Designing your timeless memories!


In this list, you will find useful travel facts, background information, and some suggestions that will not only help you prepare for your trip but make your travel experience enjoyable from start to finish. Please note that things can change rapidly in Ethiopia, therefore some of the information herein may be subject to change.


Ethiopians are modest dressers and visitors should be sensitive about their dress when visiting places of worship. Shoes must always be removed before entering churches and mosques so we recommend bringing a pair of socks to wear when visiting sites such as Lalibela.


Ethiopia, with a population of more than 112 million, is the second most populous country in Africa. The Ethiopian nation is made of people of different ethnic, religious, and linguistic backgrounds ranging from Cushitic and Nilotic – like other East African countries to Semitic – like those found in the Middle East. The population is composed of more than 80 ethnic groups, with Oromo and the Amhara being the largest. 

Courtesy and hospitality are virtues that have transcended time and generations in Ethiopia. A few words of a local language, no matter how broken they may be, will go a long way in the kind hearts of the people. The day-to-day rituals of the diverse cultures, the traditional ways of eating delicious spicy sauces by hand with injera flatbread, and the wholesome aromas of an Ethiopian coffee ceremony can only be fully experienced by indulging oneself in these delights.


In Ethiopia, a handshake greeting is customary, with a pleasant discussion on personal matters before getting down to business. After a close personal relationship has been established, people of the opposite sex may kiss three times on the cheeks. Greetings should never be rushed and it is appropriate to inquire about the person’s family, health, job, etc. The offer of tea and coffee is very common and provides a setting to discuss and understand Ethiopia through the lens of the local people. Smoking is not popular outside of the major cities and it may be perceived as insulting to smoke in front of priests or the elderly. 

As a guest of Ethiopia, we highly encourage our visitors to respect the cultures and customs of the indigenous people. We also want to highlight that trip members should respect the privacy of individuals (especially when taking photographs) and not make promises unless they fully intend to fulfill their obligation. In the same vein, bargaining is a serious matter in most countries and it is really not fair to bargain unless there is a genuine interest to buy. For example, if you are not interested in buying something then simply say “no” because in many places “maybe” means “yes”.


There are many great national and local holidays and celebrations throughout the year, which are observed all over the country. These may share origins with Christian, Muslim and tribal festivals elsewhere in the world, but have unique indigenous characteristics in Ethiopia. 


Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual state. There are over 83 languages spoken in the country, with 200 dialects. Amharic is the working language in Ethiopia. Other major languages include Oromigna, Somali and Tigrigna. English is also widely spoken.

The Semitic languages are mostly spoken in the northern and central parts of the country. The principal Semitic language is Amharic. The Cushitic languages are found mainly in the East, West, and South. Of this group, Oromiffa is the predominant language. The Omotic languages, on the other hand, are spoken in the Southwest part of the country, near the Omo River. Finally, the Nilo-Saharan languages are spoken in regions along the Sudan frontier. Some of the written languages use the Ge’ez alphabet – the language of the ancient Axumite kingdom. In fact, Ge’ez is the only indigenous written language in all of Africa. 


The predominant religions in Ethiopia are Ethiopian Orthodox and Islam. The peaceful existence of Christianity and Islam, the two major religions in Ethiopia, which entered the country near their times of founding, demonstrates the tolerance and co-existence of the various groups in the country. Christianity is more common in the northern and central parts of Ethiopia, while Islam is more dominant in the lowlands.


Ethiopian Saint Yared devised a musical notation in the 6th century for his stupendous repertoire of sacred music, with finely choreographed sacred dance to go with it. To this day, highland Ethiopian secular music and dances are based on St Yared’s legacy. The most common folk dance, the esskista, has basic elements running through the traditional dances of all the various highland peoples. Mostly based on shaking shoulders, its combination of the religious, fetish, and sensuous is as confusing as it is fascinating. The somersaults of the Welaita and the coquettish theatrics of the Omo people are in sharp contrast to this.