In some quarters, Ethiopia has a serious image problem, with decades of news reports on famines and droughts clouding the perception of the outside world. This is a shame, because the reality is very different. Ethiopia is an undiscovered gem. Home to one of the oldest Christian civilisations in the world, it has an archaeological pedigree to match any and a cultural and natural diversity that can compare with anywhere in Africa. From the rugged peaks of the Simien Mountains, to Lalibela’s extraordinary rock-hewn churches, this is a country of quite unique depth and grandeur.
Occupying a plateau, some 2,500 metres above sea level, its vast landscapes stretch out before you, across vistas that shelter ancient frescoes and wild baboons, the legendary palaces of the Queen of Sheba and the lost Ark of the Covenant. The cradle of civilisation, these are the lands from which modern humans are believed to have first emerged. It can boast Africa’s largest continuous mountain range and largest cave, it has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country in Africa and the coffee bean first made its world debut here. There really is nowhere else to compare and anyone arriving looking for a new adventure will leave feeling like they have discovered another world.
Please note that all our group tours are scheduled to be led by our award-winning guide Dario Ghirlanda, who won the Bronze Award in the prestigious 2013 Wanderlust Guide Awards.
Wear slip on shoes - you're not allowed to wear them in the churches so you'll be taking them off a lot.
When visiting the Simien Mountains, take binoculars - they're great for spotting Ibex and Gelada baboons.
The cuisine of Ethiopia is underrated, but the coffee as most people know is out of this world.
Limalimo Lodge is a wonderful property in the Simien Mountains with outstanding views.
A member of the team will be in touch shortly.
• Take a torch to Lalibela - you'll need it for the churches.
• Wear slip on shoes - as you're not allowed to wear them in the churches you'll be taking them off a lot.
• If you like a bit of nightlife, check out one of the jazz bars in Addis.
• When visiting the Simien Mountains, take binoculars - they're great for spotting Ibex and Gelada baboons.
• And in the Omo Valley take plenty of small change - locals charge to have their picture taken.
The Scramble for Africa, Thomas Pakenham This is the definitive history of colonial Africa concentrating on the thirty years between 1880 and 1910.
A History of Ethiopia, Harold G Marcus This is a concise history of Ethiopia, surveying the evolution of the oldest African nation from prehistory to the present.
Layers of Time: a History of Ethiopia, Paul Henze A well-written history of Ethiopia for the general reader.
The Emperor, Ryszard Kapuscinski A powerful account of the fall of Haile Selassie in 1974, told through interviews with surviving courtiers: "Kapuscinski transcends the limitations of journalism and writes with the narrative power of a Conrad or Kipling or Orwell."
Ethiopia's Hidden Treasures - the paintings of remote churches, Maria-Jose Friedlander This is an excellent book for the Tigray churches and for church painting in general.
The Pale Abyssinian: the Life and Times of James Bruce, African Explorer and Adventurer , Miles Bredin The award-winning biography of Scotsman James Bruce, described by Livingstone as the greatest traveller of his generation.
The Sign and the Seal, Graham Hancock The bestseller by the controversial archaeologist Graham Hancock is a must in our opinion. Whatever you may think about his ideas and conclusions, there’s no denying his writing is extremely engaging, putting Ethiopian history in a very accessible form.
The life of My Choice: Sir Wilfred Thesiger The extraordinary life and adventures of our greatest living explorer, a great deal of which – particularly his childhood – was lived in Ethiopia, this is a very readable and interesting book.
The Danakil Diary: Journeys through Abyssinia, 1930-34, by the same author, concentrates on the coronation of Haile Selassie and a hunting trip to the desolate Danakil desert region.
In Ethiopia with a Mule, Dervla Murphy Dervla Murphy’s wonderful account of her trek through the highlands of Ethiopia in 1966, now republished by Eland Press.
The Chains of Heaven: An Ethiopian Romance, Philip Marsden Philip Marsden is an expert on Ethiopia and his excellent account of his walk from Lalibela to Axum is skillfully interwoven with the history of the country.
The Barefoot Emperor: An Ethiopian Tragedy, Philip Marsden Follows the extraordinary story of the Emperor Tewodros in the nineteenth century.
A Cure for Serpents, Alberto Denti di Parajno The fascinating story of an Italian doctor working in 1930s Libya, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Another winner from Eland Press. Highly recommended.
The Lure of the Honey Bird: the Storytellers of Ethiopia, Elizabeth Laird Award-winning children’s writer Elizabeth Laird began a lifetime of travelling in Ethiopia, where she went to teach in 1967. This is her fascinating account of her return in 1990 to travel across the country collecting folk stories, some of which are told here.
Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese A beautifully written love story set in Ethiopia.
Children of the Revolution, Dinaw Mengestu This moving novel follows the story of Stepha Stephanos, a man who fled revolutionary Ethiopia to start a new life in Washington DC. Winner of the Guardian First Novel award 2007.
Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, Maaza Mengiste A gripping family saga which opens in Addis Ababa on the eve of revolution in 1974.
Ethiopia, Bradt, The best guidebook, in our opinion, by an author who knows the country well.
Ethiopia Highlights, Bradt A practical and informative guide, with colour photographs.
Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somaliland, Lonely Planet The only guide covering Dijibouti, this Lonely Planet gives their trademark practical information and excellent maps.
Birds of the Horn of Africa, Nigel Redman, Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe A new book about birds in the region.
Time: The Julian calendar is used in Ethiopia and their current year is 7 years behind us. Christmas is celebrated on 7th January and New Year on 11th September. Some Ethiopians set their clocks from dawn to dusk and there is a six-hour difference between Ethiopian time and Western time.
Ethiopia is 3 hours ahead of GMT. A useful website to check the time zone differences is [http://www.worldtimezone.com | www.worldtimezone.com]
Food and Alcohol: The Ethiopian Highlands are predominantly Orthodox Christian with ‘fasting’ each Wednesday, Friday and during Lent when only vegetarian dishes are available. The main hotels do not worry about this and therefore it should not be something that affects you.
As far as alcohol is concerned everything is available but the quality is sometimes questionable. For a decent spirits it’s probably best to buy duty free. Beer is very good and wine – of a reasonable quality – is available, but will need to be carried in the vehicle.
Electricity: Those bringing video & digital cameras that require battery chargers should also bring a 3 pin (round), ‘Swiss’ style adapter. In the Ethiopia they use 220v. In most hotels you can charge from the mains using a travel adaptor plug, but electricity supplies can be erratic.
In Ethiopia the official unit of currency is the Birr.
To check out the latest exchange rate for the places that you are visiting you can go to [http://www.oanda.com | www.oanda.com]
A few points to help you plan:
• Only the few large hotels and banks accept credit cards and Travellers Cheques so they are basically useless.
• It is strongly recommended you travel with US dollars, Euros or Sterling in cash.
• It is useful to bring lots of small denomination notes. • By keeping the receipt you get when you change money in Addis you can change back any spare currency prior to departure.
Language & Religion: Ethiopia has 83 different languages with up to 200 different dialects spoken. The largest ethnic and linguistic groups are the Oromos, Amharas and Tigrayans. Amharic is the official national language of Ethiopia. English, Arabic, Italian and French are widely spoken by many Ethiopians.
The main religions in Ethiopia are Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Paganism. Ethiopia is a predominantly Christian country and the majority of Christians are Orthodox Tewahedo Christians.
Cultural Sensitivity: At Wild Frontiers we are very aware of the ethical impact tourism can have on ancient cultures. We realise that taking a group of tourists through such a region can have a negative impact on the lives of those who live there and on all our tours we go to great lengths to minimise the negative and accentuate the positive…after all, there are also many good things that the tourist can bring.
To help this process we ask that our clients do not hand out pens or sweets to children. As one sign in Egypt emphatically put it, ‘Please don't make beggars out of our children!' No matter how well intentioned, in our opinion the dolling out of free gifts fosters a ‘beggar mentality' that is ultimately extremely destructive to a society. In addition we do not condone giving out money to beggars or ‘students'.
However, we also realise that we are exceptionally privileged to be travelling in areas where most of the people have far less than us and that the desire to ‘help' can be very powerful. As a result we ask that you refer to the Wild Frontiers Foundation which supports specific projects in the areas where we travel.
Photography: Please remember, we are guests in Ethiopia and we may sometimes inadvertently cause offence by taking photographs without first asking permission. Many countries have very strict rules about taking photos of army, police or any official personnel; restrictions apply at borders, bridges and any government building. Please exercise care in this regard as the penalty is often confiscation.
The weather in Ethiopia, at least in terms of the heat, is fairly consistent all year round. The only real change is in rainfall and as all our trips go between the end of the long rains (September) and the beginning of the short ones (April) this should not be a problem. During the day the temperature hovers around the mid 20’s, falling to an overnight low of 6-8 degrees (and perhaps even colder in the mountains).
The flight time from London Heathrow to Addis Ababa is 7:45hrs direct with either Ethiopian Airlines and BMI.