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Ethiopia

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Ethiopia

Travelling in Ethiopia won't be everyone's cup of shai: there's not much tourist infrastructure here, and checking your email rivals carrier pigeon for speed. But the landscape is splendid, the people are welcoming, the sense of history is tangible and you won't have to worry about crowds of tourists.

You'll soon see that there's far more to the place than famine and misery. Ethiopia is just about the only country in Africa never to have been colonised, and its people have a proud tradition of fighting for their independence. The pride is justified.

The country is also unusual for its rich Orthodox Christian heritage, which the Ethiopians maintained even when all its neighbours embraced Islam in the 7th century. If you still don't get it, let's tell it the way it is: Ethiopia is arguably Africa's best kept secret.

Travel within 20km of the Eritrean border in the Tigray and Afar regions - a military zone -should be avoided. The border itself is permanently closed. Car hijackings are known to occur in the south. Ethnic tensions dog the west of the country.

Full country name: Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Area: 1.09 million sq km
Population: 64 million
People: Oromo (54%), Amhara (24%), Tigrayan (5%), Sidama, Somali, Harari, Afar, Gurage
Language: Amharic, Tigrinya, Somali, Arabic,
Religion: Muslim, Ethiopian Orthodox, animist
Government: federal republic
Head of State: President Girma Wolde-Giorgis
Head of Government: Prime Minister Meles Zenawi

GDP: US$50.6 billion
GDP per capita: US$750
Inflation: 14%
Major Industries: Agriculture, forestry, agricultural processing, textiles
Major Trading Partners: USA, Germany, Japan, Italy

 

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