Ethiopia is a diverse land filled with wonders -- from its spectacular landscapes of unsurpassed beauty, to its prolific array of wildlife, to its unique mosaic of peoples and their cultures.
Claiming a history that stretches more than 4,000 years as the ancient land of Abyssinia, Ethiopia boasts a proud heritage of being the only African country never colonized (though briefly occupied by the Italians), and as one of the world’s earliest Christian countries. However, Christianity in Ethiopia has peacefully coexisted with Islam, Judaism, and other traditional faiths, for centuries.
It is, in fact, the amalgam of religious beliefs and practices that has nurtured numerous legends: that Ethiopia was the home of the Queen of Sheba; that it was the site of King Solomon’s gold mines, which provided the precious metal for his temple in Jerusalem; that Ethiopia’s emperors were the descendants of a liaison between the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon; that even today, Ethiopia is the home of the Ark of the Covenant, containing the original tablets on which Moses received the Ten Commandments from God.
For some, the legends of Ethiopia are history; for others, a matter of religious faith; for still others, romantic myths. For all, though, the legends are part of the mystery of Ethiopia.
Visitors interested in human origins will revel in Ethiopia’s offerings. Hadar, in the Afar Region of northeastern Ethiopia, is where “Lucy”, the 3.2 million year-old hominid was found. (Her skeleton is secured at the National Museum in Addis Ababa, where a replica is on exhibit for viewing.) Tiya is a site of 36 mysterious stone monuments, 31 of which have inscriptions that have been standing since time immemorial and numerous archaeological discoveries have been made at the Lower Omo anthropological site, in the Omo Valley. These sites, namely Hadar, Tiya and Lower Omo Anthropological sites are parts of Ethiopia’s World Heritage sites.
While Ethiopia has been home to three of the world’s great religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism), it is the Ethiopian Orthodox (Christian) Church that offers dramatic attractions with its exquisite churches and cathedrals, monasteries, convents, holy sites, and ceremonies and rituals celebrating the world of the Old Testament.