Ethiopia's historic journey is long and many ruins can be seen in the country. A good example of this is the former settlement of Yeha which is believed to have been built around 800 BC. Yeha, the country's pre-Aksumite foundation of Ethiopian civilisation, is situated between Aksum and Adwa in the province of Tigray. The towering ruins of Yeha's Temple are in such good condition today that they have become one of the tourist attractions of historical significance.
After Yeha had fallen the town of Aksum was established during the reign of the Queen Sheba (known as Saba or Makeda by Ethiopians) in 500 BC. Aksum became the ancient city of Ethiopian civilisation and a powerful kingdom. The Axumites were renowned for their fine architecture, crafts and skills, in particular as masons and metal workers, which they retain to this day. Greek traders knew Aksum as centre of an empire, which had trade links with India, Arabia, Rome, Egypt, Persia and Greece. Today, Aksum abounds in archaeological remains and great granite stone curved obelisks known as Stelae. The Stelae are royal tombs or memorials.
A large part of the history of Ethiopia is centred on the legend of the Queen of Sheba of Ethiopia and King Solomon of Israel. Many Ethiopians believe that the relationship between Sheba and Solomon resulted to a son who founded the Solomonic Dynasty in Aksum. According to Ethiopian traditional history the Queen of Sheba learned about the wisdom of King Solomon from a merchant called Tamrin, how he worshiped God and his skills building a great Temple in Jerusalem. The Queen of Sheba decided to visit and see for herself King Solomon's wisdom, how he worshiped God and his many skills. When the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon in Jerusalem she gave him many gifts and she asked him many questions, which he was able to answer.
According to the legend of the Ethiopian history, while she was with him; King Solomon made Queen Sheba promise not to take anything from his house. King Solomon went to bed one night on one side of the chamber and Queen Sheba went to bed at the other side of the chamber. Before King Solomon slept, he placed a bowl of water near Queen Sheba's chamber. As she was thirsty, Queen Sheba woke up at the middle of the night and found the water, which she drank. At this point Solomon heard noises, woke up and found her drinking the water. He accused her of having broken her oath not to take anything from his house. Nevertheless the beauty of Queen Sheba attracted King Solomon and the relationship between King Solomon and Queen Sheba was consummated, resulting in the birth of a son named Ibn-al-Malik (known as Menelik), the founder of Ethiopian Solomonic Dynasty.
Whilst it cannot be proved that the Queen of Sheba had a son with King Solomon, but there is evidence of the Queen of Sheba's visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem, in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, the First Book of Kings, chapter 10, verses 1 - 10 says:
The queen of Sheba heard of Solomon's fame and came to test him with hard questions. She arrived in Jerusalem with a very large retinue, camels laden with spices, gold in great quantity, and precious stones. When she came to Solomon, she told him everything she had in her mind, and Solomon answered all her questions; not one of them was too abstruse for the king to answer. When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon, the house which he had built, the food on his table, the courtiers sitting round him, and his attendants standing behind in their livery, his cupbearers, and the whole-offerings which he used to offer in the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit left in her. Then she said to the king, 'The report which I heard in my own country about you and your wisdom was true, but I did not believe it until I came and saw for myself. Indeed I was not told half of it; your wisdom and your prosperity go far beyond the report which I had of them. Happy are your wives, happy these courtiers of yours who wait on every day and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God who has delighted in you has set you on the throne of Israel; because he loves Israel for ever, he has made you their king to maintain law and justice.' Then she gave the king a hundred and twenty talents of gold, spices in great abundance, and precious stones. Never again came such a quantity of spices as the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon.
When Menelik grew up (about 22 years old), he asked his mother who his father was and told him that it was King Solomon of Israel. Menelik told his mother that he wanted to go to visit his father in Jerusalem. He went to Jerusalem to visit his father and Solomon received him with great honour. Menelik stayed with his father in Jerusalem and learnt the Law of Moses for 3 years. Menelik looked very like his father, which confused the Israelites as they had difficulty in telling the difference between Solomon and Menelik. Because of this confusion they complained to King Solomon and asked him to send Menelik home. King Solomon said if they wanted him to send his son back home the high priests would have to send their oldest son and 1000 people from each tribe of Israel with Menelik. The high priests agreed to send their oldest son and 1000 people from each tribe with Menelik.
Menelik then returned to Aksum, amongst those accompanying him was Azariah the son of the high priest (Zadok) of the temple of Jerusalem. Before the journey Azariah had a dream that told him to take the Ark of the Covenant with him to Ethiopia. Azariah did what the dream told him to do and he took the Ark from the Temple, putting in its place a copy. Azariah told Menelik what he had done and Menelik was angry with him but Azariah convinced Menelik to take the Ark with them. Zadok, the high priest of the Temple, discovered the Ark's disappearance and informed King Solomon. King Solomon and his army followed Menelik but could not catch him. Whilst this was taking place Solomon dreamt that his son should have the Ark and he returned to Jerusalem and ordered his high Priests to keep its disappearance a secret.
On his return to Ethiopia, Menelik founded the "Solomonic Dynasty" and the Aksumite kingdom adopted Judaism and the Law of Moses. The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon as mentioned in the Holy Bible signifies to the Ethiopians their claim to be direct descendants of the "Solomonic Dynasty". This shows that Judaic culture was established and followed in Ethiopia since the reign of King Menelik. When the Aksumite kingdom accepted the arrival of Christianity, during the reign of King Ezana in the fourth century, the Felashas (Beta Israel or Ethiopian Jews) refused to accept Christianity and continued to practise Judaism, which they still do today.
The Ark of the Covenant is the most reserved holy relic of God's incarnate and became part of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christian belief. The presence of the Ark of the Covenant in every Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the belief in it, exert a profound influence on the imaginations and spiritual lives of many Ethiopians. According to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, this priceless treasure (the Ark of the Covenant) still exists and rests in a small chapel in the monastic complex of Saint Mary of Zion church in Aksum. This makes Saint Mary of Zion the holiest sanctuary in Ethiopia. It does seems likely that the Ark was brought to Ethiopia when Menelik returned to Aksum from his visit to his father, King Solomon. Ever since the Ethiopian monarch claimed to be a direct descendant from the biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and ruled Ethiopia in an unbroken line until the revolution broke out in 1974 which ended the Ethiopian monarchy.
The original church of Saint Mary of Zion was built in the fourth century during the reign of King Ezana who converted the Aksumite kingdom to Christianity. A replica of the Ark of the Covenant, known as the tabot (the tablet), is kept in the holy of holies (Maqdas) in every Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church to indicate that the church has been duly consecrated as no church is considered consecrated without a replica of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant is now kept in a small chapel built in 1965 on the orders of Emperor Haile Selassie, which stands at the heart of Aksum's monastic complex of Saint Mary of Zion (Mariam Tsion) church. One holy monk is elected and charged with its care and preservation. The elected monk becomes the official guardian of the Ark and no one, except the elected Guardian (a monk) who looks after the Ark of the Covenant, is allowed to enter the chapel. Before the guardian dies, according to Aksumites tradition, he must nominate his successor.
Aksum remained the capital where the coronations of emperors and empress were held until the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie. It has become Ethiopia's most important centre of Orthodox Tewahedo Christian faith with many archaeological remains of interest and historical significance. These include the palace of Queen of Sheba, tombs of King Ezana and King Gebre Meskel, the magnificent Stelae (obelisks), the bath of Queen of Sheba, the monastic complex of Saint Mary of Zion, the chapel which houses the Ark of the Covenant and the city's antiquities museum. Aksum is now one of the most visited historical city in Ethiopia.
One of the most spectacular and extensive underground caverns in the world: the Sof Omar cave system, an extraordinary natural phenomenon of breathtaking beauty, is to be found at 120 kilometers (74 miles) eastward from Gobba, in Bale, in a low valley filled with thorn trees and weird funnels of termite hills.
Yet another mysterious site takes visitors from Gobba, in Bale, for 120 kilometers (74 miles) eastward through a low valley filled with thorn trees and weird funnels of termite hills. The visitors are sure to be awestruck with one of the most spectacular and extensive underground caverns in the world: the Sof Omar cave system, an extraordinary natural phenomenon of breathtaking beauty. The caverns are formed by the Web River, which vanishes into this giant underground world with its arched portals, high, eroded ceilings, and deep, vaulted echoing chambers.
The caves currently constitute an important Islamic shrines named after the saintly Sheikh Sof Omar, who is said to have taken refuge here many centuries ago. The site has a religious history of thousands of years, which predates the arrival of the Muslims in Bale.
The caves are where nature has worked wonders of architecture, where one can see soaring pillars of stone twenty meters (66 feet) high, flying buttresses, fluted archways, and tall airy vaults. Finally, the river itself is reached, sunless sea flowing through a deep gorge.
The large central hall of Sof Omar, the "Chamber of Columns" (so named after the colossal limestone pillars that are its dominant feature) is one of the highlights of the cave system.
Torches and, of course, a map are a must when on a visit to the Sof Omar caves. Maps are provided by the Ethiopian Tourism Enterprise. Local guides also carry a copy of the map.
Bats (no trouble to the visitor), fish, and crustaceans are the only living creatures inhabiting the caves. There are crocodiles in the nearby river, but they seem to shun the caves themselves' fortunately! The countryside around the caves has an abundance of dik-dik and kudu, serval cat, rock hyrax, giant tortoises, snakes, lizards, and more than fifty species of birds.
Injera (Amharic, Tigrinya pronounced [ɨndʒǝra], sometimes transliterated enjera; Oromo: budenaa; Somali: canjeero) is a yeast-risen flat bread with a unique, slightly spongy texture. It is traditionally made out of teff flour. It is traditionally eaten in Ethiopia and Eritrea. A similar variant is eaten in Somalia (where it is called canjeero or lahooh) and Yemen (where it is known as lahoh).
The most valued grain used to make injera is from the tiny, iron-rich teff. However, its production is limited to certain middle elevations and regions with adequate rainfall, so it is relatively expensive for the average household. Because the overwhelming majority of highland Ethiopians are poor farming households that grow their own subsistence grain, wheat, barley, corn, and/or rice flour are sometimes used to replace some or all of the teff content. There are also different varieties of injera in Ethiopia, such as nech (white), kay (red) and tikur (black).
In making injera, teff flour is mixed with water and allowed to ferment for several days, as with sourdough starter. As a result of this process, injera has a mildly sour taste. The injera is then ready to bake into large flat pancakes, done either on a specialized electric stove or, more commonly, on a clay plate (Amharic mittad, Tigrinya mogogo) placed over a fire. Unusual for a yeast bread, the dough has sufficient liquidity to be poured onto the baking surface, rather than rolled out. In terms of shape, injera compares to the French crepe and the South Indian dosai as a flatbread cooked in a circle and used as a base for other foods. The taste and texture, however, are quite unique and unlike the crepe and dosai. The bottom surface of the injera, which touches heating surface, will have a relatively smooth texture, while the top will become porous. This porous structure allows the injera to be a good bread to scoop up sauces and dishes.
In Ethiopia, a variety of stews, sometimes salads (during Ethiopian Orthodox fasting, for which believers abstain from most animal products) or simply more injera (called injera firfir), are placed upon the injera for serving. Using one's right hand, small pieces of injera are torn and used to grasp the stews and salads for eating. The injera under these stews soaks up the juices and flavours of the foods and, after the stews and salads are gone, this bread is also consumed. Injera is thus simultaneously food, eating utensil, and plate. When the entire "tablecloth" of injera is gone, the meal is over.
In Somalia, at lunch (referred to as qaddo), the main meal of the day, injera might also be eaten with a stew (maraq) or soup.:113
Injera is eaten daily in virtually every household, and preparing it requires considerable time and resources. In Eritrea and Ethiopia, the bread is cooked on a large, black, clay plate over a fire. This set-up is a stove called a mitad (in Amharic) or mogogo (in Tigrinya), which is difficult to use, produces large amounts of smoke, and can be dangerous to children. Because of this cooking method, much of the area's limited fuel resources are wasted. But in 2003, a research group was given the Ashden award for designing a new type of stove for cooking injera. The new stove uses available fuel sources (including dung, locally called kubet) for cooking injera and other foods efficiently, saving the heat from the fuel. Several parts are made in the central cities of the countries, while other parts are molded from clay by women of local areas.
Outside of the Ethiopian Plateau, injera may be found in groceries and restaurants specializing in Eritrean, Ethiopian, or Somali foods. It can also be found in Israel where large numbers of Ethiopian (Beta Israel) and Yemeni Jews have settled.
The Harari are the small remnants of a unique, pre-industrial urban culture that has existed since the 1500's. Until 1974, the Harari, lived exclusively inside the stone walls of Harar, an ancient Muslim city, where they specialized in trade. Over the centuries, Harar, which is located on a highland ridge between the Red Sea and the Ethiopian highlands, has been the dominant center of Islam for northeast Africa. Although recent political and economic changes have dispersed the Harari, they have continued trading in the region.
The Harari are the only Ethiopians whose trade is based in a single, large urban center. Daily the Harari have contacts with four other competitive ethnic groups who frequent the markets of Harar. However, they have maintained their distinctive qualities. To help preserve their unique culture they limit the use of their native language, Adare, to their own people. They also strongly discourage marriage to non-Harari.
What are their lives like?
While the Harari are called Adere by their ethnic neighbors (the Somali, the Oromo, the Argobba, and the Amhara), they refer to themselves as ge usu, or "the people of the city." They call their way of life ge 'ada ("the etiquette of the city") and their language ge sinan ("the city language"). Harari society is characterized by a complex set of obligations and ties, which provides a strong sense of social solidarity and excludes outsiders. The core of Harari society is built around kinship, friendship, and afocha, or community organizations. In regard to kinship, the Harari do not marry non-Harari. Friendship provides the Harari with a small group of trusted equals who remain friends throughout their lives. Characteristically, a boy forms a core of close friends from other neighborhood boys his own age. A girl becomes friends with the daughters of women who visit her mother. The afocha provides the Harari with social, ceremonial, and economic support for such occasions as weddings and funerals. Community organizations range in size from 50 to 75 members, and usually include aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Women make up a solid force in Harari culture. Unlike the women of many other Muslims cultures, the Harari women lead vigorous and visible-although separate-social lives. They are not required to wear the traditional Muslim veil. They contribute to their families' incomes by selling produce from their husbands' farms or raising and selling tobacco. One very important industry among the Harari women is basket weaving. In fact, Harar has become famous for its elaborate baskets.
Most Harari live in rectangular-shaped houses. The walls are made of twigs overlaid with clay and the roofs are made of thatch. The region surrounding Harar receives up to 40 inches of rain per year. This enables the farmers to produce enough grain to satisfy the city's needs. Various citrus fruits, mangoes, papayas, bananas, and other fruits are also raised. The cash crops are coffee and qat, a mildly hallucinogenic stimulant. The staple dish of the Harari is a spicy stew made with meat, potatoes, and vegetables, and eaten with sourdough bread.
What are their beliefs?
The Harari are virtually all Sunni Muslims. Despite pressures to change, the Islamic religion is still strong among the Harari. The city of Harar is well known as a center of Islamic learning. The twin-towered Jami mosque is the focus of the community, although nearly every neighborhood has its own small mosque. The people attend the mosques regularly. Because Harar has over 150 shrines of Muslim saints, it is referred to as the "city of saints." Almost all of the adults in Harar fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year. Very few people drink alcoholic beverages.
The Ge'ez or Ethiopic script possibly developed from the script. The earliest known inscriptions in the Ge'ez script date to the 5th century BC. At first the script represented only consonants. Vowel indication started to appear in 4th century AD during the reign of king Ezana, though might have developed at a earlier date.
Used to write
Ge'ez, the classical language of Ethiopia which is still used as a liturgical language by Ethiopian christians and the Beta Israel Jewish community of Ethiopia.
, the national language of Ethiopia, has about 27 million speakers. It is spoken mainly in North Central Ethiopia. There are Amharic speakers in a number of other countries, particularly in Egypt, Israel and Sweden.
Me'en, a Nilo-Saharan language spoken in Ethiopia by about 56,585 people.
Word of blessing of Henok, wherewith he blessed the chosen and righteous who would be alive in the day of tribulation for the removal of all wrongdoers and backsliders.
(The first sentence of the Book of Enoch)
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