient times and became the official Ethiopian religion in the 4th century. The Orthodox church has many connections with ancient Judaism. Fasting and detailed food restrictions, the specific ways of slaughtering animals, circumcision and the layout of the churches, all these things make for a very particular religious culture.

Islam is also very strong in many parts of Ethiopia, frequently existing peaceably alongside Christianity. The city of Harar, in the east of the country, is officially the fourth most holy Muslim site in the world.

Ethiopia has communities of 'falashas', Ethiopian Jews, especially in the Gondar region in the north. Many of these however have now departed to live in Israel, having been airlifted out of the country with Operation Solomon and Operation Moses in the latter part of the 20th century.

In the lowland areas, animistic and pagan religions are still commonly found among tribal peoples who live in simple and primitive communities

Information kindly donated by Link Ethiopia


The Ethiopians love to celebrate, whether important events in their history, major landmarks in the religious calendar or simply special family days. Best clothes are worn, food and drink are plentiful, musicians play and people dance and sing.

National holidays are held to celebrate the victory over the Italians at Adwa in 1896, the Liberation from the Italian occupation in 1941 and the downfall of the Derg in 1991.

But it is the major Ethiopian Orthodox festivals that represent the people at their most colourful and festive.

Ethiopia Religious Festival Tour
Ethiopia Historic Route tour is also designed in such a way to coincides with the colorful Festivals of Meskal, Timkat, Christmas or Axum Tsion. You will enjoy beauty of Ethiopia religious festival celebrations Click to view full itinerary

Ethiopia Meskel Festival Tour Celebrations 16 – 29 September 2008.
historic sites, wonders and splendors, stunning landscapes, fascinating attractions and colorful festivals will surprise any visitor. The major highlight of this special Ethiopia tour is to attend the celebration of Meskel Festival in Addis Ababa. The tour also includes a visit of Ethiopia Historic Route. Click to view full itinerary
Ethiopia Two major Festivals: Christmas and Timket - Trip Dates 5 - 19 January 2009
The best time to make a holiday to Ethiopia is on the date of its festivals. Book this special tour to attend the celebration of the two major festivals- Christmas in Lalibela and Timket in Addis Ababa. The tour also includes a visit of Ethiopia Historic Route Tigray Rock Churches and Simien Mountain National park.Click to view full itinerary
Ethiopia Timket Festival: Celebrating in Lalibela - Trip Dates 15 - 27 January 2009
The main Highlights of this Ethiopia tour is to visit the celebration of Ethiopian Epiphany- Timket, on 19 January in Lalibela. Lalibela is one of the Holy towns in the country; Timket festival is celebrated so colorfully and differently. It is the best place to attend Timket festival in Ethiopia. The tour also includes a visit of Ethiopia Historic Route. Click to view full itinerary

is a two-day festival at the end of September celebrating the Finding of the True Cross. Bonfires are lit and singing and dancing take place around them, while the priests don their full ceremonial regalia.


Timkat usually falls on the January 19, 12 days after Christmas according to the Julian calendar. Festivities take place the day before as well as the day after. This date varies by a day during leap years. The festival is celebrated throughout the Ethiopian highlands in Orthodox Christian strongholds, but nowhere is it quite as spectacular as in Lalibela, an isolated mountain town in the arid north of the country.

It is a colourful three-day festival celebrating Epiphany and it is marked by the procession of the tabots (the replicas of the Ark of the Covenant, the original of which is said to be in the chapel at Axum) around the towns, draped in heavy embroidered materials. People bathe in the lakes and splash water over onlookers.

After the ceremony, the tabots are taken back to the churches in procession, accompanied by singing, drumming, the ringing of bells and blowing of trumpets. Festivities continue throughout the day and into the night. More religious ceremony takes place the following day, dedicated to the Archangel Mikael, after which the priests are fed by their parishioners and young people continue to celebrate into the night.

Other religious festivals are at Fasika (Easter), Inketatash (the New Year in mid-September) and Genna (Christmas in early January). All the Islamic holidays are also celebrated according to the lunar cycle of shifting dates as in other countries

Information kindly donated by Link Ethiopia


Ethiopia's staple grain is called teff, and from its flour the Ethiopians fashion a large pancake-like bread called injera that they place directly on the dining table. Other dishes that make up the meal are portioned onto the injera and diners eat by scooping these portions into rolled-up pieces of the injera that they have torn off.

Thick stews called wats are the most popular dishes and can be made from meat, vegetables, or beans. Stews is enlivened with the spicy mitin shiro, a flavorful combination of ground beans, spices, and chilies used to season many foods.

The last course of a meal is often kitfo, freshly ground raw beef.

Ethiopians brew a barley beer called tella and a honey wine called ej. Small fried cookies known as dabo kolo are a favorite snack

How a Dinner is Served in Ethiopia

Doro Alicha - mild Ethiopian chicken dish

Doro Wat - A spicy Ethiopian chicken dish

Tibs Wet - A very spicy (and fatty!) meat dish from Ethiopia

Injera Bread - A very simple recipe for injera, the pancake-spongy bread that accompanies Ethiopian food.

Spiced butter ((Niter Kebbeh))A recipe for clarified, herbed butter, a basic ingredient in Ethiopian cuisine

Berbere A red-pepper based spice mixture, used in Ethiopian dishes

Ethiopian lentils

Ethiopian Recipes - A number of recipes at this website


Out in the community, musical instruments play a social and entertaining role. The single-stringed masenko is played by minstrels who sing of life around them and invent, calypso-like, topical verses on the spot. The krar is a lyre-like plucked instrument with 5 or 6 strings while the begenna is the portable harp.

Up in the hills can be found boys looking after cattle and sheep and playing on the washint, a simple reed flute played with one hand.

Ethiopian people know and love their folk songs. Singing is high pitched and shrill Sand frequently accompanied by excited ululation, especially at weddings and other joyful occasions.

No joyous occasion ever passes without the Ethiopians indulging in their unique form of dancing. There are many styles according to the part of the country, but they frequently focus on the shoulders which seductively gyrate and undulate in a frenzied display of almost competitive energy. As one dancer runs out of steam, so another enters the fray with renewed vigour

Information kindly donated by Link Ethiopia

Many reggae musicians declare their importance to having some connection to Ethiopian musical origins although the Ethiopian musicians will tell you their music has more in common with Jazz.

Recommended Music
Ethiopian Urban and Tribal Music Vol.1 Soul of Addis - Mahmoud Ahmed Ethiopiques, Vol. 9: Alemayehu Eshete
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See our full selection of Ethiopian Music

Musical Instruments

Stringed instruments like the begena or the krar are harps while another more fiddle-like instrument is known as masenko.

Kebaro Very common in popular and religious music is the kabaro or kebero. When the women and men dance in their beautiful white robes they dance on the rhythm of the drums


A unique feature of Ethiopian culture is its naïve style of painting that is to be found in every church and in many other locations. This style seems to have remained almost unchanged for centuries.

Figures are drawn in two dimensions, almost cartoon-like in their direct and simplistic portrayal, with strong colours and clear lines. The almond-shaped eyes are a particularly appealing characteristic.

Church painting in Ethiopia serves a very real purpose, with all the biblical and more localised religious stories being portrayed clearly and simply to inform uneducated people of their traditions and their heritage. European medieval imagery is a clear comparison here.

One modern name is clearly prominent in the world of Ethiopian painting today. Afework Tekle has an international reputation as an artist of immense standing. His works, though clearly based in an Ethiopian tradition, have a new and creative dynamism that is immediately of universal appeal. His vibrant paintings, many of them on very large canvases, are to be seen throughout Ethiopia in museums and galleries as well as on postage stamps and postcards

Information kindly donated by Link Ethiopia


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