Ethiopia has a population of approximately 70 million people and, with a land-mass covering 1,104,300km2 (426,370 sq miles) (five times the area of the United Kingdom), is the tenth largest country in Africa. The major ethnic/linguistic groups are the Oromo (40%), Amhara (22%) Tigrai (10%), Sidamo (9%) and Somali (6%). Its capital is Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia’s economy is dominated by subsistence agriculture. Coffee accounts for 55% of Ethiopia’s exports. But, despite the international renown for its coffee, Ethiopia is still one of the poorest countries in Africa.
Geographically Ethiopia is stunning. The landscape is dominated by the dramatic Ethiopian Highlands with peaks of 4000m or higher. The country is bisected by the Rift Valley, which starts at the Red Sea, to the North East, and continues south to Mozambique in southern Africa.
The two major mountain ranges are the Simien Mountains (a World Heritage Site), in the north of the country; and the Bale Mountains to the east of the Rift Valley, in the southern highlands.
The major rivers include the Blue Nile, in the northwest; and the Baro to the west (Gambella), which feeds the White Nile in Uganda, and ultimately joins the Blue Nile in Sudan. The Wabe Shebelle courses through southeast from the Bale Mountains into Somalia. The Omo River starts in the western highlands and feeds Lake Turkana on the Kenyan border. The Awash feeds a series of desert lakes to the east of the country near the Djibouti border.
Given Ethiopia’s vast variety of landscape, from highlands to desert, it naturally follows that climates are also very varied: the eastern lowlands and the far south are dry and hot. The western lowlands are moist and hot. The Rift Valley to the south is temperate to hot and seasonally moist. Therefore, it is possible to experience frost, and even snow in the mountains, or dry soaring temperatures in the desert all in one trip.