A Brief Look at Ethiopia: Part 1
OMPT Goes to Ethiopia!
OMPT has sent two of our members to Ethiopia to conduct a workshop working with rural communities. We are excited to be in this vibrant country that has so much to offer in the way of culture and diversity. With that said, we decided to share some interesting details about Ethiopia. This will be a two part series—enjoy!
Situated in the Horn of Africa and divided by the Great Rift Valley lies Ethiopia. One of Africa's most populated countries, it accommodates over 100,000,000 people. Ethiopia encompasses 9 ethnic regions, all rich in their own native culture. The Oromos represent the largest ethnic majority of the population at 34%, followed by the Amhara peoples making up 27%. The Tigray group comprise 6% of the population and in the past couple of decades have obtained a large amount of influence in Ethiopian affairs. Amharic is the national language despite the Amhara people not making up the largest ethnic majority. However, about 80 languages are practiced in Ethiopia, varying between the regions. The predominant languages spoken are Oromo, Amharic, Somali and Tigrigna.
Ethiopia is one of the few countries to be mentioned in the Bible, Quran, and other ancient texts. Christianity was introduced to Ethiopia in the 4th century and remains the largest religion practiced, with about 43% of the population identifying as Christian. Islam was introduced in the 7th century and represents the second largest practiced religion with 34% adherent Muslims.
Ethiopia hosts an abundance of ancient civilizations. Remains of one of the oldest human ancestors “Lucy,” dating back an estimated 3.18 millions year ago, was found in Ethiopia. As the oldest independent African state, Ethiopia was the only African state to avoid being formally colonized by European powers.
Ethnic disputes deriving from lack of political representation have led to civil unrest. The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front had been in power for nearly two decades, imposing restrictions on opposition parties and politically marginalizing ethnic majorities. In attempts to quench protests last year, an internet blackout was instated to cut communications between anti-government protesters. This failed and eventually the ruling coalition pressured the prime minister Hailemariam Desalegto to resign. Abiy Ahmned, member of the Oromo Democratic Party was appointed as the successor. Since then, a ban on three political groups has been lifted, political prisoners released and restrictions on civil rights have been eased. Ethiopia has been in a border dispute conflict with Eritrea since 1991, and a peace deal was brokered shorty after Adiy Ahmned took power, setting the stage for normalization of relations between the two states.
Ethiopia hosts a range of diverse geological features. Kissed by the sun and carved by the earth's tectonic plates, Ethiopia’s sprawling mountains, plateaus and depressions exemplify her natural beauty. The hot springs, volcanoes and lakes in the Great Rift Valley reveal the abundance of natural formations that the Ethiopian landscape has to offer. Diverse geological and cultural backgrounds makes it home to 9 UNESCO World Heritage sites, more than any other country in Africa.
Ethiopian food differs from what you would find on a typical western menu. You will find colorful, distinctive, and tasty dishes derive from this region and most dishes are a hands-on experience and are consumed without cutlery. Many meals are served with or on Injera, which is a spongy bread that can be used to carry food or to dip in sauces. You will find that large plates are shared and meals are shared between several people. One dish that is served on Injera is called Beyainatu, which can be translated to “a bit of every type”. This vegetarian dish is essentially a sampler of a variety of dips, curries, and sides. One of the country’s star dishes is Tere Siga, which is raw, cubed meat that is consumed without any cooking. People will order this both pre-cut, or will purchase a large slab and carve off pieces themselves. For breakfast, one might find Fatira on the menu, a thin, crispy pastry filled with scrambled eggs and honey and commonly paired with Ethiopian coffee. Speaking of coffee, according to historical records, the coffee plant was initially discovered in Ethiopia. Today, the nation is the globe’s seventh largest coffee producer, and is the African leader when it comes to domestic coffee consumption. Different regions of the country produce varied coffee varieties which create different flavor profiles and distinct flavors. Closer to home, you may have tasted Ethiopian coffee at your local Starbucks or grocery store.