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Urban hyenas, unique scripts and rasta roots are just some of them…
Today Ethiopia is ringing in the New Year, but in this case it’s 2007. This is because Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, roughly seven years behind the Gregorian, consisting of 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month of five or six days – the only country in the world with 13 months. This uniqueness is well-suited to this East African nation which is full of delightful, though sometimes disheartening, facts:
1. Coffee Homeland: Coffee, one of the world’s most popular beverages, was discovered in Ethiopia, in the region of Kaffa – the province which gave coffee its name. Ethiopia today is Africa’s top coffee producer and exporter.
2. Urban Hyenas: Addis Ababa is currently plagued by urban hyenas. These carnivores animals have moved into the city from the surrounding hills and taken up residence. It is estimated that there are now between 300 and 1,000 of them living in the city.
3. Lots of cows: With approximately 52 million heads of cattle, Ethiopia has the largest livestock population in Africa. South Africa’s national commercial cattle herd is estimated at 13.5 million
4. ‘Immune’ to colonialism: Despite Italy’s best and most ruthless efforts, Ethiopia was never colonised by a European power. It was only occupied for five years, between 1936 – 1941, by Mussolini’s Italy but the country never surrendered.
5. Special baboons: Ethiopia is home to the Gelada Baboon. These fascinating animals are in fact, not a baboon, but an old world monkey often classified in its own genus. They are the last surviving species of ancient grazing primates that were once widespread.
6. World Heritage gem: Ethiopia is home to nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, more than any other country in Africa.
7. Unique script: Ethiopia is the only country in Africa with its own unique script – commonly called “Ethiopics” it is widely adopted throughout the country by almost all the languages and has more than 260 characters, 10 numerals and several punctuation marks.
8. Rasta roots: The word “Rastafarian” actually comes from the name of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (Ras Tafari Makonnen) who is regarded by Rastafarians as the God of the Black race. Rastafarians regard ‘Ethiopia’ as their homeland and believe they will eventually return.
9. Landlocked giant: With a population of approximately 97 million, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world.
10. High Addis: At an altitude of 2440m, Addis Ababa – one the fastest growing metropolis in the word – is Africa’s “highest” city and the third highest capital in the world.
11. Commodity exchange: Ethiopia is home to Africa’s first commodity exchange. Established by Eleni Gabre-Madhin in 2008, the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) created a reliable interface for buyers and sellers to meet
12. First gold: Derartu Tulu was the first woman from Africa to win an Olympic gold medal, doing so in the 10,000m event at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
13. Biggest dam: Ethiopia is currently constructing the Grand Renaissance Dam – on the River Nile near the Sudan border – which is going to be the largest dam in Africa.
14. Worst famine: Claiming approximately one million lives, Ethiopia’s 1983-1985 famine was the worst in modern-Africa’s history. This was followed by the 2010-2012 famine in Somalia which claimed almost 260,000 lives
15. Super food: Ethiopian food is gaining popularity worldwide, with an Ethiopian restaurant found in almost every major city. But the real super-star in Ethiopian ingredients is the teff grain, now poised to be the world’s next “superfood”. It is a nutritious, gluten-free alternative to wheat
16. Oldest flag: The Ethiopian flag of green, yellow and red in colour is the oldest flag in the world. According to historical records, the flag’s tri-colour scheme was previously the official banner of the Ethiopian Empire’s Solomonic dynasty
17. Cradle of Mankind: In 1974, anthropologist Professor Donald Johanson and his student Tom Gray discovered “Lucy”, arguably the most famous hominid fossil ever found due to her age and relative completeness, in a maze of ravines at Hadar in northern Ethiopia. (mail&guardian Africa)