|Photos of Addis Ababa...
The capital city of Ethiopia is a city of the expected and the unexpected too. As you'd expect in the second poorest country in Africa, there is tremendous poverty everywhere you look. What you might not expect is the wonderful and genuine warmth of the people of Addis Ababa. Everyone in our group mentioned this - the people are warm, friendly and very hospitable. The new Sheraton hotel is the most opulent hotel many people will ever see. Cars, trucks and taxis crowd the streets, but you can also count on seeing traffic jams caused by herds of goats, donkeys and horses being driven right down the same roads as the vehicles! It seems as though every major street has sidewalk public markets where people are selling vegetables, clothing, slabs of freshly slaughtered meats, plastic tubs, cases of Coke, etc. All the children in public schools wear simple uniforms of bright, basic colors - it's a colorful sight to see hundreds of kids coming out of a school all wearing crimson sweaters or bright green shirts.
Another thing you might not expect is altitude sickness! Addis Ababa sits an an elevation from about 7,100 feet to over 10,000 at the top of Mount Entoto (the photo at the top of this page was taken at than lung-straining height) - The mere "Mile High City" Denver has nothing on this place!
The city was founded in 1887 and today more than 4 million people call it their home. The official language is Amharic with it's unusual and distinctive alphabet, but more than 80 local languages are spoken across the country. English is widely spoken in the city as well as Arabic, French and Italian. Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that was never colonized so they are pretty unique in having a very old and "pure" culture, untainted by western colonization. Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and the oldest country in the world, at least 2,000 years old.
Across the entire country, about 45% of the population are Muslim and about 35% are Ethiopian Orthodox with the balance spread among Judaism and various pagan and "animist" religions. It's worth nothing that Ethiopia is virtually free of interfaith conflicts. They have managed to coexist peacefully, a good example for rest of the world.
Another unexpected thing about Ethiopia: Although the our calendar says 2002, it's still 1995 in Ethiopia as they go by the Julian calendar. The Julian year is 365 days long like the Gregorian, but it's divided into 12 months of 30 days plus a 13th month of five or six days at the end of the year. The Ethiopian calendar is 7 years and 8 months behind the Gregorian calendar as a result of the differences between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church regarding the date of the creation of the world.
Oh, and the clock is different too! Like much of east Africa, the day is resolved into two, twelve hour cycles, one for "day" and one for "night". According to this "east African" clock, midday (our noon) is 6 o'clock. When you think about it, it really make a lot of sense but it can lead to many missed appointments!
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