Ethiopia Culture and Lifestyles
As a country with more than 1000 year behind its history and heritage, there is a lot to discover about its people and culture. Ethiopia is home to nearly 80 different ethnic groups that have unique cultural traits, religious beliefs, languages and traditions.
People and tribal groups
The Ethiopian people can be grouped into 83 different tribal groupings mainly Semitic, onotic, Nio-Saharan and the Cushitic-altogether speaking 200 different languages! The Oromo and Amhara make up nearly 50% of the entire Ethiopian population and others being the Somali, Tigraway, Hadiya, Wolayta, Afar and Sidama.
Semitic people: these people are found in north western and central ares of Ethiopia. The language spoken by the Semitic is similar to Hebrew and the Arabic claimed to be rooted in Ge’ez in Ecclesiastes. Most Semitic people however use Amharic which also doubles as the national language besides English. Other languages spoken in Ethiopia include Afan Oromo, Sidaminya, Tigrigna, Gumuz, GuraginyaSomalinya, Afarinya, Berta, Adarinya and Anuak.
The Cushitis Oromo are modern agriculturalist growing millet, barley, sorghum, maize and other just like the Tigrigna and Gurage. The Somali and Afar are pastoralist and semi pastoralist respectively living under the hostile weather of Dankail depression.
Religion and Beliefs
Although Christianity has strong roots in Ethiopia, the country celebrates different festival and cultural events throughout the year for different tribes. Christian celebrations and festival are however very unique under the Ethiopian orthodox church customs. Some of the most celebrated church festivals include Ethiopian Christmas, the Ephiphany, Finding of the cross and the New Year. Many tourists from all over the world come to celebrate the colorful ceremonies with the Ethiopian people.
In the northern region of Gondar are the Ethiopian Jews ‘Falashas’ although many have left the country to live in America, Europe and Israel.
Nevertheless, Islam is also practiced in Ethiopia especially for the south eastern parts of the country. History has it that Ethiopian Muslims were around even during the early days of Prophet Mohammed and this is apparent in the walled city of Harar which Muslims all over the world consider to be as important and holy as Jerusalem, Medina and Mecca for pilgrimage!
Food and Dining
Traditional dining and meals is a special time in Ethiopia’s customs and cultures. There are a few rules and ritual followed during the breaking of bread often reflecting the occasions like sharing, family gatherings, friendship, marriage and so much more.
Injera is the traditional Ethiopian dish of fermented pan cake served with a variety of spiced sauce and eaten using fingers. A small piece of Injera is picked and dipped in the sauce bowl before eating. The Gurage people have enset, 'false banana', whose roots, stem and leaves are prepared over long periods to make unleavened bread and porridge.Other foods eaten and farmed in Ethiopia include millet, wheat, sorghum, barley and maize
Music and Dance
With so many tribes and cultures within Ethiopia, expect unique traits when it comes to music, dance and drama for the different festivals. Particular dances and music is played during different festivities with traditional instruments like the single stringed Maseno, the krar-a lyre like stringed instrument and a portable harp called Begenna.
Traditional folk songs are high pitched amid ululations and excitement as seen on weddings and other happy occasions. Spectacular rhythmic dances accompany songs with vigorous shoulder movements and waste shaking!
It is equally important to note that Raggae music is thought to have roots in Ethiopia as proclaimed by the lengendary Bob Marley!
Clothing and Jewelry
The dressing and garments of Ethiopian varies from cultures and tribes but the common white cotton scarf has been worn by Christians since the mod 1800s. Christian men dree in long jodhpur like trousers, fitting shirt and a loose wrapper called shamma.
The moslems of Harar wear colorful garments; women have red, black and purple dresses while the men wear short like trousers and a colored wrap. The Oromo put on beaded leather garments while the Somalis and Afar have brightly colored cotton wrappers to adorn modern outfits. Many of the clothing styles are a reflection of the social status, economic activity, weather conditions and religion!
The traditional dress for Ethiopian is a light cotton dresses, or scarf with brightly colored hems in threads of Gold, blue, green and red. This colorful attire is used on festival and can be seen with the cabin crew on Ethiopian Airlines! This type of clothing is accessorized with gold and silver jewelry. Bracelets, necklaces and ear rings are also made out ivory, copper, heavy brass and glass among other materials.
Something distinct about the Ethiopian women is the hair style and art. Amhara and Tigray women have their long hair woven into 12 Sherubs plaits that flow to the shoulders. May other tribes also have special hair styles and head clothes/gear.
Ethiopia has a different calendar called the Julian calendar (also called Ge’ez calendar) what has twelve months of 30 days each and an extra month of 5 days or 6 days during the leap year. This Julian calendar is 7 years behind the Gregorian calendar used in many countries across the world.
- The Ethiopian New Year or Enkutatash is celebrated on the 11th September or September 12th for the leap year. Other public holidays in Ethiopia include
- The Finding of the cross Meskal on September 26
Ethiopian Christmas on January 8
- The feast of Epiphany Timkat on January 20
- Victory of Adawa March 2
- Birth of Prophet Mohammed Mauwlid March 20
- Eid el fitr (at the end of Ramadhan fasting period-date according to Islamic calender)
- Eid al alhuda (dates according to Islamic calendar)
- Good Friday (dates change with Christian calendar)
- Ethiopian Easter (date according to Christian calendar)
- International Labor day May 1st
- Patriots Victory Day May 5th
- Downfall of Dergue Regime May 28